On the question of whether Ryan’s firing was justified, it’s obviously a no-brainer. I don’t actually think one game under .500 is a huge underachievement, overall, with this roster. The problem is that Ryan took over a defense that was among the best of the league and it’s 24th in DVOA this year after being 24th last year. If Ryan’s defense is massively underachieving, there’s not much added value there. His track record as a defensive coach is outstanding, but he’s just done a flat-out bad job in Buffalo, failing to adapt both to his personnel and to changes in the league. Like most old-school rah-rah coaches he’s awful tactically (it’s fitting that his Bills and probably NFL head coaching career ended by deciding to punt 4th-and-2 with 4 minutes left in OT). And if Belichick embodies the Casey Stengel definition of loyalty, Rex hiring his brother the year after Rob presided over one of the worst defenses in NFL history is more the Dean Skelos definition. If you’re going to do something like that it had better work, and predictably it failed miserably. He needed to go.
And yet, as the local reporters have also concluded, I don’t really understand why the buck stops only with Rex. Whalley has assembled a stars-and-scrubs roster that’s pretty light on stars. The problem is especially glaring on offense. Shady is a great player but is extremely expensive for a running back in 2016, Watkins is a great receiver when healthy but not notably greater than the three other receivers the Bills could have had without giving up an extra first rounder, Clay is a decent but massively overpaid TE, and…that’s pretty much it (with Taylor being Ryan’s guy.) If Bills ownership think giving this roster to Anthony Lynn or Tood Haley or Darrell Bevell is going to result in a contender…good luck with that. Rex isn’t the only person in the Bills organization whose philosophy seems to be to look at what Belichick does and do the opposite.