BUFFALO, N.Y. — No stranger to giving second chances to players, Bills coach Rex Ryan is now providing one to a former coaching colleague.
The Bills announced Tuesday they’ve reached an agreement to hire John Blake as the team’s defensive line coach. He replaces Karl Dunbar, who was abruptly fired on Sunday.
Ryan was Oklahoma’s defensive co-ordinator in 1998 during Blake’s third and final year as the Sooners coach. And Ryan is fully aware of Blake’s recent past after he resigned as North Carolina’s associate coach in 2010 in the midst of an NCAA investigation.
In 2012, the NCAA sanctioned Blake by issuing a three-year ban from recruiting after ruling he recruited players and received personal loans from a sports agent during his four years at North Carolina.
Blake had just returned to college football last month when he was hired to become a defensive line coach at Lamar University in Texas.
"He endured a difficult time in his coaching career a few years back, but has moved forward with his life and put that behind him," Ryan said in a statement released by the team. "John is a heck of a coach who has worked with many outstanding players and made them better."
Ryan noted the recent off-season work Blake had done mentoring NFL players, including Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Ryan hasn’t been afraid to give players fresh starts since taking over the Bills last season.
One of Buffalo’s first signings under Ryan was offensive guard Richie Incognito, who had been out of football for 15 months after being a central figure in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal in 2013. Incognito started all 16 games and was re-signed by the Bills two weeks ago.
In Buffalo, Blake will oversee a defensive front that under-achieved last season after having difficulty adapting to Ryan’s system. After combining for a league-leading 111 sacks in 2013-14, the Bills managed just 21 last year, a team low for a 16-game season.
The defensive line is also undergoing a shift. Starter Mario Williams was cut earlier this month because of his high-priced contract and after he publicly questioned whether he fit Ryan’s scheme last year.
Blake had a 12-22 record at Oklahoma, and won two Super Bowls coaching the Dallas Cowboys defensive line from 1993-95.
The Bills also announced that outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich will shift to assisting Blake in coaching the defensive line. Assistant defensive line coach Jeff Weeks will take over coaching outside linebackers.