A message from a Buffalo Bills fan

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A message from a Buffalo Bills fan

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By Jamin Buttafarro

On Jan. 12, the Buffalo Bills named former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan to be the 18th head coach for the team.

This comes only two weeks after Ryan was fired by the Jets after a lackluster season which saw the Jets finish 4-12 on the season. Ryan’s firing came as little surprise, with rumors of it circulating through the New York organization and the NFL for most of the 2014 season. Ryan’s departure from the team – and consequently the AFC East division – was a welcomed by New England Patriots fans have spent the past six years watching a rivalry blossom between Ryan and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Ryan brought the New York Jets team to face the Patriots for a divisional round matchup during the 2010 season playoffs, knocking New England out of Super Bowl contention, sending the Jets to the AFC East Championship game for the second year in a row. Though the Jets under Ryan have not been contenders for the past four seasons, the relationship between Ryan and Belichick has continued to evolve thanks to media coverage and Ryan’s intense and often volatile personality.

Ryan’s press conferences and public appearances have rubbed Patriots fans the wrong way since his induction into the Pats’ division in 2008. Ryan fired by their fellow AFC East rival, Patriots fans slept happy, having rid themselves of Rex and his brash, inter-divisional rivalry.

Fast forward two weeks, and you will find Rex Ryan donning the blue and red of another AFC East team with the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo, though an interdivision competitor, hasn’t been a factor to the championship-caliber Patriots in quite some time.

With the longest current playoff drought in the NFL, Buffalo has spent 15 seasons straight trying and failing to reach the playoffs and become a legitimate team in the AFC East and the NFL.  In fact, before finishing 9-7 this season, Buffalo had not even finished with a .500 or over record in a decade. Surely, the snowbelt Buffalo team has been out of sight and out of mind in New England for all of recent history.

Now, with the addition of Ryan to the Buffalo organization, a shift in perspective is sure to follow.  The Bills are coming off their most successful season in a decade, and have a top five ranked defense for the second year in a row. Ryan is known for his strength in defense; in his initial press conference with the  Bills, Ryan said the Bill’s defense “will be number one in the NFL this season.”

With a spirited and seasoned coach like Ryan on the sideline, Buffalo is sure to continue the progress set in motion. For the first time in quite some time, Patriots fans have a reason to notice the Bills.

As a Buffalo native, this pleases me very much. I am a life-long Bills fan and have spent the past 15 years waiting for Buffalo to make a splash in the division and the organization.

The Patriots are the best team in the AFC East and maybe the NFL. As a fan of the fellow AFC East contending Bills, I am ecstatic my team may finally be able to challenge the incredibly high standard set by New England in the division. I know it may seem foolish to put this much weight into a coaching change, especially with a coach coming off of four poor and average seasons. Not to mention the fact the Bills have been lacking at the position of quarterback, not yet having found their Brady or Manning to declare a “franchise quarterback.”

However, with the addition of Ryan and all the antics gain him public notoriety, at the very least, Buffalo will be on people’s minds in the upcoming NFL season. This may not seem like much to the fans of a 15-year champion quality team like New England, but for someone who has been waiting his entire teenage and adult life for his team to once again matter, this is huge.

I am looking forward to the Bills-Patriots rivalry that is sure to develop, a continuation of the one set in motion when Ryan entered Belichick’s division six years ago and boldly proclaimed he would never “kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.” Perhaps as a Bills fan, I’m a fish out of water here in Boston.

I may even incur the wrath of Boston sports fans for my jerseys and hats and the stickers all over my car. But coming from the perspective of an irrelevant team no one ever notices, I will gladly welcome becoming relevant. And just maybe Buffalo can bring, along with Rex’s rivalry status, a legitimate challenge to New England’s grip on the AFC East. After all, challenges make football great.

I understand if all this means we can no longer be friends, Boston sports fans.  I even understand if we become bitter football enemies, at least from September to January. I don’t expect you to understand.  But after 15 long years, I am looking forward to life with Rex.

Respectfully,

A Buffalo Bills fan.

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