Returning NFL Coach Profile: Rex Ryan (Buffalo Bills)

Ryan Loftis By Ryan Loftis, 27th Aug 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Football (American)

A profile of Rex Ryan, the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Early Years

Born on Dec. 13, 1962, in Ardmore, Okla., Rex Ryan is a second-generation NFL coach. His father, Buddy, spent almost two decades as an assistant coach and earned two Super Bowl rings before serving as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1986-90 and the Arizona Cardinals from 1994-95. Ryan's twin brother, Rob, who is five minutes younger, also followed in Buddy's footsteps and has been the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator since 2013.

The twins were 2 when their parents divorced, and their mother took her three sons with her to Canada. Eventually the boys were sent to live with their father in Chicago, but the bond between the twins remained strong. "Rex and Rob, who began life chirping at each other in the crib as they threw their bottles and laughed, continued as if joined at the hip," Barry Horn wrote in the Dallas Morning News in September 2011. "Sure they fought each other. But it was always them against the world. The twins looked very much alike until junior high school. The easiest way to tell them apart was by the way the hair was matted on the backs of their heads."

While attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the twins "were infamous for sharing one wallet and a lone car key. Rob was the keeper of the wallet. Rex was responsible for the key," Horn wrote. "There was also a near-legendary fight between the two in a dormitory that left Rex with a torn shirt and Rob with a broken nose and ankle. Not long after, all was forgiven and the boys left for New Orleans to watch Buddy coach the Bears' smothering defense in Super Bowl XX." In 2011, the twins were inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame.


Rex Ryan began his coaching career in 1987 as the defensive ends coach at Eastern Kentucky University. After two seasons there, he served as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at New Mexico Highlands University in 1989. Ryan then was the defensive coordinator at Morehead State University from 1990-93.

Ryan joined his father and brother on the Arizona Cardinals' staff in 1994. He coached the defensive line, Rob coached the defensive backs, and Buddy was the head coach. It may have been a family bonding experience, but it didn't produce results on the field. All three were fired after Arizona went 12-20 in two seasons. Rex worked as a defensive coordinator for the next three seasons, two of them at the University of Cincinnati and one at the University of Oklahoma.

Return to the NFL

In 1999, Ryan became the Baltimore Ravens' defensive line coach. He earned a championship ring thanks to Baltimore's triumph in Super Bowl XXXV. Ryan became the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2005. Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers Association named him Assistant Coach of the Year in 2006. The 2008 season, Ryan's last in Baltimore, saw Ryan serve as both defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

New York Jets

Upon being introduced as the New York Jets' head coach in January 2009, Ryan declared his intention to lead the team to a Super Bowl victory. "With all the cameras and all that, I was looking for our new president back there," he said at his first Jets press conference before adding, "You know, I think we'll get to meet him in the next couple years anyway."

The Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of Ryan's first two seasons, suggesting he might make good on his pledge. But things went downhill after that: The Jets posted a 22-26 record over the next three seasons and missed the playoffs each year. Jets fans were far from enthusiastic about owner Woody Johnson's decision to retain Ryan in 2013, and the Jets' 4-12 record in the 2014 season did little to improve their spirits. Both Ryan and general manager John Idzik were fired on Dec. 29, 2014. Ryan left the Jets with a 50-52 record in the regular season and playoffs.

During a 2015 interview on HBO's Real Sports, Ryan said he had been "100 percent" certain his sixth season in New York would be his last. He also said Johnson would've preferred to have kept him. "We talked like brothers. I know Woody never wanted to fire me. I could've been his coach for 20 years. That's what Woody wanted. There's no question Woody wanted that."

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills announced they had hired Ryan as their new head coach on Jan. 12, 2015. He inherited a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999 and posted winning records only twice in the last 15 seasons.


New York Jets, Rex Ryan

Meet the author

author avatar Ryan Loftis
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree and have been a freelance writer for various print and online publications since then.

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