Speaking via conference call to the New York media prior to his team's Sunday matchup with the Jets, the voice of the Bills head coach resembled nothing of the man that had led New York for the five previous years, nor of the one who once spoke of "building a bully" in Buffalo months earlier. This was a "new" Rex...a humbled Rex.
One who wasn't cocky, arrogant or boisterous; but quiet, complacent...defeated. The up-and-mostly-down season that's just days from its conclusion had taken a toll on Ryan, that was evident. In a way, the coach almost seemed relieved to have the year come to a close. And oh, oh what a year it had been.
In typical Ryan fashion, things began with a bang when he was introduced as the Bills newest head coach following his firing from the Jets. At his first press conference, Ryan guaranteed the playoffs, promised he wouldn't let the team's fans down, spoke of a ground-and-pound offense that would dominate the league and said the Bills would have the NFL's best defense.
None of that has really, well, happened.
The Bills will be home when the playoffs start, the fans have "Fire Rex" trending by halftime of each game and the defense is ranked 20th in the league. About the only thing Ryan hit on was the rushing attack. Buffalo averages a league-best 154 yards a game.
The end result of this season has succeeded in doing what five in New York never could. Rex has voluntarily put a muzzle on his own mouth. Why?
"Well probably because we failed miserably. Nah but you know, I think it’s…I mean that’s probably the truth," Ryan said. "Sometimes you don’t think about the consequences. I say what’s really on my mind. What I truly believe. But then it comes back and it bites you if it doesn’t go right, and as we historically know that I’ve done that more than once."
But what may be even more damning in Ryan's first season with Buffalo is the fact the coach has had to deal with something he's never had to before: He's universally disliked. Fans, players...everyone. For the first time in his career, the large majority of people aren't in Rex's corner, but trying to find out ways to get him out of the ring.
Even in Ryan's last season with the Jets, one in which the team finished 4-12, there was still a large following of people that wanted the coach back in green. It was general manager John Idzik's fault things had gone so terribly wrong, not Rex's. There wasn't enough talent on the field for him to have success. Get rid of the GM, replace him with someone who could find players that could, well, play, and all would be better.
But in Buffalo? That's not the case. There's no one for Rex to hide behind. He's made his bed, now he's got sleep in it.
Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams is one of several players to be vocal about their displeasure. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, when asked via conference call what his experience has been like playing in Ryan's defense, literally said he "hasn't really thought about that," and to "ask him later." Rex isn't turning a blind eye to what's being said or written, either. In fact, it's beginning to take an emotional toll on him.
"When you look at it, I’ve never had a negative…you know I’ve never been looked at as a problem," Ryan said. "So yeah I guess that would be…yeah that bothers me, no doubt about it.
"Now I haven’t said anything publicly until now about it. But sure, that would bother me. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna change who I am or how I go about my business, I can promise you that."
And making matters worse? The team that kicked Ryan to the side has already improved by six games from a year ago. And if the Jets beat Rex's Bills on Sunday, New York will secure a spot in the 2015 postseason for the first time since 2010.
It hasn't been a good season for Rex, nor a very good year. He's been fired, embarrassed, humbled and neutered all in the span of 12 months.
He's not the same guy he once was. But lucky for him, 2015 is just days from its conclusion.
And it really can't get much worse in 2016.