Rex Ryan
Syndication: NorthJersey

Rex Ryan back on the sidelines?

A thought that once seemed blasphemy may now become reality. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the ex-Jets coach — currently with ESPN — is a top candidate for the Broncos’ defensive coordinator role. Denver just hired Sean Payton as head coach, bringing him out of a year-long hiatus by sending draft capital (including a first-round pick) to the Saints for his services.

This would be Ryan’s first NFL coaching gig since the Bills fired him in late 2016. He went 15-16 over two seasons with Buffalo after an up-and-down Jets tenure that included a 46-50 record but back-to-back AFC Championship appearances.

It was initially reported in December that Payton, who stepped down from the Saints in early 2022 and spent his year off at FOX, was planning a coaching return. He was also reportedly eyeing a star-studded staff, one that could’ve initially included Vic Fangio. Of course, this was before Fangio took the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator job. And before Payton joined the organization that just fired Fangio a little over a year ago.

So now Payton is possibly pivoting to Ryan, who would be standing on the NFL sidelines for the first time in over six years if hired.

There are two sides to this potential big-name hire.

For one, despite his 61-66 overall record as a head coach, Ryan has a phenomenal track record defensively. During his six years with the Jets, New York was a top-five defense (in terms of yards allowed) three times. When he was a defensive coordinator for the Ravens from 2005-08, Baltimore was a top-10 defense each season and a top-five defense three of those years.

But on the other hand, the NFL and the style of play that dominates it are always evolving. And Ryan has been absent from coaching for six full seasons. Not to mention in his two years with Buffalo, the Bills were 19th in total defense in either season.

If Ryan couldn’t keep up with the ever-changing league in 2015-16, what makes anyone think he will be successful after a six-year break? That’s one of the various questions Payton would need to answer before taking any chance on the TV analyst.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.