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:
The Tattoo Touch-Up
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.
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
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
"(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!
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.