clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Would Rex Ryan work as 49ers defensive coordinator?

Buddy Ryan’s colorful son is job hunting. The Niners could use an upgrade at DC. A match?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

San Francisco 49ers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Rex Ryan, the colorful NFL coach, son of Buddy and brother of Rob, is now entertaining job offers after an early sacking by the Buffalo Bills.

While his head coaching resume is pretty checkered — two great seasons to start followed by years of mediocrity and controversy — no one doubts Ryan’s abilities as a defensive coordinator.

Ryan held that post at five colleges and for four years with the Baltimore Ravens. In between, he was defensive line coach on the Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV on the backs of their top-rated defense, holding the Giants to 154 total yards, the third-lowest total ever. New York’s only score was on a kickoff return.

So, is Rex Ryan a good choice to replace Jim O’Neil and upgrade the Niners’ miserable defense?

It makes a certain amount of sense. Ryan favors a 3-4 defense, so the Niners wouldn’t have to discard good players for lack of scheme fit. He’s entertaining, always a plus in a city that elected Willie Brown as major. The Bay Area is fun and has a great climate. And he’s got something to prove now.

However, there are several reasons to think this won’t happen.

1. Ryan is a close friend and colleague of Jim O’Neil

Ryan gave O’Neil his first NFL job with the NY Jets and promoted him to assistant DB coach. They still keep in touch personally. Even if Ryan didn’t find it disloyal to replace his protege, they coach a similar style of defense that really isn’t working very well in San Francisco right now.

2. Compatibility (or not) with Chip Kelly

There’s certainly no guarantee that Chip Kelly will remain the Niners coach, but if he does, it’s hard to see him getting along with (or respecting) Ryan much.

Chip, the son of a guy who trained for years to be a Jesuit priest, prides himself on his integrity and has worked hard to instill a positive culture everywhere he’s coached. He was willing to back that up by releasing a player as talented as DeSean Jackson, though there were also football reasons behind that decision.

Ryan, on the other hand, has pulled a number of sketchy stunts. In Buffalo, he announced his intention to “build a bully” and promptly signed OL Richie Incognito, out of the league for a year after bullying his Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin.

And he didn’t just sign IK Enemkpali after the Jets linebacker broke the jaw of his quarterback (Geno Smith) with a sucker punch (and was released, not surprisingly). Ryan had to go further and make Enemkpali a team captain against the Jets so that team’s captains had to shake his hand before the game.

If Chip gets fired, this all might be seen as much needed toughness, but it’s hard to see Kelly going along with all that.

3. Politics

Ryan was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump in the presidential election after his favorite candidate (Chris Christie) dropped out. Is that really going to fly in the Bay Area?

4. The lure of TV

The biggest reason Ryan probably won’t come to Santa Clara next year is that he is a shoo-in for a cushy TV job, where he’ll get a chance to be as outspoken and funny and controversial as he wants for more money and a lot less work.

Even if he itches to return to coaching, it makes too much sense for him to make some coin and party for a year with the media guys who will judge his future coaching work. After a year of rest and fun, he won’t have any trouble finding a defensive coordinator job anywhere he wants.