Business and Life Lessons from Rex Ryan

September 23, 2016

After seeing the video of Rex Ryan’s opening speech to the Bills at St. John Fisher, I have less confidence in him as a leader than ever.  I also wonder why Pegula Sports and Entertainment weren’t smart enough to not release it.  Oh yeah, because it’s entertaining.  Looks good on your promotional TV show.  And with all its bleeps and bluster it may be entertaining, but it certainly isn’t about leadership.

I’m betting most other NFL (or any sport) coaches and front office people are seeing this and laughing even more than the talking heads at ESPN/NFL Network or our local media.  Rex’s speech had lots of I, I, I’s. 

Paraphrasing: “People say I forgot how to coach.  I hired my brother because of nepotism.  Lots of questions about me.”

You know what that says?  It says he’s putting his problems ahead of the teams.  If he can coach, the players will play better, and they will win more games.  It’s that simple.  So why not just do it?  Because Rex Ryan can’t. 

You know what most coaches would say in their opening message of the season?  They would say “THIS IS ABOUT YOU…THE PLAYERS.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, OR SYSTEMS.  IT’S ABOUT YOU DOING YOUR JOB.  AND IF YOU CAN’T, WE’LL FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL.”

Instead with Rex, it’s personal revenge that motivates him. Huge red flag.  No one ever accomplished anything great, got better at something, won a game, or made a successful business deal, out of spite or revenge. 

Rex’s speech essentially said “Let’s not win the Super Bowl or get better because we have talent, draft smart, can coach well, and have heart.  No, let’s do it to prove others wrong.”   Baaaaad motivation.  If you aren’t armed with good intentions from your heart, from your mind, it never works.   

 I’m not a Bill Belichick sycophant, but I do love his rules.  His rules on the wall at Foxboro are:

-Don't believe or fuel the hype
-Manage Expectations
-Ignore the noise
-Speak for yourself   

Rex Ryan fuels the hype both good and bad.  He can’t manage expectations, at least publicly, and he is apparently obsessed and motivated by the noise.  We saw that on the video.

And a quality forward thinking manager would NEVER give any hint that their future as a leader is in doubt.  Which is exactly what Rex did when he said that if things didn’t get better, his a** would be the first to go. 

Is that the type of person you would hire to head a department in your company?  Well, sports is a business.  And that’s the type of manager the Bills hired.


So what are the life and business lessons we’ve learned from Rex Ryan?

  • Have good intentions.  Do nothing out of revenge.
  • If you feel the world is against you, you need to rethink your position and actions, and see if you are in the right place to begin with.
  • Never express doubt that you are long for the job.  No one wants to work with someone who has doubts about the future.
  • Never make your problems the teams or offices problems.  If your teams’ problems go away, so will yours.
  • Never make it about you.  It’s about the team, the company.