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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Regrets. Rex Ryan acknowledged that in retrospect, he has a few entering the final week of the season.
The bold talk and big pronouncements Ryan made at the beginning of his tenure as the Bills coach have turned into unfulfilled promises 11 months later now that Buffalo has extended the NFL's longest active playoff drought to a 16th consecutive season.
And that gave Ryan pause for reflection on Wednesday with the Bills (7-8) preparing to close the season hosting his former team, the New York Jets (10-5).
"I think the biggest thing, obviously, I wish I wouldn't say some stupid things I said," Ryan said. "My heart was in the right place. I thought I'm telling the truth. But at the same time, it's like I never looked at it as, 'What if this doesn't go exactly the way I expect it to go?'"
Ryan then answered his own question by saying: "Well, I'm seeing it right now."
Perhaps, he wondered, whether he needs to say less in light of the criticism he and the team have attracted.
"Yeah, probably so, because you look at the impact that your words have in a negative light," Ryan said. "As bad as I truly believed it, maybe I've learned that maybe it's not the smartest thing to do."
The usually colorful and engaging Ryan was all business and little bluster. And even the prospect of spoiling his former team's playoff chances — the Jets can clinch a berth with a win or a tie — barely raised a stir.
He credited his successor in New York, Todd Bowles, as having done a great job.
When informed Jets linebacker Calvin Pace suggested the game is going to be "a bloodbath," Ryan responded with: "I don't know why he'd say that."
There was no sign of the Clemson helmet, such as the one Ryan wore at the podium days before the Bills traveled to play the Jets in November. And there was no hint of the overly-emotional Ryan who punched the air and had his headset fly off on the sideline while celebrating Buffalo's 22-17 win at the Meadowlands.
The Bills have lost four of six since, while the Jets are 5-1, riding a five-game winning streak.
"Yeah, I truly thought that game was going to set up that, 'Hey, this one's win and in,'" Ryan said. "It is. It's just only one team playing for it unfortunately."
There was at least some good news for Ryan.
Following practice, co-owner Terry Pegula issued a statement announcing that Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley's futures were secure for next season.
While acknowledging expectations weren't met, Pegula said the team's management and coaching staff "are very capable and work well together." He added, "This stable foundation is necessary to achieve long-term success."
The announcement did not come as a surprise, but it did end any lingering speculation that a change might be coming.
Pegula and his wife, Kim, completed their first full season as owners. The franchise endured plenty of instability last offseason, when coach Doug Marrone abruptly opted out of his contract.
Whaley has one year left on his contract.
Stability has been in short supply in Buffalo during the playoff drought that began in 2000. In that span, the Bills are on their seventh coach and sixth GM.
Ryan's biggest cause of frustration is the criticism directed at his players, particularly an under-performing defense that ranks 20th in the NFL in yards allowed after finishing fourth last year.
"I'm the guy that should be criticized," Ryan said. "Our fans, look, they're frustrated. They believe like I did. And I love the fact they believed in me. I feel bad that I didn't deliver."
Ryan's defense of his players has earned him their loyalty.
Guard Richie Incognito doesn't believe Ryan needs to change his approach.
"Rex is Rex and that's what I love about him. He wears his heart on his sleeve," Incognito said. "He had the guts to put himself out there."
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