A week ago I watched Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan jump from a plane with the Army Golden Knights parachute team. I’ve followed and covered the Buffalo Bills since the 1970’s and I can say without doubt I’ve never made that statement about any other Buffalo Bills coach before Rex Ryan. That’s because there has been no Buffalo Bills coach quite like Rex Ryan before.

Rex Ryan has yet to coach a game in this town, but bring his name up around fans and an immediate smile comes to their face. Ryan has Bills fans bill-leaving as the team slogan goes and it’s all about personality and swagger.

Rex Ryan

Jim Kelly, Rex Ryan and Thurman Thomas at the Big Tree

Ryan has embraced this region and his “proud to be coach of the Bills” attitude is 180 degrees from what we experienced with Doug Marrone. Marrone preached family and commitment, but the first chance he had to leave on his own terms he was gone. As Ryan said himself the day he signed on ” Bills fans deserve a loyal coach”.

Rex Ryan knows exactly what Bills fans are looking for and he has been giving it to them in spades. Ryan has not only embraced this team, but it’s history as well. Hanging out with Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, praising the glory years of both the 1960’s and the 1990’s, driving a truck with a huge Bills logo on it. Rex Ryan could run for most public offices in Western New York and win.

Will the bloom remain on the rose after a slow start for the team this season? I believe Ryan has already earned enough good-will to weather a disappointing first season. Should the same happen in year two, well that’s a different story, Bills fans only have so much patience.

Rex Ryan at Kelly Celebrity Golf Tournament

Rex Ryan at Kelly Celebrity Golf Tournament

One of the simple things that impressed me was the day of Jim Kelly’s celebrity golf tournament. Ryan had arrived with the entire Bills team and made the event part of their OTA’s. After getting off the bus Ryan conducted a group interview session with many of the reporters, but I was about fifty yards away doing a one-on-one with Fred Smerlas. Needing an interview with Ryan, I approached him after he had tried his hand at a long drive competition Dan Kelly had set up for the current Bills and the coaches. Ryan and I had yet to meet one on one and I am no longer a familiar face at daily practice sessions so I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be. Seeing me with WBBZ cameraman Brian Kreib, Ryan greeted me with a big smile and agreed to an impromptu interview.

That may not sound like a big deal, but if I had approached Doug Marrone in the same way he probably would have told me he had already conducted an interview session and was done for the day. Rex Ryan was approachable and welcoming in his diminuer and showed that “everyman” quality that has Bills fans swooning.

Air Force Reservist Jordan Kinney with Rex Ryan

Air Force Reservist Jordan Kinney with Rex Ryan

At Kelly’s tournament and when Ryan jumped with the Knights, he posed for every picture and accommodated every autograph request. Rex Ryan is not only the coach of the Bills, he’s their good-will ambassador as well.

I’m sure his attitude is also a breath of fresh air for Bills VP of Communications Scott Berchtold who has been at the side of every Buffalo coach since Marv Levy. Berchtold knows better than anyone that most NFL coaches hate to be left unattended in public and certainly around the media, not Rex. Ryan is thriving on the buzz his arrival has created in the community and has given fans a reason to be happy.

There are a few top NFL observers who believe Rex Ryan is a great defensive coach, but not a great head coach. They feel he is not a stickler for details or an organizer like a Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll. Well, Rex Ryan has said that this is last chance to be successful as a head coach in the NFL. I expect him to give it everything he’s got.

Speaking for all the Buffalo Bills fans across this region, I wish him only success. As popular as Ryan is now, bringing the Bills to the playoffs will make him even more of an hero. Should Ryan take this team all the way, take down the monument inĀ  Niagara Square because a statue will be erected to “Saint Rex” for all the world to see!


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