The Rex Ryan Playbook: Winning Over Buffalo, One Wing at a Time - Rolling Stone
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The Rex Ryan Playbook: Building a Winner in Buffalo, One Wing at a Time

Skydiving, trash talking and an unhealthy amount of pizza: How Rex charmed a city, brought the Bills back and put the NFL on notice

Rex RyanRex Ryan

The Man: Rex Ryan Brings His Audacious Style to Buffalo.

Gary Wiepert/AP

It’s not exactly a stretch to call Rex Ryan one of the most polarizing men in the NFL. Despite all his “goddamn snack” gusto – and his bold proclamations that he’d bring the New York Jets back to the Super Bowl – he was unceremoniously canned by the team at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.

Undaunted, Rex shuffled off to Buffalo, a city that just might be his spiritual home. Since being hired as Bills coach in January, Ryan has shown that he hasn’t lost a step – at least when it comes to outrageous stunts and notebook-filling quotes. Most of the so-called experts chalked it all up to the bluster of a man who’d lost his mojo, but after leading the Bills to an upset win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, Ryan got the last laugh.

Now, as he prepares for Sunday’s showdown with the New England Patriots, we’re looking back at Ryan’s greatest hits since blowing into Buffalo – a pattern of IDGAF behavior that proves while his team may have changed, Rex most certainly hasn’t.

January 13, 2015: Rex Is Ready
Ryan’s arrival in Buffalo is heralded as the beginning of a new era, and the Bills mark the occasion by taking him out for beers with the franchise’s all-time passing leader, Hall of Famer Jim Kelly – oh, and presenting him with a giant “Welcome Rex” pizza. Sensing that he has finally found a team that truly understands him, Rex guarantees to end the Bills’ 15-year playoff drought and promises his boys will “lead the league in defense.” Then he probably got some wings at Duff’s.  

January 26, 2015: Rex Is Stuffed
On the cusp of his mortal enemies the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl, Ryan masks his frustrations the only way he knows how – with more pizza. In this case, he appears alongside Tony Romo in an ad for Pizza Hut’s “Triple Cheese Covered Stuffed Crust” monstrosity, which is both disgusting and strangely fitting, since that was his nickname in college.

February 2, 2015: Rex’s Revisionist History
Having already put his New Jersey home on the market and given the majority of his Jets apparel to charity, Rex makes the breakup official by having the tattoo on his right bicep – which formerly showed his wife wearing a green jersey – recolored Bills blue. You see, Buffalo? He really does love you.

February 25th, 2015: Revvin’ Rex
Days after showing up at the NFL Combine in a Thurman Thomas jersey, Rex takes yet another step towards fully ingratiating himself with every Bills backer from Tonawanda by getting a huge, team-branded truck. The custom pickup is Bills themed from the front grill to the back bumper, and is pretty fucking awesome. No word if he also splurged for Bills floor mats while waiting in line at AutoZone, but, c’mon, this is Rex. You know he did.

April 14th, 2015: Rex With a Side of Ranch
Ryan goes back to the Big Tree Inn
, a bar located near Ralph Wilson Stadium, with Kelly and fellow Bills legend Thurman Thomas in tow. Surrounded by fans, Bud Lights and platters of wings, Rex once again proclaims his love for the city of Buffalo, and gets the coveted Kelly seal of approval: “It took me five minutes to realize that this guy’s cool.”

April 15th, 2015: Trash-Talkin’ Rex
As if Ryan couldn’t make it any clearer that he was, like, so totally over the Jets, he responds to New York tight end Jace Amaro’s claim that the team “lacked accountability” during Rex’s last year in the most R.R. way imaginable. “That’s a fucking B.S. comment,” he tells Sports Illustrated. Then, on May 29, Rex ups the ante by calling the Bills “the only team in New York,” which, y’know, is actually true.

June 14th, 2015: Hard-Hittin’ Rex
Before taking part in LeSean McCoy’s charity softball game (which apparently isn’t females only“) Ryan tempers expectations that he’ll go yard. “The fence is way too far back. I’ll act like I’m disappointed, but there’s no way I’m going to reach that thing,” he says. “This home run derby, I’m going to make a guarantee that I’m not going to hit one out.” Despite showing off a decent swing, Rex proves to be a man of his word.

June 22, 2015: Street-Fightin’ Rex
The entire Ryan clan participates in a lengthy feature story in The Buffalo News, which is notable mainly because of the revelation that Rex was once arrested for breaking his brother Rob’s nose during a college brawl (said brawl started when a too-drunk Rex apparently shirked his wingman duties). Notes Rex, “I felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I hit my brother like that.” The #BillsMafia nods in approval.

July 7, 2015: Rex Goes West
Going from softball to baseball, Ryan is spotted in Los Angeles at Dodgers Stadium, where he chats with legendary manager Tommy Lasorda. No word on what they discussed, but we bet it was Ultra Slim-Fast.

July 17, 2015: Rex Gets Extreme
In the PR stunt to end all PR stunts, Rex pledges his allegiance to Buffalo (and risks shattered ankles) by going skydiving over Niagara Falls with the U.S. Army. Play-by-play of the dive is provided by Bills social media, but when asked what exactly was the whole point of the jump, Ryan simply says, “I like living.” Then why go skydiving?!?

August 7, 2015: Rex Goes to the Dogs
Despite getting lap-band surgery, it’s well known that Rex still has a healthy appetite. But in August, the unabashed fan of pizza and wings takes his diet to a new level when he chows down on some dog biscuits. Of course it was all in the name of charity – he was answering an Ice Bucket-esque challenge to benefit the Erie County SPCA – so let us be the first to say, “Good boy, Rex.”

August 12, 2015: Rex the Recruiter
In the Rex Move to end all Rex Moves, Ryan sticks it to the Jets by claiming IK Enemkpali, the very player who broke Jets QB Geno Smith’s jaw in a fight, off waivers. “I feel confident he’ll fit right in,” Ryan jokes – though, ultimately, IK is cut from the team. Apparently, trolling his former employers for an entire season isn’t worth a roster spot.

September 12, 2015: Rex the Motivator
After the Bills shut down Andrew Luck and shock the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, Ryan delivers a fired-up postgame presser that includes him proclaiming “Man, am I proud to be the coach of the Bills.” He also goes so far as to say that he knew the underdog Bills would beat the Colts, telling reporters “[The fans] knew it was going to be a special day and so did I.”

September 16, 2015: Rex the Shit Stirrer
With his old nemesis the Patriots coming to town, Rex takes the opportunity to once again swipe at Bill Belichick and Co. “I’ll say this: I respect them probably as much as any team in the league. But I don’t fear them. We don’t fear anybody. In fact, we’re looking forward to it.” He then doubles down: “I get it: they got all the trophies, they got the record that says what it is. But we got the same record as them in that stadium on Sunday…They’re going to get every single thing I have, every single thing that my players have and our coaching staff.” Kickoff is 1 p.m. ET!

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