ORCHARD PARK (AP) — Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn concedes he has no control over Buffalo closing yet another distraction-filled season.
With no say in how he earned his latest promotion after the Bills fired Rex Ryan on Tuesday , or input into the decision to start backup EJ Manuel in Buffalo’s season finale at the New York Jets on Sunday, Lynn can only focus on what he calls the here and now.
“It’s been challenging, and I’m sure you guys have a lot of questions about the future and where we’re going with this,” Lynn said in opening his inaugural news conference on Wednesday. “Right now, my focus is right in front of me and getting these guys ready to play the New York Jets, and play the best we can to win this game.”
As for how much a game between two teams eliminated from playoff contention might help his chances to keep the job beyond Sunday, that’s a question Lynn couldn’t answer.
“I’m really not thinking that far down the road because I don’t want to miss out on anything right now,” he said.
He’d sure like to be considered, though.
“I want to be the guy here. Make no mistake about it,” Lynn said.
That doesn’t mean the Bills yet trust their offensive coordinator with making too many key decisions, particularly involving quarterback.
Without going into detail, Lynn called it “a business decision” to start Manuel in place of Tyrod Taylor. As for who made the call, Lynn first called it “our decision.”
He later acknowledged he “wasn’t in the room,” when the decision was made, and added he can’t speak for general manager Doug Whaley or owner Terry Pegula.
Ryan, in his final news conference on Monday, backed Taylor as his starter because he gave Buffalo the best opportunity to win.
The decision to bench Taylor raises further questions about the second-year starter’s status beyond this season. 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. But it’s unclear if they would still have that flexibility 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. He’s not started since committing turnovers on three consecutive possessions in a 34-31 loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 25, 2015.
Taylor declined to speak to reporters Wednesday and walked around the locker room wearing headphones. Taylor loses his job after going 26 of 39 for a career-best 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 overtime loss to Miami
Also declining interview requests was receiver Sammy Watkins, who had previously backed Ryan and said making a change would be “craziness.”
In the meantime, Whaley has been silent. Beyond addressing the signing of Percy Harvin in November, Whaley hasn’t held a formal news conference since August, when the Bills cut running back Karlos Williams and announced defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was entering a rehab facility.
Whaley has gone so far as to avoid contact with reporters; he stays in the team’s weight room during the portion of practice open to the media.
That left Lynn on Wednesday in the uncomfortable position of addressing whatever pressing issues revolve around a team that extended the NFL’s longest playoff drought to 17 seasons. A team embarking on its third coaching search in four years, and seventh since Wade Phillips was fired following the 2000 season.
As continuity goes among NFL teams, in Buffalo that usually stands for a continuous revolving door of change.
Ryan’s 31-game tenure is the shortest stint of his predecessors during the playoff drought. It’s one game fewer than the two coaches who, rather than being fired, either resigned (Mike Mularkey, 2004-05), or opted out of their contract, as Doug Marrone did after a 9-7 finish in 2014.
Lynn is considered a candidate to replace Ryan because of the job he’s done overseeing a running attack closing in on leading the NFL in yards gained for a second consecutive season. The latest promotion is Lynn’s second this season. He was the Bills running backs coach before being elevated to offensive coordinator in September , when Ryan fired Greg Roman after an 0-2 start.
“It’s been a pretty unique season,” Lynn said of his ascension. “I’ve learned how to adjust and adapt, I can tell you that.”