Sing no sad songs for Rex Ryan, who basically gets paid $16.5 million to no longer coach the Buffalo Bills. If the people in charge of this clown college in Buffalo -- owners Terry and Kim Pegula, team president Russ Brandon, general manager Doug Whaley -- had really wanted to make Rex pay for the coaching sins that got him fired, they would have made him stay.
What Ryan's firing really illustrates is that there are far more good coaches in the National Football League, fired or unfired, than there are owners and executives, those in charge of personnel most of all.
If Ryan had coached the Bills on Sunday against his old team, the Jets, and been allowed to play the quarterback -- Tyrod Taylor -- with whom Ryan managed to win seven games this season, it is more than likely that Ryan would have finished 8-8 again, and become the first Bills coach in this century to have .500 records in back-to-back seasons. It doesn't mean that Rex is the second coming of Vince Lombardi. What it means is that Rex was better than his circumstances in Buffalo. Coaches often are.
He's not the best coach in the league. He was just working for one of the worst organizations in the league. So in that way, what happened was inevitable. His firing came after another bad loss to the Dolphins. Throw out everything else that happened to the Bills this season and just look at the two losses to Miami -- each one by a field goal -- and you have a right to think that they cost Ryan the playoffs, and his job.
Now there are all these obituaries being written on Ryan's career as a head coach in pro football. Maybe the obits are right. Maybe Rex's ego won't allow him to go back to being the kind of star defensive coordinator that got him hired as a head guy by the Jets in the first place. Maybe he officially becomes a television guy, after essentially acting as his own analyst for years.
But if Rex Ryan can't coach, explain to me how he made it to two AFC championship games with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback, in Sanchez's first two seasons in the league? Sanchez is a nice guy, and showed enough promise in college that the Jets moved up to No. 5 in the draft to take him early out of USC. But for the time being, Sanchez is barely employable at the age of 30.
Still: Ryan's Jets were ahead of Peyton Manning and the Colts at halftime of an AFC championship game with Sanchez at quarterback. The next year, the Jets beat the 14-2 Patriots in a playoff game at Foxborough, and then scared the Steelers half-to-death in that AFC championship game.
Mike Tannenbaum, who is with the Dolphins now, was Ryan's first general manager in New Jersey. When Woody Johnson, the Jets owner and another beauty, got rid of Tannenbaum, he brought in a new general manager, John Idzik, but kept Ryan. I know. What could possibly have gone wrong? At the end, Rex was trying to win with Geno Smith, who made Sanchez look like Tom Brady. When he got to Buffalo, his quarterback options were EJ Manuel, a former No. 1 draft choice in Buffalo, and Tyrod Taylor, whom the Bills think so much of these days that they are benching him for the team's last game against the Jets -- see how these things come full circle? -- because the Bills don't want to be on the hook for around $30 million if Taylor did play and suffered some kind of catastrophic injury.
So whether the Bills lose or not on Sunday, and a loss would mean another losing season in Buffalo, Rex wins. He gets $5.5 million a year over the next three years not to have to work for the Pegulas and Brandon, who somehow seems to have the tenure of a Supreme Court justice in western New York, and Whaley. It means Ryan doesn't have to try to be more than a .500 coach without a stable operation and, oh by the way, without a real quarterback. By now, Rex sees the vicious cycle for guys like him. So often, they go from getting fired in one bad situation to getting hired in a worse situation. Until nobody will hire them.
It is just the way things are in pro football, really in pro sports: There really are so many more good coaches and managers than there are good general managers. It is why you can't possibly compute the true financial value of a guy like Theo Epstein on the North Side of Chicago.
Bill Belichick, a genius of his sport, is basically his own boss in New England, so there is tremendous stability there. You know the Steelers have stability, because under the ownership of the Rooney family, there have been just three coaches in Pittsburgh since Chuck Noll became the Steelers coach in 1969. If you're keeping score at home, and know how much constant turnover and turmoil there is with these jobs, the Steelers have had three coaches in nearly half-a-century.
The football Giants have had three general managers since George Young took over the team in 1979. It doesn't mean that the Giants have been Belichick's Patriots over all of that time. They just made the playoffs for the first time in five years. But the Giants have won four Super Bowls since Young took over. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls. In places like these, the center holds. If there is a center in places like Buffalo, it is like the center of a cream donut.
Is Ryan some kind of perfect football man? Of course not. Part of his charm is that he has been anything but. He never should have been allowed to hire his brother as a defensive coordinator, just off Rob Ryan's work with the Saints alone. He is not the world's greatest in-game strategist, and I don't need Rex's body of work in Buffalo to know that, I saw it in New York. He never stops talking, hasn't stopped, really, since he showed up in Jersey saying he wasn't there to "kiss Belichick's rings."
And he made more bad predictions than Patrick Ewing used to make with the Knicks in the old days. But the idea that you now get fired for being a .500 coach in Buffalo is as much of a joke as the operation has become there. The irony of all of this is that Rex's current team is far better off than his old team, which means the Jets.
He goes now. The owners of both these teams? Well, you know how it is. They just keep going, like the old Energizer bunny. So it goes. Rex Ryan has gotten a lot of laughs over the years. In a lot of ways, he gets the last one in Buffalo. He gets to leave.