FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The biggest personality in the recent New York Jets-Buffalo Bills rivalry won't be anywhere near Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday -- and he won't be glued to his TV screen, either.
"Hell, no, I'm not going to watch that game," Rex Ryan said by phone, letting out a belly laugh. "There's a lot better games than that one."
Let's call it (R)ex Bowl I.
Fired twice in a span of two years, the ex-Jets and ex-Bills coach is out of football, working as an ESPN analyst, but he hasn't lost his razor-sharp opinions. And he has plenty to share when it comes to these two teams.
Ryan questioned the Bills' recent flurry of trades and said he's bemused as to why expectations for the season are lower than those he faced. As for the Jets, they have a "bare bones" roster that doesn't include their future quarterback, according Ryan, who isn't a Christian Hackenberg fan.
"They have to get a quarterback," he said. "That kid from Penn State, we all know that's not the answer."
Ryan said he harbors no ill will toward the Jets, who gave him his first shot as a head coach (2009-2014). Interestingly, his 2017 forecast is more optimistic than most.
The Vegas over-under is four wins, to which Ryan responded: "Oh, hell, I'll take the over on that. Let's face it, I had a roster that people were trying to lose with and we won four games [in 2014]" -- a subtle dig at former general manager John Idzik. "There's no way this roster is that bad. Remember, we had no corners, we had nothing. You're able to stumble into four wins. I think this team will be better than that."
Their plan, he said, is "not a total tank," but he doesn't see them winning more than six games.
The current regime inherited Ryan's 4-12 team, but instead of rebuilding from the outset, it acquired several older veterans -- "rentals," as Ryan called them. "They went for broke, but the fallout was going to be obvious. This team wasn't built for the long haul, it was built for a one shot, and that was it."
Ryan said it was "no surprise whatsoever" when the Jets started dumping veterans and big contracts in the offseason. They're one of the youngest teams, but they have a 38-year-old quarterback in Josh McCown.
"He's going try to work with these young quarterbacks because that's what he does -- he's a really good guy -- but everybody knows he's not the answer," Ryan said.
The Jets' perpetual search for a franchise quarterback probably will prompt them to pick one in the 2018 draft, which could be top heavy with elite arms. If they make the right choice, the Jets can change their fortunes immediately, according to Ryan.
"It's like Andrew Luck: You get a quarterback, a difference-maker like that, you can flip your franchise overnight," he said. "To me, the thing can be flipped in one year, bringing in the right personnel. You can get the Jets back. That's what I truly believe."
Ryan said he never would've traded Sheldon Richardson.
"For whatever reason, this group did not take to Sheldon Richardson," he said. "I love him, the guy's a great football player. To me, I would've done everything to keep him, but it's a different regime and all that stuff.
"They decided to pay [Muhammad Wilkerson] instead of Sheldon a couple of years ago. They're probably happy they got a second-round pick for him. In that sense, I can see it, but you don't have the services of one of the better D-lineman in the league."
Ryan's feelings for the Bills aren't exactly warm and fuzzy. Like the Jets, the Bills appear to be building for the future, stockpiling draft picks.
"It seems like anybody Doug Whaley drafted, or did whatever, they're running out of the building, from EJ Manuel to Sammy Watkins, Reggie Ragland, [Ronald[ Darby, all those guys," Ryan said. "To me that's a mistake. At the end of the day, you better win some games.
"Rebuilding is one thing, but the expectations ... I don't understand why the expectations would be set any different than when I was there. The difference is, you actually have draft picks. I never had those. To me, it's like, go ahead. All this talk about how talented they were when I was there, I want to see it on the field. We'll see."
Ryan said Watkins is "a top-10 receiver" when healthy. The Ragland trade is "really the one that blows me away. Reggie Ragland was one of our best players, if not the best player, in training camp last year. That [knee] injury was must have been significant for his play to drop off." He said he understood the Darby trade because the cornerback lacks ball skills: "That's one thing Ronald Darby doesn't have."
So who wins R(ex) Bowl I? Ryan laughed. He's picking the Bills "by default" because he doesn't know how the Jets can score points.
"I literally think the best way for the Jets to win the game is to give Bilal Powell the ball 30 times," he said. "[Matt] Forte? Fine, whatever. He's done. I mean, he's about done. Bilal is still a good player and he's a good receiver. (McCown) better get rid of the football. That's not his style. He's a guy who sits in there, he holds the ball. He's the exact opposite of what you had last year with Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick). He's going to hold the football and that's a problem against the Bills."
"Two of the worst games in the history of the NFL," Ryan said, laughing. "Could it be like that? Hell, yeah, it probably could be."