What will be the next stop for Rex Ryan?
The Buffalo Bills have dismissed the colorful coach after two seasons, and after eight seasons as a head coach in the AFC East, the time could be right for something different. NFL defensive coordinator? Television analyst? Those might be safe and predictable moves, but when has Rex Ryan ever been safe and predictable?
How about college head coach? We don't know if Ryan would be interested, but he has the potential to flourish in the role.
Bold personalities in head coaches resonate well at the college level -- at least when the right school is matched with the right guy -- and Ryan more than qualifies in that regard. Add in his NFL pedigree, and Ryan would be a force on the recruiting trail. Would he have the energy for the year-round grind that successful recruiting requires? He's certainly not too old to take on the task at 54.
NFL.com analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah, who worked with Ryan for four years while the two were with the Ravens (Jeremiah as a scout and Ryan as a defensive coordinator), believes Ryan would be successful at the college level.
"I have to imagine he would kill it on the recruiting trail if he so desired (to coach in college)," Jeremiah said. "... He would be really good at it. He could sell the NFL and he's got a great personality. That's the Pete Carroll formula that served him well (at USC)."
Could Ryan do for a college, at least from a branding standpoint, what Jim Harbaugh has done for Michigan? Probably not. The Harbaugh fit at Michigan -- former UM quarterback returns to a traditional power starving for a brand makeover as much as a roster makeover -- was almost too perfect to duplicate. But much in the way Harbaugh re-energized the Wolverines, Ryan could do something similar in the right college setting.
Now, Ryan, who has about 10 years of college coaching experience, hasn't roamed a college sideline since 1998 as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. And the college game has changed in 18 years in a lot of ways. Coaches have to play more of a CEO-type role than ever before -- they're no longer just high-paid whistle blowers. The adjustment ride would come with some bumps. But Ryan is the type of coach players would rally around, and that can go a long way toward smoothing a transition.
The winter turnover cycle for college coaches has largely run its course this year, so perhaps a one-year sabbatical at a TV network would be the best way for Ryan to find the right venue. A pressure-cooker job with immediately high expectations -- even with the deep resources that come with those jobs -- probably wouldn't be ideal for Ryan. But a program with some room to grow and a need for a little electricity would be perfect.
If Ryan has any interest in carving out a corner of the college-coaching landscape for himself, there's an AD out there somewhere who should make it happen.