BUFFALO, N.Y. — One Ryan wasn’t enough for the Buffalo Bills.
Bills coach Rex Ryan hired his twin brother Rob to serve as the team’s assistant head coach with a specific responsibility for defence, the team announced Sunday night. It marks the second time the two have worked together after previously serving as assistants on their father Buddy Ryan’s staff in Arizona in 1994 and ’95.
"I’m excited to have Rob join our staff, and I think he will be a great asset," Ryan said in a statement released by the team. "He has a tremendous working knowledge of our schemes and I look forward to his input."
The move comes after Ryan and team officials travelled to Florida to have end-of-season meetings with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
Hired in January after six seasons with the New York Jets, Ryan closed his first season in Buffalo with an 8-8 record and the Bills extended the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 16 consecutive years.
The Bills defence particularly under-achieved, finishing 19th in yards allowed and managed 21 sacks, a franchise-low for a 16-game season. That was a significant drop-off for a high-priced unit that returned mostly intact after finishing fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and had a league-leading 54 sacks the previous year.
Rob Ryan was available after being fired as the New Orleans Saints defensive co-ordinator in mid-November. He was dismissed with the Saints defence ranking last in the NFL in yards and points allowed.
Shortly after being fired in New Orleans, Ryan visited Buffalo and spent a few days attending Bills practices.
Rex Ryan said at the time that there were no immediate plans to have Rob join his staff, before adding: "You never say never."
"It’s fun to be around him, there’s no question about it," Ryan said. "But I think we purposely have tried to set different courses. But I never rule out that possibility. Obviously, he’s a great coach and if that happens that’d be great."
Rob Ryan has 28 years of coaching experience, including 17 at the NFL level. He won two Super Bowl titles as a linebackers coach in New England from 2000-03.
He’s also had stops in Oakland, Cleveland and Dallas. In 2013, Ryan’s first season in New Orleans, the Saints finished fourth in yards allowed, jumping 28 spots in the rankings from the previous year.
What was immediately unclear is where Bills current defensive co-ordinator Dennis Thurman fits in the team’s hierarchy.
Rex Ryan provided nothing definitive when specifically asked about Thurman during the team’s end-of-season news conference last week. He said he didn’t want to answer any questions about his staff because he had not met with them yet.
The Bills had difficulty adapting to Ryan’s system. Defensive end Mario Williams voiced his complaints on several occasions. Williams said he was not accustomed to dropping into coverage, and also questioned whether the Bills personnel fit Ryan’s scheme.