With his firing in Buffalo, Rex Ryan’s eight straight seasons as an NFL head coach have likely ended. So what comes next?
The last time he was fired from an NFL head-coaching job, after the 2014 season, Ryan quickly landed on his feet in Buffalo. That’s not likely to happen again. He possibly would get consideration to become the defensive coordinator with another team, if a head coach is sufficiently secure in his position to have a big personality like Ryan’s in the building -- and if Ryan is willing to take a step down the coaching ladder.
Many presume Ryan will head to TV. Two years ago, ESPN senior coordinator producer Seth Markman lauded Ryan as a potential superstar.
“He pretty much has everything TV networks would look for. He has personality, he’s not shy about his opinions, and he’s a colorful character,” Markman told Richard Deitsch of SI.com, who separately reported at the time that Ryan could have made $3 million to $5 million per year as an analyst after losing his job with the Jets. “I think he would be successful whether it is in studio or doing games. When I close my eyes and listen to him I hear a little bit of John Madden in him. There is going to be a lot of interest in Rex if that is what he wants to do.”
Not everyone agrees that Ryan will be an instant or sustained success story. His star burned the brightest following the Hard Knocks season of 2010. Since then, there’s been a gradual fading of it. Also, some (i.e., me) believe that he would have a limited range of takes, with the same collection of thoughts and theories coming up again and again and again. Moreover, if Ryan chooses to pull punches in order to preserve future job options in the NFL, his opinions will necessarily have less gusto.
Then there’s the nagging question of what went so horribly wrong in Buffalo to cause ownership to fall completely out of love with the guy in less than two full seasons. At a minimum, Ryan’s next employer will want to know, or at least try to find out, every detail about what went so horribly wrong so quickly in Buffalo.
All things considered (including the quality of the total universe of on-air studio and game analysts), Ryan could find a niche and thrive. One big factor will be whether and to what extent his buyout is reduced by TV work, and whether and to what extent he’s willing to work for free.
If Rex Ryan ultimately covets being a head coach, perhaps he’ll land at the college level, which he spent 10 of his formative coaching years.
However it plays out, it’s unlikely that the 54-year-old Ryan will simply fade away. He may never again be an NFL head coach, but he could be very successful in another capacity. Much of it depends on what he wants to do and what’s available to him.