Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas believes Rex Ryan was humbled by his team's disappointing 8-8 record last season.
"When you bring in a coach like Rex Ryan, I think at the end of the season, he learned to [be] like, 'I can’t be saying a lot more stuff. I can’t be saying stuff like I did in the past. I got to really go out and prove that I’m worthy of being a head football coach in the National Football League,'" Thomas said. "So I think this year, coming into it, you’re going to see a different Rex Ryan. I think that’s gonna be a shocker to a lot of different people around the country.
"But I think he’s learned his lesson. You have to perform on the field. And when you talk as much as he did last year, and the performance wasn’t there, a lot of people are going to doubt, ‘Are you the right coach for the Buffalo Bills?’ And I think now, he’s into his second year, I expect him to go to the playoffs. But we’ll wait and see on that."
Ryan risks becoming just the fourth head coach since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to miss the playoffs in six consecutive seasons if the Bills cannot reach the postseason in 2016, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, joining Chuck Knox (1989-1994), Jack Patera (1976-81) and Bart Starr (1975-81).
Ryan admitted in a radio interview in December that he gave the team "a black eye" by "let[ting] my mouth get ahead of everything," adding that he regretted making some of his proclamations in his first season.
However, on a conference call with New York-based reporters days later, Ryan put the humility on hold.
"Pile on while you can," he said. "We'll see what happens."