ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - New team. Same old brash and bold Rex Ryan.
The Buffalo Bills' new coach opened his inaugural news conference with the team Wednesday by tapping the microphone and saying: "Is this thing on? Because it's getting ready to be on."
Outlining his objectives, Ryan said the job is his last chance to prove himself. He vowed to build the Bills into "a bully" and said he has an additional chip on his shoulder after being fired by the New York Jets.
"Yes, it's personal," he said, about being fired. "It's embarrassing."
Despite having a grudge against the Jets, Ryan maintained the New England Patriots remain the AFC East team he wants to beat the most.
Though he stopped short of guaranteeing Buffalo winning a Super Bowl, Ryan did "guarantee" winning a championship as being his sole pursuit.
"We're not afraid of it," Ryan said. "My message to the players is get ready. We're going to be playing games in January and so forth. We're going to build a bully and we're going to see if you're going to play us for 60 minutes."
The entertaining, provocative front comes as the Bills search for relevance and under new owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who bought the team in October. Though coming off a 9-7 season, which matched Buffalo's best finish in 10 years, the team still missed the playoffs to extend the NFL's longest active drought to 15 seasons.
Ryan spent six seasons with the Jets, where he went 50-52, including 4-2 in the playoffs. He was fired along with general manager John Idzik following a 4-12 finish.
He replaces second-year coach Doug Marrone, who surprised the Bills by opting out of his contract on Dec. 31.
Ryan made a veiled reference to Marrone's departure by saying: "This football team deserves a loyal coach."
Terry Pegula shares Ryan's confidence and aggressive approach.
"We want the Buffalo Bills to be a nightmare to play against," he said.
After interviewing 12 candidates, Pegula hired someone with previous head-coaching experience to take over a team he considers on the verge of being a contender.
Ryan's background is on defence. He inherits a unit that has been among the NFL's most aggressive over the past two years. Last season, Buffalo finished fourth in yards allowed, led the league with 54 sacks and produced three Pro Bowl linemen.
Many members of Ryan's defensive staff with the Jets are expected to fill vacancies in Buffalo. That includes Dennis Thurman taking over as co-ordinator to succeed Jim Schwartz, whose contract was terminated by the Bills on Tuesday.
Ryan intends to retain Bills defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson. The Bills announced special teams co-ordinator Danny Crossman is staying.
Ryan's biggest challenge is on offence, and a unit that finished 26th in yards gained.
Kyle Orton, who replaced second-year starter EJ Manuel five games into the season, said he intends to retire, leaving Manuel as the only experienced quarterback currently on the Bills roster.
Ryan said he and his staff — including newly hired offensive co-ordinator Greg Roman — are beginning to evaluate the roster and it's too early to make any determination.
Ryan and Roman share a run-first-philosophy.
Ryan is no stranger to Buffalo. His father, Buddy Ryan, previously served as the University at Buffalo's defensive co-ordinator in the 1960s.
Rex Ryan and his two brothers spent their teen years in Toronto, a two-hour drive from Buffalo. Ryan avidly followed the Bills because many games were broadcast across Southern Ontario.
He listed off many former Bills greats from the 1960s and '70s, including fullback Cookie Gilchrist, Hall of Fame offensive guard Billy Shaw, and an offensive line dubbed "The Electric Company," which paved the way for O.J. Simpson.
Ryan spent his first day getting a literal taste of Buffalo after flying into town Tuesday morning.
He had a beer with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly at bar near Ralph Wilson Stadium. Later, he was in a suite to watch the Pegulas' other team, the NHL's Sabres, retire former star goalie Dominik Hasek's No. 39 before losing to the Detroit Red Wings.
Ryan grew up a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but noted he's changing allegiances.
"If Bruce Gamble was still in the net for the Leafs, maybe I'd be a Leafs guy," Ryan said, referring to the goalie who played in Toronto in the late 1960s and early '70s. "But I'm a Sabre all the way."
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