Former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan will join ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown for the upcoming season. He spoke with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the Know it from Adam podcast to discuss the upcoming season where the topics ranged from the New England Patriots (of course), the Buffalo Bills, and adjusting to no longer being a coach.
Ryan was a short-time rival of the Patriots and one of the few coaches that was able to confound Patriots QB Tom Brady for at least a couple seasons, so his insight on the Patriots is really interesting. He discusses the genius of Bill Belichick taking advantage of new head coaches, of how he found out the Bills lost WR Chris Hogan in free agency, and how former Bills RB Mike Gillislee and CB Stephon Gilmore will perform in New England.
Rex was talking about how he was no longer coaching and back to being a fan of the game and immediately jumped into how the loss of Patriots WR Julian Edelman shakes up the power structure of the league, without any prompt. Here’s the transcript of Rex’s conversation with Schefter; I’ve truncated some of Schefter’s questions.
RR: “I think taking away Edelman from the Patriots may balance things up a little bit. You know I hate to see that for him, I think when those two guys with the additions that New England made and you had Edelman, that was going to be really tough. I’m not sure anyone was going to beat them. But right now, maybe there’s an opportunity for another team to pop up in there.”
AS: “So you think the loss of Edelman is that big to New England?”
RR: “I think so. That’s his [Brady’s] safety net. And it’s easy to say that, well, they got Cooks now they can plug him in, well he’s a different kind of receiver. The other thing that Brandin Cooks has not shown, he’s an explosive guy, and the talent is there, and he’s a great young man that’s going to do awesome there, but the durability. The durability of Edelman and [Wes] Welker before that, those guys you could count on those guys playing and we’ll see. I think Cooks sometimes wears down a little bit at the end of seasons, well at least it appeared that way to me. So we’ll see how it goes here in New England now with him.”
Note: I wonder if Cooks’ physical ability will improve in New England’s superior training program.
AS: “How is Gillislee going to fare there?”
RR: “I love Touchdown Mike is what I call him. Because as my dad famously said about Chris Carter, all he does is score touchdowns. Well that’s what we got in Mike Gillislee. All he did was score touchdowns, so I called him Touchdown Mike. But he’s really a good back and he kind of burst on the scene. He was our third string running back, we picked him up, Doug Whaley picked him up on waivers, and all of sudden this kid came in and we had to play him, we had a bunch of injuries to our two starters, then when we played the kid, it was like shoot this guy’s good.
“So I think they just get another back. And the way Belichick does it, you never know which back you’re going to get, but he’s going to feature one of them. I think Gillislee will have a shot, he not going to be an every down back, but there will be games where he plays a prominent role and he’ll be ready for it.”
AS: “Has it surprised you how much success Chris Hogan has had there?”
RR: “No, this one drives me crazy right here. This one drives me crazy because that was the one player I definitely did not want to lose when I was at Buffalo. Not only was he really our best receiver that year, remember, he was third, I think, in the league in yards per reception, he averaged over 17 yards a catch, so that was impressive, but he was also our best special teams player. This kid’s a great football player, a great competitor, and a great athlete. You know, obviously, he was a multi-sport athlete in college and you don’t want to lose these guys.
“He was tough, he was everything you look for and then of course not only do we put some tag on him, but we never put a second round tender. Obviously if we would have put a second round tender on there we probably would’ve still had him. But the fact we didn’t, they were able to come in and snagged him for money we couldn’t pay. Absolutely, I hated to lose him. But I’m excited that he did a good job.”
Schefter made an earlier throwaway about the Patriots stealing players from the Bills.
RR: “And you mention how they’re stealing players from teams. Bill Parcells one time told me long time ago, when you have a new head coach, you can take advantage of that and that’s what you’re kind of seeing right now. The Bills new GM or head coach, all these guys, they’re not their players so this was an opportunity for Belichick to get better and he did.
“He picks up Gillislee, obvious [Stephon] Gilmore he picks up, pays a big free agent, picking on him, but that’s why he ends up taking advantage of that. You’ll see it with Belichick, any time there’s a new head coach, he tries to maybe tinker a little bit with that and if he can get a player out of these guys, that’s what he does.”
AS: “What was your reaction when you found out the Patriots signed Chris Hogan to an offer sheet.”
RR: “Let’s just say I wasn’t real happy. You know at first, here’s what happened, this is how uninformed I was at that time. I’m thinking, okay, well we get a second round pick. So I was disappointed, but I’m like, anyway we’ll get a second round pick so that’s pretty cool. No, the tender wasn’t high enough. So that’s when I left the office, was not happy. Let’s just put it that way. Then the fact that you gotta go against the guy. That was, but that’ sit. That’s what he does. He’ll make a team worse and make his own team better.
“That’s his brilliant- that’s a guy who runs a whole show, he runs the entire program, whether it’s the draft, and with the draft, trades, free agents, whatever, and obviously the guy knows football better than anybody out there and that’s why I think he takes advantage of running his own show.
“He made a mistake, he signed Kony Ealy, or whatever his name is, from Carolina, second, third round pick, whatever he gives up. He doesn’t care, just cuts him.”
Schefter clarifies trade details on how the Patriots only traded down 8 spots in the draft.
RR: “Yeah, but that’s the beauty of it. You make a mistake, you’re not going to be perfect on every move that you make, but he’s got the courage to say, you know what, this isn’t right and maybe this kid doesn’t love football, I don’t know, he’s had his moments in the league, some good, some bad, but he never fit what they wanted to do, maybe he wasn’t a student of the game as much as Belichick wanted and the Patriots got rid of him. And kudos to him. He’s got all the pelts in the world so every decision that he makes he’s doing for the right reasons and that’s for the good of the team.”
AS: “How is Stephon Gilmore going to fare in New England?”
RR: “Oh, he’ll be fantastic. Stephon Gilmore is a great player. His only thing- he’s a super player- his only issue was staying healthy. I had him, he was coming off an injury when I had him, he had a shoulder injury, but when this guy is healthy and keyed in, he’s right up there in the conversation with the best corners in the league. He’s really good and he’s in his prime, so I think that’s the other thing. He’s got a player in his prime. Not at the end of his career, but at the beginning of his career, or, you know, at the midpoint of his career when he should be at his best. So I’m expecting big things out of Stephon.”
So there you have it. Chris Hogan is a stud, Brandin Cooks slows down at the end of the season, Mike Gillislee only scores touchdowns, Stephon Gilmore is one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league, and Bill Belichick likes to fleece new head coaches and general managers. From the mouth of Rex.