On to the ‘Rex’ one. In Ryan, Bills find new leader.

Bills head coach Rex Ryan (Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Bills head coach Rex Ryan
(Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills introduce Rex Ryan as their new head coach. And I reintroduce Bills fan and guest blogger Maggie Zuffranieri with her reaction.

The Buffalo Bills is an organization recognized by fans and football connoisseurs for its rich history. A history that includes: a valiant victory in the “greatest comeback game ever played,” multiple division titles and conference championships, an appearance in four consecutive Super Bowls, and a franchise composed of multiple Hall of Famers. Though Bills fans are proud of their rich history, we continue to yearn for a reputable present and a prosperous future following a 15-year playoff draught.

2014, a season flourishing with great potential, quickly became a rollercoaster ride for fans after the passing of our beloved owner, Ralph Wilson Jr. Uncertainty around the team’s future and fear of franchise relocation shook the “Queen City,” HARD.

*Enter Terry and Kim Pegula* — *Sighs of relief*

The regular season instilled “billief” for fans of Buffalo Bills football. Playoff hopes were alive and attainable in December for the first time in many years. While Buffalo ultimately failed to reach the playoffs, the Bills found themselves with a winning record for the first time in ten years. However, as fate would have it, the season did not end at the conclusion of that victorious game in Foxborough.

Just days later, quarterback Kyle Orton announced his retirement from the NFL – a slap in the face for those hoping to employ his veteran poise for one more season. Nevertheless, this news was trivial compared to the blow felt when second-year head coach, Doug Marrone, opted out of his contract, essentially abandoning his team.

The Bills immediately scrambled to find a new head coach, interviewing numerous – and I mean numerous – offensive/defensive coordinators and former head coaches. Meanwhile, the fallout from Doug Marrone’s departure haunted Bills fans. He was characterized as having a poor attitude, lack of respect, and a sense of entitlement in sports and NFL blogs. Emotions intensified when rumors circulated that Marrone made negative comments about the organization to prospective “football czar,” Bill Polian.

But the conversation shifted Sunday morning, when chatter on the airwaves suggested that the Bills were preparing to make an offer to former New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan. The news was unpredicted and shocked many. Opinions flooded social media. But by Monday morning, it was official. And on Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills introduced Rex Ryan as their new head coach.

Though much remains to be proven, I believe Ryan possesses the skills and intellect needed to develop a winning franchise. He brings with him invaluable football knowledge and NFL experience. And his extreme distaste for the Patriots and Bill Belichick is just an added bonus!

Rex is recognized throughout the league as a defensive mastermind, giving Buffalo a unique opportunity to further improve its dominant defense. Ryan wasted no time tackling (pun intended) the need for a great offensive coordinator, securing Greg Roman, former 49ers offensive coordinator, and a perfect fit for Buffalo. Roman’s offensive schemes are heavily invested in a “ground and pound” philosophy and the Bills possess both talent and depth at running back, which should take pressure off of third-year quarterback EJ Manuel.

Perhaps the greatest attribute Rex will bring, is his genuine personality and the strong bond he’s known to form with his team. Not since the reign of Marv Levy, have the Bills had an outspoken coach who puts so much faith in his players – an essential component to a winning culture. Ryan’s reputation as a skilled motivator and a player’s coach has already created excitement among the players.

So, while 2014 was the rollercoaster ride no fan signed up for, it was one that forever changed our franchise. Though the future is unclear, it is clear that Terry and Kim Pegula are ready to do and risk whatever is necessary to make the Buffalo Bills a championship franchise once again.

Guest Blogger Maggie Zuffranieri On One Buffalo: Remembering the Past As We Cheer For Our Future

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Ralph Wilson Stadium Orchard Park, NY (Photo: Buffalo Bills)

Buffalo, New York: birthplace of the chicken wing; setting to a natural world wonder; and now, the permanent home of the Buffalo Bills.

As football fans recall, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. took a chance on the city of Buffalo in 1959. Mr. Wilson left his position, as a minority owner of the Detroit Lions, to establish the American Football League (AFL). The birth of the AFL paved way for the start of a new team, a team over which Mr. Wilson would have complete ownership, a team which represented our city – Buffalo, New York.

Through the significant contributions of Mr. Wilson and a small group of other owners, the AFL survived and thrived for about a decade, before merging with the NFL. For Bills fans, the day that Mr. Wilson founded the football franchise – he not only gave our city a sports team but he also gave Buffalo, a city with a rich history, the hope and possibility of a bright future.

Although Mr. Wilson was a Detroit native, he encompassed all the attributes of a true “Buffalonian” – a person who believes in Buffalo and all that Buffalo can be; a loyal individual, brave enough to take chances on this community and dedicate his work to making Buffalo a thriving city.

So, while Mr. Wilson may have only come to Buffalo to establish a football franchise, he dually succeeded in the creation of the ultimate family – The Bills family. In victory or defeat, we stand together – a dedicated and passionate fan base that rivals any other.

The strength of this ‘family’ was seriously tested after the passing of Mr. Wilson in early March. Fear that our treasured football franchise would become but a page in this city’s history just as Mr. Wilson has, struck this community hard. But with exuberant hearts and unwavering courage, the community dedicated itself to the public support of a new owner ensuring that their main objective would be a commitment to keep the Buffalo Bills franchise in the city of Buffalo.

The greatest testament to our unity came amidst adversity, at the reprimands of others. Individuals – uninformed, uneducated, and unfamiliar with our city – believed that they, somehow, knew what was best for our franchise. “Business men” with small minds and large pockets, discussed our team as nothing more than a business transaction. Many analysts, players, and deep pocket investors, deemed our city unworthy – a city with no room to grow.

Luckily, there was one family who knew better. A family with roots already invested in the life and growth of Buffalo, who already cared about the people in its community. A family who understood that losing this Bills franchise would mean squandering a significant part of our city’s identity. A family that made the history of Buffalo a possibility for the future. This family not only believes in Buffalo, but has also learned to “BILLieve.” They have become an important part of our family, of our community, and for that we will always be grateful for the Pegulas.

Sunday, October 12th marked the first game day of the Pegula’s ownership of the Buffalo Bills, and in no surprise, our community divulged ticket holders in Buffalo’s best: Starting with a heartfelt introduction of our new owners, the Pegula family, and finishing with our national anthem sung by Buffalo native and lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, Johnny Rzeznik.

While the outcome of the game did not yield the fairy tale ending Bills fans had hoped for, we did not leave Ralph Wilson Stadium in vain. We left confident in the future of our team. We left knowing that we had a family “truly honored to represent a team and a city that [they] love.” And we left as Terry and Kim Pegula would have it – a part of “One Buffalo:” one city, one fan base, one family united together striving for growth and prosperity. A city, which we call home, filled with remarkable people, whom we call family.

This past Sunday (October 19th), watching our football team, fans truly witnessed the unwavering strength of “One Buffalo.” In a game where the Bills struggled to hold onto the ball, the team rallied together, during the final minutes of the game, to win. The Bills drove 80 yards downfield, and together, overcame adversity – including a 3rd and 12 and a 4th and 20 – to score a touchdown with one second remaining. Many individuals, including myself, viewed this game as a catalyst, a game that precipitates change from our losing culture. However, I cannot help but also recognize a parallel between this game and our growing city: No matter how long our “opponents” kept us down, our team – our city – discovered a way to prevail in triumph, because together we are “One Buffalo.”

Terry and Kim Pegula expressed they do not wish to be praised for their recent actions, nor for the lengths they went through to keep a historic piece of Buffalo in its rightful home. Despite this request, I do hope they will accept our city’s sincerest thank you.

Thank you for taking a chance on a Buffalo hockey team four years ago and on a Buffalo football team three years later. Thank you for investing in our wonderful city – and for believing in the people who live and work here. But, most importantly, thank you for seeing Buffalo through my eyes. For witnessing and imagining this city’s potential the way I do.

So Terry and Kim please know that you – like Mr. Wilson – are honorary “Buffalonian” in every sense of the word.

About the Author: Maggie Zuffranieri is a football enthusiast, Bills junkie, Buffalo aficionada, and college senior. She enjoys a good meal, ample amounts of coffee, and an open dance floor. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @moogie_zoof.

Monday Bloody Monday

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

We knew it was coming. We knew heads would roll. But who knew Black Monday would be this bloody?

By New Year’s Eve day, seven NFL head coaches and five general managers were unemployed. Dozens of coordinators and assistants followed. A post-regular-season house cleaning like we’ve never seen. More head coaches lost their jobs Monday than in the previous three seasons combined.

Some teams chose to start over completely, removing both the general manager and head coach. The Arizona Cardinals did so with Coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Rod Graves. The Cleveland Browns with Coach Pat Shurmur and Manager Tom Heckert. And the Chargers followed suit with Coach Norv Turner and Manager A.J. Smith.

New Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Shad Khan chose to fire General Manager Gene Smith. And the New York Jets turned General Manager Mike Tannenbaum loose after a season that proved to be interesting, yet disappointing. No word yet on Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan’s future. In fact, we’re still waiting for his end of the season press conference.

Four other teams chose to part ways with their coaches: The Buffalo Bills with Chan Gailey, the Kansas City Chiefs with Romeo Crennel, the Eagles with Andy Reid, and the only real surprise…the Chicago Bears with Lovie Smith.

Smith’s firing created a backlash in the Bears locker room as well as the national sports media. Because…well, everybody loves Lovie. Both Tony Dungy (a close friend of Smith’s) and former Bears Coach Mike Ditka referred to the decision as “ridiculous.” Bears star Wide Receiver Devin Hester is reportedly so distraught by the news that he is pondering retirement.

One person who won’t be retiring…Lovie Smith. He is a hot commodity in the now busy market for NFL head coach shopping season.

So, what happens now? Does a game of musical coaches ensue…cut your guy and pick up the one to your right? It’s already started, with Andy Reid reportedly interviewing with the Chiefs today and Cardinals tomorrow.

And the bloodshed may not be over.

In the meantime, we’re still waiting…

Rex?

XO

 

We Salute

What do Americans love more than their football?  Their freedom.  On this Memorial Day, we honor and remember our NFL heroes who gave of themselves on and off the field.

Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals Safety, Arizona State University Linebacker) is the only NFL veteran killed in active duty since the Vietnam War.  Tillman turned down a three year, 3.6 million dollar offer from the Cardinals to enlist in the Army following the attacks of September 11, 2001.  He joined the U.S. Army Rangers in 2002 and served several tours of duty.  Corporal Patrick Daniel Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

Bob Kalsu (Buffalo Bills Guard and Bills’ Rookie of the Year 1968, University of Oklahoma Tackle) entered the Army following his rookie season to satisfy his ROTC requirements.  As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, Lieutenant Kalsu was killed in Vietnam on July 21, 1970.

Don Steinbrunner (Cleveland Browns Offensive Tackle, Washington State End) was called to serve in Vietnam following his rookie season in 1966.  Steinbrunner was also an assistant football coach at the Air Force Academy.  He served two years as an Air Force navigator and was offered a non combat position after being shot in the knee, but chose instead to return to his unit.  He reasoned he was better prepared to serve than most.  Major Steinbrunner’s plane was shot down over South Vietnam on July 20, 1967.  He was honored with a Purple Heart posthumously.

World War II

Cpl. Mike Basca (HB, Philadelphia, 1941), Lt. Charlie Behan (E, Detroit, 1942), Maj. Keith Birlem (E, Cardinals-Washington, 1939), Lt. Al Blozis (T, Giants, 1942-1944), Lt. Chuck Braidwood (E, Portsmouth-Cleveland-Cardinals-Cincinnati, 1930-1933), Lt. Young Bussey (QB, Bears, 1940-1941), Lt. Jack Chevigny (Coach, Cardinals, 1932), Capt. Ed Doyle (E, Frankford-Pottsville, 1924-1925), Lt. Col. Grassy Hinton (B, Staten Island, 1932), Capt. Smiley Johnson (G, Green Bay, 1940-1941), Lt. Eddie Kahn (G, Boston/Washington, 1935-1937), Sgt. Alex Ketzko (T, Detroit, 1943), Capt. Lee Kizzire (FB, Detroit, 1937), Lt. Jack Lummus (E, Giants, 1941), Bob Mackert (T, Rochester Jeffersons, 1925), Frank Maher (B, Pittsburgh-Cleveland Rams, 1941), Pvt. Jim Mooney (E-G-FB, Newark-Brooklyn-Cincinnati-St. Louis-Cardinals, 1930-1937), Lt. John O’Keefe (Front office, Philadelphia), Chief Spec. Gus Sonnenberg (B, Buffalo-Columbus-Detroit-Providence, 1923-1928, 1930), Lt. Len Supulski (E, Philadelphia, 1942), Lt. Don Wemple (E, Brooklyn, 1941), Lt. Chet Wetterlund (HB, Cardinals-Detroit, 1942), Capt. Waddy Young (E, Brooklyn, 1939-1940).  Courtesy: NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame

We remember you.  We thank you.  We salute you.  Today and every day.

XO