Dennis Thurman to continue handling defensive play calls


The play on the field Sunday by Buffalo's offense drew a lot of the attention with new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn behind some difference making adjustments in the Bills Week 3 win over Arizona. But there was a bit of a change with the way defensive calls were made in Sunday's win as well.

Instead of head coach Rex Ryan making the defensive calls, defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman was entrusted with calling the plays on defense Sunday, and the results were encouraging. So much so that Ryan intends to leave those duties in Thurman's hands moving forward.

"Dennis did a great job," said Ryan of Thurman's play calling Sunday. "I think we'll do this (going forward). It's not like we don't have communication. We always have open lines of communication. If I was calling it or Dennis was calling it we would still be there with each other and always will be."

In his time as head coach of the Jets and the Bills, more often than not Ryan has been the one making the defensive play calls during games. On occasion he has ceded control of those duties to his defensive coordinators. Thurman is one of the coordinators who has been handed those responsibilities before, but it sounds as though he'll be in charge of calling the defense on a weekly basis now.

It's a noteworthy decision by Ryan to delegate that kind of control to Thurman, heading into a week where Buffalo faces division rival New England and Ryan nemesis Bill Belichick.

Buffalo's head coach did want it to be clear that the formulation of the team's defensive game plan each week will still be very much a collaborative effort, but Thurman will be the one pulling the trigger on Sundays.

"I want everybody to understand that the responsibilities are the same regardless of who the play caller is," said Ryan. "My input is going to be all over that. So I don't want all of a sudden the criticism to be on Dennis Thurman. It's shouldn't be. It's my defense, it's always been my defense and that's the way it'll be. Just so you're aware I'm on the headset constantly. But D.T. did a good job of operating it."

Ryan will still have the kind of game day input that's common among head coaches. If he feels a particular defensive call needs to be scrapped because he thinks it's ineffective he'll weigh in. If there are some changes that might need to be made between series, he and Thurman will consult with one another and implement it.

Nevertheless Buffalo's sideline boss seems to be coming to the realization that the operation of everything on game day can be better if he lets his coordinators handle play calling with him keeping an attentive ear to the operations. The benefit is Ryan can then focus on more of the typical head coaching responsibilities on game day, like clock management, getting a feel for the overall flow of the game or when to issue a coach's challenge.

Sunday's change also allowed Ryan the opportunity to listen in more on how things were functioning on the offensive side of the ball as well as special teams.

"I was doing more of the head coach deal like everybody else," Ryan said. "When the offense had the ball I was on the headset, same with defense and special teams. So I did that a little bit more."

It's clear that the defense will always be Rex Ryan's baby, and he'll always be there to weigh in and exercise influence. But delegating more of the down in and down out duties to Thurman could very well allow him to be a more effective overseer of the entire operation of the team on game days moving forward.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.