Very few acts can pull off a second greatest hits release.
It usually goes like this: Successful band/solo artist releases first best-of compilation that's a huge unit-shifter. Artist releases several more albums in subsequent years, the hit output slows considerably, but a loyal fan base remains, not to mention the ironclad terms of your major label record contract. So, you release "Greatest Hits: Vol. II" or a similar title, a collection of less beloved singles to go with some live tracks and the obligatory "new song" to pad the running time.
That's pretty much how I view Rex Ryan's second go-around as a head coach. If Rex's Jets tenure was a record filled with enduring classics, Ryan's Bills run was an entertaining, but more modest affair. The hits not quite as big, the collection not as essential, but a retrospective still worth owning if you're a fan.
So what's on the release? Sit back and enjoy Rex Ryan Greatest Hits, Vol. 2: The Buffalo Years.
The Big Arrival
"Is this thing on? Because it's getting ready to be on."
That's how Ryan began his introductory press conference with the Bills, a vintage performance that had all the Rex trademarks: Swagger, predictions and a Belichick fixation (more on that later). Rex exclaims, "I know we'll lead the league in defense" (they finished 19th under Rex in both 2015 and 2016) and offered this promise to Bills fans:
"I'm not going to let our fans down. I'm not going to do that. I know it's been 15 years since the Bills made the playoffs. Well, get ready, man. We're going. We are going. The guarantee? Hey, am I going to guarantee a Super Bowl? I tell you what I will do, I will guarantee the pursuit of it."
The Tattoo Touch-Up
During his time in New York, Ryan got a tattoo that depicted his wife, Michelle, wearing a Mark Sanchez Jets jersey. It was a little weird, but hey, this is Rex. After he was hired by the Bills, he visited an Arizona tattoo artist to have the jersey inked Bills blue.
The ink man told his tale to The Wall Street Journal:
"At first I didn't know if it had any significance to anything or what it represented and then as we were getting further through the process I started recognizing who he was. I was like, 'You're the head coach of, you know ... 'Yeah, I used to be the Jets. I got traded to the Bills now.'"
Something like that.
Tackle my ride
If you were to create a Saturday morning cartoon about NFL coaches going on crime-solving adventures together, this would be Rex Ryan's version of the Batmobile. Let's all enjoy that overt symbolism that Rex made this his real-life ride.
A bicycle built for two Ryan brothers pic.twitter.com/abHUPndkgAâ Jonah Bronstein (@lebronstein) June 17, 2016
Rex often preached the virtue of loyalty, and he proved his devotion before this season by hiring his twin brother Rob, a man who coached himself out of relevancy after a calamitous run with the Saints. Rex brought him on anyway, a move that didn't help the defense and reportedly caused some consternation in the building.
The above photo was snapped in a local Buffalo park during the spring. The bloom was still on the rose.
"Obviously, look, we enjoy each other's company," Rob Ryan said after the photo went viral. "We are each other's best friend."
Aww. How much do these guys love each other? Rex had his lap-band removed so he and his brother could be on equal footing in their effort to live a healthier lifestyle. Rex quickly gained 30 pounds.
Rex's White Whale
What did Rex in? His defense? His relationship with the general manager? The 10-Man Incident? Those factors didn't help, but his ultimate undoing was pride. After six years with the Jets, Ryan could have taken a year off, waited things out and then taken a job that put him in the best position for success.
Ryan never left the AFC East, and as a result, he never won a division title. He famously said he didn't come to kiss Belichick's rings (see: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1), but he ended up at Belichick's foot just like everybody else.
Walt Patulski, intrepid reporter
Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 28, 2016
Patriots Week always put an extra pep in Rex's step. If you're a beat reporter, these were the press conferences you absolutely could not afford to miss. "Sorry honey, I can't make your ballet recital, coach Ryan could make a deflated football joke."
In this particularly inspired bit, Rex crashed a Julian Edelman conference call with Buffalo reporters to pose as fictional Buffalo News scribe Walt Patulski. "Are you playing quarterback this week?" Rex asked. The kicker? Edelman, fully indoctrinated in the Patriot Way, answers the Patulski query in a sincere, serious DO YOUR JOB! manner.
Rex the Clemson booster
Ryan always kept reporters on their toes. In November 2015, Ryan stepped up to the podium at 1 Bills Drive wearing a Clemson Tigers helmet. It was a show of support for his son, Seth, a wide receiver and holder for the Tigers.
"(Clemson is the) No. 1 team in the country, arguably, and the best holder in the country," Ryan said, keeping a straight face during the entire press conference.
NFL coaches, they're just like us!
Only Rex would show up to the NFL Scouting Combine dressed like a member of the Bills Mafia ready for a long day of inhaling Bud Heavy and piledriving people through folding tables. What do you think Belichick was thinking here?
The ending was grim, starting with a heartbreaking Week 15 loss when Rex made several blunders, followed by a Monday news conference that seemed to suck the life out of the proud coach. The Bills sent Rex packing the next morning, leading to the surreal indignity of Ryan driving out of the Bills' complex for the final time in his cartoon pickup truck.
One could imagine Rex had fantasized about driving this truck around Buffalo after a dramatic Super Bowl win. This was pretty much the opposite, but you can't help but respect the open ambition. The man, if nothing else, was a dreamer.