On September 25, in the hour following the Buffalo Bills first victory of the season, Rex Ryan unleashed a bit of information that hadn’t been previously known. In the win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Bills head coach said that defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman did a great job calling the defense in that game.
In most cases, that normally wouldn’t be a revelation. Around the NFL, generally speaking, the offensive and defensive coordinators are in charge of calling the plays on game day, with the head coach taking more of an overseer role. That, though, wasn’t the case with Rex Ryan, who had called all the defensive plays in the previous season with the Bills.
So, allowing Thurman to call the plays was Ryan giving up some control over his defense, which was a story in itself.
Fast forward to Wednesday, December 14… with nearly the rest of the season evaporated and almost three whole months leading people to believe that Thurman was the man pulling the strings on Sundays, when pressed on the matter, Rex went vague.
The head coach made mention that he was calling plays in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers that the team hadn’t practiced, which begged the follow up, so he, in fact, is calling the plays?
“Everything goes through me,” Ryan said.
So, when did it change? Ryan fired back with a snarky answer:
“I don’t know. When we started doing bad,” he said with a half-smile. “I’m responsible for it. It’s not on anybody else. I’m responsible for everything on that field.”
All through the exchange, the head coach still didn’t give a definitive answer that he had taken over defensive play calls for the Bills. On Thursday, Thurman met with the media… which led to a bit more clarity.
“It never really stopped,” Thurman said, when asked when the switch back to Rex Ryan calling the plays was made.
The chain of command is as follows — at least according to the defensive coordinator: Rex Ryan makes the calls, tells Dennis Thurman, who then relays it to inside linebacker Preston Brown on the field.
“We’ve been doing it since 2006,” Thurman said.
So, there you have it. Despite throwing a curveball in Week Three, it has been Rex Ryan calling the defense all along — which is further proof as to why he is tied to their performance as much as he is.