On Monday Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula gave their players a new leader in the form of Rex Ryan, who was named the 18th head coach in franchise history. Not surprisingly, Buffalo's players are invigorated by the hire of the charismatic coach.
"Excited," said RB Fred Jackson of his initial reaction to the hire. "He's a coach that is known for winning. He's a character and I think anytime you have a coach who is a character it brings a lot of excitement. We know he wants to win just like we do. Every player that I've talked to is excited about the hire. Former players of his that I've talked to say I'll have nothing but fun times with him. I know he's ready to work and I'm ready to work with him."
Ryan, 52, joins the Bills after spending the previous six seasons as the head coach of the New York Jets.
"I think it was a great move," said RB Boobie Dixon. "I've never been able to play for him, but the thing I hear about him is he brings intensity and excitement."
Having faced Ryan's defense first hand twice a year both Dixon and Jackson know the supreme challenge his scheme presents.
"They were tough this past year," said Dixon. "They do a lot of disguising, a lot of window dressing where they'll show you something and then they'll take it away. When we had to play them it was definitely one of the weeks where we had to be on our books a little bit more and just kind of focus that much more. We knew it was going to be a game of disguise. He definitely has a tough defense."
"It's extremely tough and that's one of the things that makes it so dangerous," said Jackson. "You think you've got it figured out and then they hit you with something different. Being a guy who has seen it for a while, I know it's going to be tough for a lot of people and will continue to be tough. With the defense that we already have and the personnel that we have on defense it's going to allow those guys to go to another level."
What has Buffalo's running backs particularly encouraged is Ryan's offensive philosophy of ground and pound. In Ryan's six years as head coach of the Jets, New York leads the NFL in rushing over that span with a collective average of 137 rushing yards a game. Over the last six seasons New York averaged a league-leading 32 rushes per game.
"That's music to my ears. I can't wait to work for a coach like that," said Dixon. "This past year was definitely frustrating at times, throwing the ball as much as we did. Not banging in the red zone at the times when we needed to. That's just bringing excitement to me and I'm ready. I'm going to go work out now just to be ready."
"You love a coach that loves to run the ball," Jackson said. "When you're a running back you hope for those guys and knowing that he's one of them… I know myself and Boobie (Dixon) and if things work out and we get C.J. (Spiller) back we're going to be excited about that. We want to continue to keep those numbers coming true under him as a head coach and we'll get that shot."
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ryan's appeal as a coach is the bit of levity he brings to the daily grind of a four-month regular season. Buffalo's new head coach is all about winning and focusing on the task, but he also knows when his team could use a laugh.
"Anytime you've got a coach that understands what we're going through and knows what it takes to get through a season and can make it exciting and fun it makes your job a lot easier to do," said Jackson. "This is a game first and foremost and guys are going to come out here and we know it's a job, but at the same time you've got to have fun doing it and when you have a coach that allows you to have fun like that it just makes it that much more special."
"He lets his players have a little fun and I think that's going to be big for us," said Dixon. "I think with them bringing in Rex things might change for the better and we'll be able to take that next step this year."