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Former Patriots foe Rex Ryan reportedly close to returning to the NFL, and New England’s schedule

The Denver Broncos have an eye on the former Jets and Bills head coach.

New England Patriots Vs. New York Jets At Metlife Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

One of the New England Patriots’ former foes appears to be nearing a return to the NFL. Per a report by NFL Network, Rex Ryan has “emerged as a top candidate” to become the next defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.

Ryan, 60, rose to prominence as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens in the early 2000s. The son of former NFL coach Buddy Ryan served as the team’s defensive coordinator between 2005 and 2008, playing a key role in establishing the Patriots-Ravens rivalry that would soon become one of the fiercest in all of football.

In 2009, Ryan took over as New York Jets head coach — famously claiming early in his tenure that he “never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings” and that he was “certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.” Ryan backed up his bravado by winning three of his first five games against the Patriots, including a playoff game in 2010.

However, over the next four years Ryan’s Jets went 1-7 against the Belichick-led Patriots. He was eventually fired after the 2014 season, his fourth straight without a winning record. He left New York with a 50-52 record and two trips to the AFC Championship Game in his first two years at the job.

Ryan joined the Buffalo Bills two weeks after leaving the Jets, but he failed to duplicate the success he had in New York. He was let go toward the end of his second season, having gone 8-8 and 7-8 until that point.

Instead of returning to coaching, Ryan joined ESPN as an analyst — a job he has held ever since. Now, however, there is a chance he will return to the NFL and onto the Patriots schedule.

The Broncos, who hired Sean Payton as their new head coach earlier this offseason, are set to visit New England during the 2023 regular season. There is a chance Rex Ryan is on their staff at that point.