Amid an 0-2 start that is already providing a dim forecast for the Rex Ryan era in Buffalo, the Bills decided to part ways with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, the team confirmed in a release Friday afternoon.
Anthony Lynn, the team’s assistant head coach and running backs coach, will now be the club’s full-time play caller. Lynn interviewed for several head coaching and offensive coordinator positions over the past two seasons and has been with Ryan since their Jets days.
“This morning I informed ownership of my decision and they were supportive of it,” Ryan said during a news conference Friday. “This was my move 100 percent.”
Roman was the team’s offensive coordinator last year as well. So far in 2016, the Bills were 29th in yards per game (276.5) but did manage to score 31 points against an excellent Jets defense on Thursday Night Football. It would not be surprising to see Roman land on his feet as an advisor at some point this season.
While differences in opinion might have been brewing in Buffalo for some time now, the decision comes with some troubling optics. Some will believe the defensive-minded Ryan is scapegoating after his side of the ball surrendered 493 total yards to the Jets in a stinging loss less than 24 hours ago. The Bills are currently 25th in total defense and finished last season 14th, giving up 356.4 yards per game and 22.4 points.
Some will also believe that the offense was stuck in neutral, forcing the defense to play an astounding 39 minutes and 12 seconds on Thursday night against the Jets, which is also worth considering for a coach that wants to control the clock. When it comes to a coaching staff shakeup, there are always two sides to every story.
This offseason has been about Ryan going back to his roots and what he knows best — a familiar move for the head coach when his back is against the wall. After repeatedly saying earlier in his career that he wouldn’t hire his twin brother, Rob, Ryan made him an assistant to the head coach this offseason. Roman was one of the few members of the Bills staff who did not have a long track record with the head coach. Lynn, receivers coach Sanjay Lal, defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, linebackers coach Bobby April III, quarterbacks coach David Lee and others have a more established rapport which is seemingly why there was only one move made on Friday afternoon.
Lynn taking control of the play calling could mesh better with Ryan’s overall vision for the team. Ryan always had a run-first philosophy and traded away linebacker Kiko Alonso shortly into his tenure for the chance to acquire All-Pro LeSean McCoy. Ryan advocated for big spending across the offensive line to build a time-gobbling bully that would pair nicely with a tenacious pressure defense.
Sometimes the best laid plans never come to fruition, though Ryan is giving himself a puncher’s chance as the club heads into a nearly impossible stretch of football games against the Cardinals at home and on the road against New England in Foxborough.
Firing an offensive coordinator in-season can be a boom or bust proposition. Privately, members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers viewed Jeff Tedford’s health leave back in 2014 as the death blow that ended their season before it even started. That team finished 2-14 and wound up with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The Lions saw an alternate path. After dismissing offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi last season, the team went from 1-7 to 7-9 under replacement Jim Bob Cooter. Cooter is now considered by some around the league as a sleeper candidate for head coaching interviews this offseason. Perhaps the Bills are hoping for a similar spark.
More than anything, this is about Ryan coaching comfortably and with his guys. Should this be his last season as a head coach, there’s a good chance he did not want to wonder ‘What If?’ Lynn has been by his side for nearly a decade now and deserves a chance to provide the counterbalance to Ryan’s defense.