The Bills fired coach Rex Ryan before the end of his second season after he failed to build Buffalo’s defense into a bully or lead the team to the playoffs.
The Bills announced Ryan’s firing Tuesday, three days after a 34-31 overtime loss to the Dolphins dropped the Bills to 7-8 and eliminated the team from playoff contention. The loss extended the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons.
Assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn takes over as the interim, and is expected to be a candidate to replace Ryan full time. The Bills close the season in a meaningless game on Sunday at the Jets (4-11).
Lynn is a longtime Ryan assistant and was promoted to offensive coordinator after Ryan fired Greg Roman following an 0-2 start.
Team owner Terry Pegula reached the decision over the weekend and informed Ryan during the team’s day off Tuesday.
‘‘We mutually agreed that the time to part ways is now,’’ Pegula said in a statement released by the team. ‘‘These decisions are never easy.’’
Pegula then noted his wife, Kim Pegula in saying: ‘‘Kim and I and our entire Bills organization share in the same disappointment and frustration as our fans, but we remain committed to our goal of bringing a championship to Western New York.’’
The Pegulas made the decision to fire Ryan after attending Saturday’s game and then spending Christmas at their second home in the Adirondacks.
Ryan was 15-16 in two seasons in Buffalo and is 61-66 overall. He hasn’t had a winning season since his second with the Jets in 2010, when New York went 11-5 and lost the AFC Championship game for a second consecutive postseason.
Ryan was dismissed a day after he appeared emotionally drained during what became his final news conference.
He called the loss to Miami his most painful as a Bills coach, and the second-most painful in his 20 NFL seasons as a coach or assistant. Ryan also second-guessed some of the decisions he made during the game, including punting from his 41 with a little over four minutes left in overtime. He said he hoped the loss wouldn’t become his defining moment in Buffalo.
‘‘But if it is, it’s something I've got to live with,’’ he said.
With speculation raised over the past month over his job security, Ryan also dismissed a question over whether two seasons were enough to be judged upon by the Pegulas.
‘‘Whatever they think is fair, that’s the only thing that matters,’’ he said. ‘‘I'm just going to try to win this game. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t mean anything. To me, it means a lot. I want to win the game. That’s who I am.’’
The Bills also fired Ryan’s twin brother, Rob Ryan, from his position as an assistant head coach with the responsibility to oversee defense.
Rex Ryan came to Buffalo saying this would be his last job after six seasons with the Jets, and vowed to build the Bills into a bully.
This has been a difficult year for the Ryans, who mourned the death of their father, Buddy Ryan, in June.
Buffalo’s drought is tied for the fifth-longest in league history, and the longest since the Saints failed to make the playoffs during their first 20 NFL seasons (1967-86).
The Pegulas are now on their third head coach since October 2014, when they finalized purchasing the Bills from the estate of late Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson.
Ryan replaced Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract following a 9-7 finish in 2014.
The decision to switch coaches goes against the Pegulas’ stated desire to have continuity in the coaching and front-office ranks, something the franchise has lacked during its playoff drought.
The Bills will now turn to their eighth coach since 2000, when Wade Phillips was fired following an 8-8 finish.
Buffalo is also on its sixth GM since 2000, with Doug Whaley completing his fourth full season at the job.
The defense has underperformed once again this year, despite Ryan’s offseason vows.
The Bills have allowed 30 or more points five times and allowed more than 400 yards offense four times, both matching last year’s total.
Bills to start Manuel at QB
A person familiar with the decision confirmed to the Associated Press that the Bills intend to start backup quarterback EJ Manuel in place of Tyrod Taylor for their season finale at the Jets on Sunday.
Taylor was being benched after going 26 of 39 for a career-best 329 yards in a 34-31 overtime loss to Miami last weekend.
Manuel hasn’t started since a 34-31 loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 25, 2015. Though he went 24 of 42 for a career-best 298 yards passing and two touchdowns, Manuel also committed three turnovers on consecutive possessions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Taylor’s future is uncertain. Despite signing a lucrative five-year extension and restructuring the final season of his contract in August. The Bills can opt out of the deal after this season.
There is also a concern the Bills won’t be able to opt out if Taylor sustains a long-term injury.
Manuel is 6-10 as a starter, and completing the final year of his contract since being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft.
McGloin, Raiders ready
While Derek Carr underwent surgery to repair his broken right leg, the Raiders began preparing for a playoff run without their star quarterback.
Carr had the operation in Los Angeles and reported on his Twitter account that it went well.
‘‘Surgery couldn’t have gone better! Received great news! Already started the recovery process! Thank you for all of your prayers as I heal up!’’ he wrote.
The Raiders have given no timetable for how long Carr will be sidelined, but his brother, David, said Monday on NFL Network, where he is an analyst, that the initial estimates are he will miss six to eight weeks.
In the meantime, Oakland (12-3) will rely on backup Matt McGloin for the postseason run.
‘‘They’re both great guys,’’ backup quarterback Connor Cook said. ‘‘I would just say the only thing is McGloin probably swears a little bit more than Derek. That’s the main difference.’’
The Raiders can clinch the AFC West title and a first-round bye with either a win at Denver on Sunday or a Kansas City loss in San Diego. If Oakland loses and the Chiefs win, the Raiders will open the playoffs at AFC South champion Houston on wild-card weekend.
The Raiders believed enough in McGloin to place a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent this past offseason, but he has had little time on the field since his rookie season in 2013.
While McGloin has thrown just 55 passes since making six starts late that year and Carr was mentioned as a possible MVP candidate with 28 TD passes, 3,933 yards passing, and only six interceptions this season, the Raiders don’t expect much to change with how the offense is run. The players say both quarterbacks have similar approaches and work ethics, with the biggest difference being in their language.
McGloin steps into a much better situation this year than he did three years ago when he replaced an injured Terrelle Pryor at quarterback for an Oakland team on the way to a 4-12 record.
Cowboys weigh needs
Dak Prescott can help the Cowboys set a franchise record with 14 wins. Ezekiel Elliott could break Eric Dickerson’s 33-year-old rookie rushing record with a career high and a few more yards.
Other than that, Dallas doesn’t have much on the line in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia on Sunday. The Cowboys (13-2) are guaranteed the best record in the NFC, and the home-field advantage that goes with it, after beating the Lions, 42-21, on Monday.
Prescott just wants to keep playing, and it’s not because of that franchise mark or because he could break the record he now shares with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for most wins by a rookie quarterback (13).
‘‘I want to play every game,’’ said Prescott, whose 11-game winning streak put Tony Romo on the bench when the 10-year starter returned from a preseason back injury. ‘‘I want to keep this momentum going. Any rep I can get is making myself better and I want to take advantage of those.’’
Prescott is 47 of 56 passing for 491 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in two games since his worst as a pro in a 10-7 loss to the Giants. He has 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions and has risen to fifth on the NFL’s rookie passing yardage list with 3,630 yards.
If he plays long enough against the last-place Eagles (6-9), he needs 110 yards to pass Peyton Manning, who had 3,739 yards for Indianapolis in 1998.
Owner Jerry Jones said he isn’t worried about Prescott getting injured.
‘‘Look at what Dak Prescott learned tonight and what’s now in his computer that wasn’t there before tonight,’’ Jones said. ‘‘With him being a rookie, we really need all these reps he can get, including any reps we get this week and next week, because we want him to be as educated and as well-prepared and have as much experience as he can when we get in the playoffs.’’
Prescott was reminded after the Lions game that Oakland’s Derek Carr and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota had their seasons end with broken legs in Week 16.
‘‘It’s football,’’ Prescott said. ‘‘You think about those things, they happen. You’re just reacting and playing ball. You have to take those chances.’’
Jones has a different view on the injury issue with Romo, who hasn’t played since Thanksgiving last year. The question is whether he needs snaps in a game to be better prepared to replace an injured Prescott in the playoffs. Coach Jason Garrett hasn’t addressed the question of whether Romo will play.
‘‘We don’t feel like we can gain anything from him running a few plays or a series of plays or several plays,’’ Jones said. ‘‘It would not be worth the risk.’’
Elliott is more cautious than his rookie roommate, saying there’s a ‘‘bigger purpose’’ than the NFL rushing leader reaching Dickerson’s mark of 1,808 yards from 1983. The former Ohio State star has 1,631 yards and would need 178 against the Eagles. He had his career high of 159 in Week 15 against Tampa Bay.
But that doesn’t mean Elliott’s approach is any different from Prescott's. The Cowboys weren’t holding back either, using a trick play against Detroit to get receiver Dez Bryant his first career touchdown pass on a reverse pitch and throw to tight end Jason Witten.
‘‘We want to go out and win ballgames every week,’’ said Elliott, who has the third-highest rookie rushing total behind Dickerson and George Rogers (1,674 with New Orleans in 1981). ‘‘We don’t care if we have the playoff spot clinched. We don’t care if we have home field clinched. We just want to win ballgames.’’
For Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, he was already thinking about his home field, where the Lions will play Green Bay for the NFC North title in the regular-season finale Sunday after missing a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
‘‘If we get a win, we win the division and get a home playoff game,’’ said Stafford, who lost Monday night on the same field where he dropped to 0-2 in the playoffs with a wild-card loss two years ago. ‘‘That’s the focus right now, and I can just see it standing right there.’’
The Lions (9-6) lost its second straight game coming off five consecutive victories.
Detroit faced a short week after a long flight home, looking to avenge a 34-27 loss at the Packers in Week 3. Green Bay (9-6) has won five straight.
Stafford, a championship-winning high school quarterback in the Dallas area, had a 1-yard scoring plunge, but was sacked four times — matching a season high.
He was 26 of 46 for 260 yards, including an interception that set up Elliott’s 1-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to break a 21-all halftime tie.
Fitzpatrick in, Hackenberg waits
Christian Hackenberg’s NFL debut will have to wait until next season.
Todd Bowles and the Jets are turning back to Ryan Fitzpatrick to start at quarterback Sunday against the Bills.
Rather than give Hackenberg a late-season look in a game that means nothing in the standings for the 4-11 Jets, Bowles is giving Fitzpatrick one final turn under center.
‘‘He was the backup,’’ Bowles said of Fitzpatrick, ‘‘so now, he’s the starter.’’
Fitzpatrick steps in for Bryce Petty, who was placed on injured reserve on Monday with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Petty was injured last Saturday against New England while tackling Malcolm Butler following a second-quarter turnover.
Fitzpatrick had been benched twice this season, but gets the call ahead of Hackenberg, a second-round draft pick from Penn State who has been inactive for every regular-season game this season. Hackenberg will be in uniform Sunday for the first time, but Bowles doesn’t foresee him getting into a game for anything other than an injury to Fitzpatrick.
‘‘Not at this time, no,’’ Bowles said. ‘‘We'll see how the game goes.’’
When the Jets turned to Petty with four games left, it was with the idea that he would get an extended opportunity to try to prove to the franchise that he could be the quarterback of the future.
The shoulder injury ended that audition for the 2015 fourth-rounder from Baylor. So, why not use the final game to at least let Hackenberg get his feet wet?
‘‘Bryce had four games to get ready,’’ Bowles said. ‘‘We’re not going to gain or lose nothing by looking at Christian, or not, in this game.’’
Browns drop Cooper
The Browns waived guard Jonathan Cooper, a former first-round pick by Arizona who had been acquired on waivers from the Patriots in October.
The Browns made the move in advance of guard Alvin Bailey returning from a two-game NFL suspension. Bailey was suspended for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy after he was arrested on drunken driving charges.
Cooper played in five games for Cleveland, starting the past three as the offensive line had been ransacked by injuries. Starting guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco both sustained season-ending foot injuries.
The Cardinals selected Cooper with the No. 7 overall pick in 2013. The former North Carolina standout broke his leg before the start of his rookie season and was placed on injured reserve.
He made 11 starts over three seasons before the Cardinals traded him to the Patriots in March.
Titans promote Tanney
The Titans placed quarterback Marcus Mariota on injured reserve and promoted quarterback Alex Tanney from the practice squad.
Mariota broke his right fibula in Saturday’s 38-17 loss to Jacksonville, and Mariota is scheduled for surgery Wednesday in Charlotte. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Mariota will need four to five months to recover from his second season-ending injury.
Tanney, who made his regular-season debut with the Titans in the 2015 season finale at Indianapolis, will back up Matt Cassel on Sunday against Houston (9-6) in the regular-season finale.
Tanney also has been on the practice squad or active rosters with Buffalo, Indianapolis, Dallas, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay.
Tight end Tyler Eifert and left guard Clint Boling will miss the Bengals’ final game because of injuries.
Receiver A.J. Green probably won’t play, either, although he hasn’t been ruled out officially. Green severely strained his right hamstring Nov. 20 and hadn’t played, but had a good week of practice and accompanied the team to Houston expecting to be active for the game. He was listed as questionable. After a meeting between the coaching staff, the medical staff and the front office in Houston, the club decided to hold him out.