It was almost a year ago, in early January, when the Buffalo Bills called Rex Ryan back for a second interview for their head-coaching vacancy. Team president Russ Brandon was so impressed that he told owner Terry Pegula not to let Ryan out of the building.
"That's when we knew that Rex could be our coach, if he wanted to be," Pegula said days later, when Ryan was officially hired. "We just felt that he was our guy and trust me, we had some pretty impressive people that we felt could be the Bills coach, but we said, 'Hey, let's go after Rex.'"
Through 13 games, going after Ryan hasn't generated the results that either Ryan or the Bills' decision-makers had hoped. The Bills are 6-7 and have more than a 90 percent chance of extending their 15-year playoff drought, which is already the longest among the four major North American professional sports leagues.
Unless there's a miracle for the Bills over their final three games, Buffalo will fall short of the postseason. That has fans upset -- especially considering that several statements Ryan made in his introductory news conference have fallen short of being true.
Here is a look at five of Ryan's proclamations on Jan. 14 that haven't panned out:
Ryan's quote: "I'm not going to let our fans down. I am not going to do that. I know it's been 15 years since the Bills made the playoffs. Well, get ready, man, we're going. We are going."
The reality: The Bills almost certainly will miss the playoffs. Linebacker Nigel Bradham said Tuesday that it's important for the Bills "pretty much just to finish up what we started. Not quitting, pretty much being able to just go out there and finish. Finish the season with a winning record, and get ready for next year." Inherent in that statement is the realization that the playoffs are out of reach.
Ryan's quote: "You mentioned how well we played on defense last year. Fourth in the league is probably a little disappointing, to be honest with you, because that's not where my expectations are. I know we'll lead the league in defense. That's just the way it goes. ... Then you look at obviously the players that you have. You have three Pro Bowl players in the defensive line. You get a secondary that challenges. You get an outstanding group. The front seven is outstanding. So, do I expect to be outstanding on defense? Of course. There's no question. ... Whatever it takes to win, whether we're first or second by two yards, something like that, we expect to play great defense."
The reality: The Bills rank 20th in total defense, closer to being the worst defense in the NFL than the best. They've allowed 359 yards per game, which is 47 yards more than last season. They're behind the NFL's leading defense, the Denver Broncos, by 86 yards per game -- which, obviously, is more than two yards behind.
Ryan's quote: "We're going to build a bully and we're going to see if you're going to play us for 60 minutes, because we're going to give everything we have every snap out there. And again, that represents not just ourselves, [but] it represents our community and we're proud to represent Buffalo. ... I know one thing. When Thurman [Thomas] and Jim Kelly were here, they weren't getting pushed around and we're not going to get pushed around. We're not going to get pushed around. I can promise you that. We will not be pushed around. In fact, we're going to be the bullies. That's who we are."
The reality: After the Bills' 23-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, which effectively put to bed any realistic shot of making the playoffs, Ryan said Monday, "They won the battle up front in the game, and I think that was the difference when you look at it. It was, we got beat and we had no choice but to foul and that is really what happened. ... We got beat physically, and I think that is what happens you get a lot of holding calls." The Bills' offensive line has played better than it did last season, but they lost the battle up front in Sunday's game, playing a significant role in their crucial loss. As for playing 60 minutes, that was the Bills' issue in their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last month that dealt a major blow to their wild-card hopes. Afterward, wide receiver Sammy Watkins spoke about "the weather, the clouds" affecting the Bills, which doesn't sound like the mark of a physically and mentally tough team.
Ryan's quote: "We play defense based on our personnel, not just the scheme. I don't try to put a square peg in a round hole. I think I've been around enough to adjust based on the players that I have, the talents of the players that I have, and it'll be no different this year. It's not just me. I'm blessed with an incredible group of coaches and I lean heavily on them. You mention [defensive coordinator] Dennis Thurman. I think all through this process you're seeing coaches get opportunities to be a head coach. Dennis Thurman will be at the top of the list in a very short time. It won't just be talking about my defense or whatever."
The reality: Ryan has tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. After Jim Schwartz ran his "wide nine" scheme last season and allowed the Bills' defensive line to focus on pass-rushing, leading to an NFL-high 54 sacks, the story has been dramatically different this season. The Bills have 19 sacks, which ranks 30th in the NFL. Mario Williams and others have griped about their varied roles in the scheme, which is a close parallel to what Ryan ran with the Jets and requires defensive linemen to drop into coverage at times. Ryan has declared -- stubbornly, one might say -- multiple times that he and Thurman will "run our defense," essentially placing blame on the players for not picking up the system. The result has been a unit that has been leaky in most games. Nobody is talking about Thurman as a potential head-coaching candidate.
Ryan's quote: [On criticism of his game management with the Jets] "I will be a better coach now. I think through experience, I don't think there's any doubt that you become more of an expert. You've probably been there and done that. If I can improve in that area, I certainly will. I'll look to improve in all areas of my game. I don't think it's that. I always see that and kind of laugh at it."
The reality: Ryan was heavily criticized for his use of challenges in the Bills' loss to the Chiefs last month, a game in which Ryan essentially made the wrong call on five different plays where he either threw his challenge flag or did not challenge a play that was close enough to warrant a second look. In a study published last week by ESPN Insider's Andrew Healy, Ryan ranked 31st among NFL head coaches in strategic decision-making this season. The analysis took into account fourth-down decisions, clock management and challenges.