In Rex's Words: The Perfect Formula

Rex Ryan's 2011 book "Play Like You Mean It" gives football fans a look at Ryan's beliefs as a head coach. In this series, quotes from Ryan's book will be shared and related to his current situation in Buffalo.

In 2011, Rex Ryan wrote the book Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game. At the time, Ryan was coming off of back-to-back AFC Championship appearances as head coach of the New York Jets. Now, Ryan is head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

To let Bills fans get a better idea of Ryan’s beliefs as a head coach, quotes from Ryan’s book will be given along with how it pertains to Buffalo’s current roster. Today, we’ll look at Rex’s outlook on how to win in the NFL. The Ryan quotes come from the chapter The Perfect Formula.

What Wins in the NFL on Offense

“I told them point-blank, ‘We are going to run the football. We will have a ground-and-pound philosophy and we’re going to lead the league in rushing. I want to lead the league in rushing attempts and pass completions.’”

Ryan was speaking to Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets offense when he said this quote. He went on to note that the Jets accomplished two of those three goals in 2009. The team led the league in rushing and rushing attempts. New York’s running backs in 2009 were Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene and Leon Washington. Jones led the way with 1,402 yards rushing on 20.7 carries per game. Greene added 540 yards and Washington chipped in with 330 yards on the ground.

This season, Ryan hasn’t been shy about using the term ground-and-pound. If Buffalo runs with success in a game, they’ll stick with it despite having multiple receiving weapons. Buffalo’s running backs are without a doubt more talented than the trio the Jets used in 2009. LeSean McCoy will lead the way for the Bills in attempts and yards. Fred Jackson is most likely going to get the Greene role and Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will fight for the remaining carries. Success will come down to offensive line play.

Ryan’s goal of most pass completions probably isn’t likely to happen in 2015. That said, E.J. Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor will have a plethora of weapons at their disposal. Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin are receivers you can get the ball out to quickly and let them create for themselves. Those types of easy completions could add up. In addition to Watkins and Harvin, Woods and Clay will also get their fair share of receptions, as well as some of Buffalo’s backs.

Best Formula for Winning

“Is it the only way to win in the NFL? No, but it’s the best formula to win. I am not the smartest guy in the NFL, but I am smart enough to at least look at the history of this league. If you run the ball more, you’re generally ahead.”

“You try like crazy to build your team that way, and that’s what I did. I think it’s important because of the wind in New York and the bad weather…”

Ryan is still talking about a ground-and-pound offense here. In 2009 and 2010, it worked extremely well in New York. With Buffalo’s defense, this philosophy makes plenty of sense. The Bills have one of the best defenses in the league and the offense can rely on running game to win games. Everything Ryan noted about New York’s weather is especially true of Buffalo. It gets very windy and cold in Buffalo come November and December. That’s not accounting for snowfall either. Having a run-first offense in Buffalo, especially late in the season, will benefit the Bills.

Importance of Turnovers

“Everybody also knows turnovers play a huge role in games. In the snap of a finger, turnovers can do so much to change the complexion of a game. It’s the old plus-minus game.”

Ryan isn’t exactly saying anything groundbreaking, but it’s interesting to note that in 2009, the Jets had a plus turnover margin in 10 of their games. They were 10-0 in those games.  Randy Lange, a writer for the Jets’ official site, found that from 2003-2010 teams that get at least one more turnover than their opposition in regular season and playoff games win almost 80 percent of the time. It’s safe to say that Ryan will stress the importance of turnovers with his team. Ryan’s aggressive defense will certainly help Buffalo in their attempts to win the turnover battle on a weekly basis.

Delegating Power

“As a head coach, you also have to learn how to give up control of your team and delegate power and responsibility to your assistant coaches.”

“While the entire team is my responsibility as head coach, there are times I have to hold back and let my assistant coaches coach.”

Ryan will certainly have input on the team’s offense and defense, but overall he’s going to let Greg Roman and Dennis Thurman coach their units. Roman supposedly had his hands tied a bit in San Francisco and Bills fans can relate. Last season, Fred Jackson mentioned that former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had his hands tied by former head coach Doug Marrone. Roman also believes in running the ball, but Ryan isn’t likely to stop Roman from opening up the playbook throughout the game.

KILL Philosophy

“You know the old saying that the NFL is an easy game complicated by coaches? That’s the truth.”

“Some people have that KISS philosophy – Keep It Simple, Stupid. We have the KILL philosophy – Keep It Likable, Learnable.”

“Once you learn the concepts, it’s easy to play our system. It allows you to be really creative as a coach. Let’s do this. We may blitz all corners. We may blitz whomever. We may run the ball behind the center.”

Ryan’s philosophy is player friendly. If you get too complicated on offense and defense, it doesn’t benefit anyone. Ryan and his coaches can be creative without making the terminology and plays complicated. Rex’s defense is certainly creative, but it’s not complicated. Simply put, he sends more players than there are blockers.

Good Players on Offense and Defense

“You have to have 11 good players on defense or you are not going to win. If you only have 10 good ones, they are going to exploit the other guy. So you better have 11 good ones on defense and you better be ready to chase the quarterback in the fourth quarter. On offense, you don’t have to have 11 great ones, but you have to have enough that you can put the ball where you want to and you have to be able to run it and control the line of scrimmage.”

Ryan didn’t have 11 good ones on defense in New York last season. It’s a big reason why their record was 4-12. Ryan’s defense in Buffalo sounds quite a bit like what he’s speaking to in the quote above.

Offensively, this may be the most talented offense that Ryan has ever had. He doesn’t have “11 great ones” but he does have players like McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay. Controlling the line of scrimmage is the biggest question mark that the Bills have, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ryan address this in the 2015 draft.

The next In Rex’s Words article will look at how Ryan fills out his roster.


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