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Son of the great Buddy Ryan, who became the head coach of the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Following his coaching career, Rex Ryan became an analysis for ESPN's Super Bowl LI pregame and postgame shows.
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Rex married Michelle Ryan in 1987, and the couple later had two sons, Rob and Jim. Rex's twin brother is fellow football coach Rob Ryan.
Rex Ryan played college football as a defensive end for Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Rex Ryan and his fraternal twin, Rob, were born in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on December 13, 1962, to Doris and Buddy Ryan. When the boys were aged two, their parents amicably divorced. Following the divorce, their mother attended the University of Chicago to earn her doctorate. Rex, Rob, and their older brother Jim moved with her to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she secured an administrative position at the University of Toronto. During the course of his upbringing, Rex wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a defensive pioneer in the NFL known for developing the 46 defense, and by the age of six, Rex and Rob knew they wanted to pursue coaching careers.
In 1978, when Buddy was hired by the Chicago Bears as their defensive coordinator, Rex, Rob, and Jim followed their father to Illinois where the family settled in Lincolnshire, Illinois. The brothers attended Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.
Rex went on to attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, alongside Rob, and played for the football team as a defensive end. He graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma in 1986, and in 2011 was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame.
Upon graduating from Southwestern in 1986, with the help of his father, Ryan secured a job as a graduate assistant on the Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) Eastern Kentucky Colonels football team. At Eastern Kentucky, he had a multitude of responsibilities which ranged from making copies of game plans to picking players up at the airport. The Colonels won the Ohio Valley Conference title in the two years Ryan served as an assistant. At the age of 26, Ryan became the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Division II New Mexico Highlands for a year, during which the team led the league in defensive turnovers. After his stint with New Mexico Highlands, Ryan joined Division I Morehead State as the defensive coordinator, where he remained for four years. During his tenure, the defense was ranked among the highest in the nation.
Ryan and his wife, Michelle, met at Southwestern Oklahoma State. When Rex accepted his position as a graduate assistant at Eastern Kentucky, he proposed to Michelle by phone; she accepted and they were married in 1987. They have two sons, Seth, an assistant for the Los Angeles Chargers, and Payton. Ryan earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master's degree in physical education from Eastern Kentucky University. He resided in Summit, New Jersey, during his tenure with the Jets. As of 2017, he plans on residing in Tennessee.
When his father was hired as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 1994, he offered Rex his first job in the NFL as a defensive assistant, working with the team's linebackers and defensive linemen. After nine straight losing seasons prior to Buddy's arrival, the Cardinals produced an 8–8 record in Buddy's first year as head coach. However, in his second season, the team went 4–12 and subsequently, the entire staff was fired despite the positive performance of the defense.
After working for his father for two years with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, Ryan returned to college coaching as the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats won the first Humanitarian Bowl over Utah State in Ryan's final year, marking the team's first bowl appearance in fifty years. Ryan was the Oklahoma Sooners' defensive coordinator for a year in which the defense was ranked sixth in the nation. However, head coach John Blake failed to achieve a winning record for a third straight year and subsequently, the entire staff was fired. Ryan served as defensive coordinator at Kansas State for a month in 1999 under head coach Bill Snyder.
Ryan went on to coach at three different colleges following his tenure with the Cardinals, though by the time he joined Kansas State in 1999, he was hopeful of a return to the NFL. Ryan received a call from newly named head coach Brian Billick of the Baltimore Ravens, who wanted to interview him for the defensive line coaching position. Having visited a class Ryan was teaching earlier in his career, Billick had been so impressed by Ryan's passion for the game of football that he decided to hire Ryan if he ever attained a head coaching position. When offered the position, Ryan accepted.
In his first year, the defense was ranked second overall in the NFL and second in rushing yards allowed. By his second year, in 2000, the Ravens' defense set NFL records for fewest points allowed and fewest rushing yards allowed. The defense allowed a combined 23 points in four playoff games en route to a Super Bowl XXXV victory, Ryan's only Super Bowl ring, over the New York Giants. The defense consistently performed well in the following years. As a result, Ryan was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2005 following the departure of Mike Nolan, who became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. In 2006, Ryan received Assistant Coach of the Year awards from Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers Association.
The Jets opened their season against the Houston Texans. Ryan began his head coaching career with a 24–7 victory over the Texans in which the Jets' defense shut out their opponents' offense. Houston's lone score came on a fumble return for a touchdown. The following week, the defense did not allow a touchdown against the New England Patriots in a 16–9 victory at home, marking the Jets' first home victory over New England since 2000. Ryan and the Jets went on to defeat the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, marking the first time the Jets opened the season at 3–0 since 2004. The victory also allowed Ryan to become the Jets' first rookie head coach to win his first three games since Al Groh did so in 2000. Despite their hot start, New York went on to lose six of their next seven games save for a shutout victory over the Oakland Raiders, 38–0.
Upon the conclusion of the Ravens' 5–11 performance in 2007, the entire staff was dismissed on New Year's Eve. Ryan was one of the candidates interviewed by the Ravens for their head coaching vacancy; however, the Ravens chose to name John Harbaugh as the team's new head coach. Ryan also interviewed with Miami and Atlanta about filling their head coaching vacancies, but the offers went to Tony Sparano and Mike Smith respectively.
Ryan was disappointed by his failure to obtain a head coaching job, but he agreed to return to Baltimore under the direction of Harbaugh, who retained Ryan as defensive coordinator and promoted him to assistant head coach. In 2008, Ryan's final year with the team, the defense was ranked second overall in the NFL. The Ravens lost by a score of 23–14 in the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ryan's nine-year tenure with the Ravens, during which the defense never ranked lower than sixth overall in the NFL, concluded an hour later when he accepted the head coaching position with the New York Jets.
Following a late season collapse in which the Jets missed the playoffs after losing four of their final five games, the team fired head coach Eric Mangini on December 29, 2008. The team interviewed a host of candidates, including Ryan, Jeff Jagodzinski, Russ Grimm, Bill Callahan, and Brian Schottenheimer; however, the contract, which was valued at approximately $11.5 million over the course of four years, was ultimately offered to Ryan.
Accepting the offer on January 19, 2009, Ryan immediately began to carry out a plan of action that he had outlined for the franchise's future. He planned to remove the players from distractions on and off the field and allow them get to know one another to build team chemistry. Thus, training camp was moved to the campus of SUNY Cortland, where the team would be relatively secluded from the media and any other distractions. Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum were also determined to draft a quarterback who could lead and be the face of the franchise. As a result, the team traded up to select Mark Sanchez of USC in the first round with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
With extensive knowledge regarding the intricacies of the defense, Ryan has been criticized for not devoting similar time and effort into coaching the offense. Ryan refuted this, stating his goal is to implement a proficient running game, citing a desire to "get after" the opponent through running the ball. Ryan has also stated that passing the ball is important but should not be used incessantly as there should be a balance between both aspects of the offense. In 2009 and 2010, the Jets were ranked first and fourth overall in the league in rushing which coincided with their two playoff appearances. In 2011, the Jets attempted to convert to a more pass-oriented offense, which have become more widely used in the NFL, however, the team struggled with this adjustment and reverted to their former run-oriented offense by the middle of the season. His defensive strategy, in contrast, tends to be more elaborate taking into consideration his experience in the field. There are six different defensive formations utilized in football, but the two commonly used formations are the 3–4 formation, with three defensive lineman and four linebackers, and the 4–3 formation, with four defensive lineman and three linebackers. The Jets utilized the former of the two popular formations; however, Ryan tended to employ all six formations in varying forms. Furthermore, he often calls audibles that have the defense line up in one formation and switch to another so as to cloak their intentions and confuse and pressure the opponent.
Ryan publicly announced in 2009 that he had been battling dyslexia for his entire life. During his early years, Ryan struggled to read and write in school; however, he was not formally diagnosed until testing confirmed he had the disorder in 2007. Ryan utilizes color-coded playbooks and game plans when coaching on the sidelines to aid his comprehension.
The team eventually recovered and won five of their final six games despite Ryan mistakenly stating the Jets had been eliminated from playoff contention following a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Jets defeated a previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts—a game not without controversy following Jim Caldwell's decision to pull Indianapolis' starters with the Colts leading. The Colts, who had already clinched a playoff berth, had little to play for aside from a perfect record. In the final game of the season, the Jets defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 37–0 at Giants Stadium, the final sporting event to be held at the venue, as the defense held Cincinnati to 72 total rushing yards, and 0 total yards passing. The victory secured the Jets' playoff berth as a wild card team. Under Ryan, the Jets finished the regular season ranked first overall in the NFL in rushing yards and total defense. New York defeated Cincinnati again the following week, this time at Paul Brown Stadium, in the AFC Wild Card playoff round by a score of 24-14. On January 17, 2010, Ryan coached the Jets in an upset over the San Diego Chargers, 17–14, on their way to the AFC Championship Game. The Jets subsequently lost to the Colts, 30–17, after leading in the first half of the game. Ryan became embroiled in controversy a few days later when he made an obscene gesture towards heckling Dolphins fans who spat on him during a Strikeforce mixed martial arts event at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. Ryan apologized for his action, stating that it was "stupid and inappropriate." Ryan was fined $50,000 by the Jets.
Ryan underwent lap-band surgery at NYU Medical Center in March 2010 in an effort to battle his obesity. Ryan also had a hernia repaired during the procedure. He was able to return to his home that same day to recover. Following a three-week period, he had lost 40 pounds and as of July 2012, Ryan had lost 106 pounds.
In late 2010 as the Jets were preparing for the playoffs, a foot fetish video of woman appearing to be Ryan's wife Michelle surfaced on various internet outlets. Judging off the videos background it appears to be taken at Whippany Park High School in New Jersey, in the teachers lot. The video features a clothed Michelle having her bare feet handled and commented on by an unseen camera operator with a voice similar to Rex's. The Jets released a press statement saying that Ryan and the organization considered the situation a private matter and would provide no comment. Multiple media reports soon linked the Ryans to a user profile named "ihaveprettyfeet" on a site for alternative sexual lifestyles, and more videos of Michelle emerged in the following months. In September 2015, a photo of Ryan surfaced of him sitting at his desk with a framed photo of a person's feet behind him.
Ryan is an avid hockey fan and developed a notoriety of being a bandwagon jumper. Ryan admitted to being a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, as a result of growing up in the city, but upon taking the Jets head coaching job, he was often seen cheering for all three of the New York metropolitan area franchises. During the New Jersey Devils run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, Ryan was seen sporting the team's attire, and he was seen donning the attire of the New York Rangers two years later, during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Outside of the playoff runs, Ryan performed a ceremonial puck drop at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 9, 2010, wearing a vintage New York Islanders Billy Smith jersey.
In the Wild Card Round, the sixth-seeded Jets beat the AFC South champion and third-seeded Colts 17–16 on January 8, 2011, at the Colts' home field, Lucas Oil Stadium, to qualify for the Divisional Playoffs. The following week, on January 16, they defeated the AFC East champion and first-seeded Patriots 28–21, ending New England's eight-game winning streak. The victory made the Jets the first team to win back-to-back road playoff games in consecutive seasons, and qualified them to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season, where they lost on the road to the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers 24–19.
Through 11 weeks in 2012, the Jets struggled to a 4–7 record. The presence of quarterback Tim Tebow created a controversy as the media and fans called for Ryan to bench the inconsistent Mark Sanchez in favor of Tebow. Ryan was criticized for his decision to keep Tebow activated during the Jets' Thanksgiving Day contest against the New England Patriots despite Tebow playing with two broken ribs, leading to questions about his job security. With Tebow inactive for the Jets' following contest against the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan made the decision to bench Sanchez, who threw three interceptions, in favor of Greg McElroy. McElroy threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland to score the team's only points in a 7–6 victory over Arizona.
Ryan renamed Sanchez the starting quarterback the following Wednesday after seeking out multiple opinions within the organization. In a must win game against the Tennessee Titans to remain in playoff contention, Sanchez struggled; he completed 13 of his 28 passes for 131 yards while throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball in Titans territory in the closing minutes of the Jets' 14–10 defeat. A day later, Ryan announced McElroy would start. Sanchez started the final game of the season after McElroy suffered a concussion in his lone start. Sanchez's struggles continued as the Jets fell to the Buffalo Bills and ended their year with a 6–10 record, their first losing season under Rex Ryan. On December 31, 2012, the Jets fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum, but announced that Ryan would return for the 2013 season.
Ryan made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler film That's My Boy, which was released on June 15, 2012. Ironically, his character in the movie was a fan of the New York Jets rival, the New England Patriots.
For the 2013 campaign, Ryan overhauled his coaching staff, promoting Dennis Thurman to defensive coordinator while adding several new coaches including offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Newly hired general manager John Idzik emphasized there would be competition at all positions including quarterback. The Jets drafted Geno Smith in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft to compete with Sanchez. Ryan was widely criticized for his decision to insert Sanchez late in a preseason game against the New York Giants after Sanchez suffered a season-ending shoulder injury which led to Smith being named the starter.
Ryan was involved in a three-car crash in eastern Pennsylvania on January 14, 2013. A witness said Ryan ran his Ford Mustang through a red light and collided with another driver which caused the unidentified driver to hit a third car. Ryan was issued a warning, but no citation.
The Jets opened the 2014 season with a 19–14 win over the Oakland Raiders but proceeded to lose their next eight games. Geno Smith, who started the year at quarterback, was replaced by veteran Michael Vick midway through the season. Vick helped to snap the losing streak in a Week 9 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the victory, Ryan was seen cursing at an unidentified person and was subsequently fined $100,000 by the league. The team continued to struggle with Smith eventually being reinserted into the lineup. The Jets went on to win two of their last three games to finish with a 4–12 record, their worst finish under Ryan. Despite players again expressing their desire for Ryan to remain the coach, he was dismissed on December 29, 2014.
Ryan was hired as the 18th head coach of the Buffalo Bills on January 12, 2015, agreeing to a five-year, $27.5 million contract.
On January 10, 2016, it was announced that Ryan had hired his twin brother. Rob, to the Bills coaching staff. Rob served as an assistant head coach and also worked with the defense. Three days later, Ryan hired former NFL standout Ed Reed to be an assistant defensive backs coach.
The Bills opened the 2016 season with a 13–7 loss against the Baltimore Ravens. On September 16, 2016, less than 24 hours after losing 37–31 to the Jets in their home opener and falling to 0–2, Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman and promoted running backs coach Anthony Lynn to offensive coordinator.
Following his dismissal season with the Bills In 2016, Ryan signed an agreement with ESPN to provide analysis for the network's Super Bowl LI pregame and postgame shows. The one-game agreement, in which ESPN beat out game rightsholder Fox (as well as CBS and NFL Network), left the possibility open for Ryan to continue with ESPN through the 2017 season. In April, it was announced that Ryan would officially join ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown as an analyst.
On September 13, 2016, it was revealed that Ryan underwent a procedure to remove the lap band. He lost a total of 120 pounds during the 6-year span since he had the surgery.
On April 18, 2016, Ryan introduced Republican presidential candidate front-runner Donald Trump at one of his rallies held at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. Ryan had told The Associated Press he was supporting Chris Christie for the nomination, but he dropped out of the race and has since endorsed Trump. During the rally, Ryan praised Trump's 'courage' to "say what's on his mind."
Currently, Rex Ryan is 58 years old. Rex Ryan will celebrate 59th birthday on Sunday, December 13, 2020. Below we countdown to Rex Ryan upcoming birthday.