Rex Ryan went through a range of emotions in the days after being fired as the head coach in Buffalo during the 2016 season.
"I think I felt sorry for myself," Ryan said. "It was like, 'I should be coaching. Where's my guys? Where's my team?' I was [ticked] off."
But as the months passed and the football season began without him on the sidelines for the first time in more than 30 years, Ryan now has a different perspective.
"This might be the best thing that could have happened to me," Ryan said. "I didn't realize it at the time, but I needed a year off. Everyone talks about recharging your batteries. But you have no idea until you actually do it."
Ryan says he loves working with ESPN and the Countdown crew. He even talks about the possibility that he might have coached his last game.
"I've been so lucky to have all these opportunities [as a coach] and meet so many great people," said Ryan, who took the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC title games in 2009-10. "If I'm done with coaching, so be it."
However, make no mistake, Ryan is not closing the door at age 54.
"You have to be open to any possibility," Ryan said. "It's got to be the right situation, because I'm happy where I'm at. But if the right situation did come along, absolutely you'd have to consider it." Indeed, Ryan brings up Dick Vermeil as an example of a coach who returned to the sidelines after a break in broadcasting, although Ryan probably isn't looking to go 15 years between coaching jobs as Vermeil did. "You could see it in his face," Ryan said. "He was ready for it again."
Ryan talked about this break has given him the opportunity to assess how he would do some things differently. Specifically, he discussed the challenge of trying to get everyone to be on the same page, an area where he admits, "I could have done better."
Ryan thinks the big money in the game makes it harder to get everyone to work together as a team these days. Several times, he pointed to Bill Belichick and New England as an example of a system where everyone "tries to advance the plan, not themselves."
"[If he got another coaching job], maybe I'd come at it with a different perspective," Ryan said. "I understand that you need to get people who are as loyal as hell, pulling in the same direction. This is no slight to Buffalo and New York, but it's just something you have to make sure gets done. ... As a head coach, it's my job to make sure everyone pulls in the same direction. Players, coaches, front office. It's a lot easier said than done."
For now, Ryan considers his team to be host Sam Ponder, fellow analysts Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, and the rest of the crew who work on Countdown. He is enjoying the camaraderie of being with them on Sundays.
Ryan admits he wasn't comfortable being a game analyst for the Denver-San Diego on the opening Monday night of the season. But now he is "in my element" in working in the studio. He says he is trying to bring a honest perspective that come from 30 years of coaching.
"Right now, I tell the truth," Ryan said. "I'm not going to kill anybody, but I'm not going to sugar coat either. If I think a guy should handle things differently, I'm going to say it." Ryan insists he isn't going to pull any punches because it might jeopardize a future coaching opportunity with a team. That's not him.
Above everything, Rex says he always is going to be Rex.
"So many times, I notice nobody will say a bad word about a team or situation because they're worried about their next job," Ryan said. "I'm not worried about that. I'm confident that I will be employed again [as a coach] or I'll just stay with ESPN. They always say, 'be yourself.' OK, I'm myself."
Jim Kelly's Turn
The next edition of A Football Life is on Jim Kelly (Friday, 9 p.m. ET on NFL Network). The film not only examines his Hall of Fame career, but also his battle to overcome cancer.
"His ability to want to get up off the floor, get off the deck and stand again, that's the part that really came to the forefront when he was sick," said Darryl Talley, his former Buffalo Bills teammate.
-- Featured this week on TNF GameDay (6 p.m. ET, NFL Network) is the next installment of NFL Media's new series Life After Football, which profiles former NFL linebacker Takeo Spikes. Melissa Stark speaks with Spikes about his new book Behind the Mask, for which he interviewed and photographed some of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, including Mike Singletary, Derrick Brooks and the late Chuck Bednarik.
-- Jac Collinsworth visits with the 31-year-old Los Angeles Rams Sean McVay to talk about the challenges of being the youngest head coach in the National Football League, his mentors, and why his 70 year old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a better social media presence than him.
Week 9 announcer lineup
NFL Network, 8:25 p.m. ET
Buffalo at New York Jets: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
CBS 1 p.m. ET
Denver at Philadelphia: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Cincinnati at Jacksonville: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Indianapolis at Houston: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Baltimore at Tennessee: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
CBS 4:25 p.m. ET
Kansas City at Dallas: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
FOX 1 p.m ET
Atlanta at Carolina: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
FOX 4:05 p.m. ET
Washington at Seattle: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Arizona at San Francisco: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
NBC 8:30 p.m. ET
Oakland at Miami: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET
Detroit at Green Bay: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden