BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rex Ryan is staying in the AFC East after reaching an agreement Sunday to coach the Buffalo Bills.
A person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press the former New York Jets coach accepted the Bills’ contract offer after two days of discussions. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Bills have not discussed their search to replace Doug Marrone, who stepped down abruptly Dec. 31.
The offer was made a day after the Bills identified Ryan as a finalist and met with him for a second time in South Florida, where new owners Terry and Kim Pegula live. Ryan was one of 12 candidates to interview for the job since last weekend.
A second person familiar with talks told the AP the Bills are negotiating to hire Greg Roman as offensive coordinator. Roman, was a finalist for the Bills’ job, spent the past four years as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coordinator.
Roman’s future is uncertain in San Francisco after coach Jim Harbaugh left to coach Michigan.
This is the Bills’ sixth coaching search since Wade Phillips was fired after the 2000 season and the first since the Pegulas bought the team from the estate of Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson in October.
The Bills went 9-7 to match their best record in a decade, but missed the playoffs to extend the NFL’s longest active drought to 15 seasons.
Ryan is very familiar with the Bills after spending the past six seasons coaching the Jets, Buffalo’s AFC East rival. He had a 50-52 record, including 4-2 in the playoffs, with the Jets before being fired along with general manager John Idzik following a 4-12 finish.
Ryan’s father, Buddy, also had ties to Buffalo after spending 1961-65 as an assistant coach at the University at Buffalo.
Ryan’s strength is defense, as it is with the Bills. Buffalo’s defense finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed last season and produced three Pro Bowl linemen.
It’s unclear how Ryan’s arrival would affect the status of Buffalo’s current defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who completed his first season with the Bills. Schwartz is the former Detroit Lions coach and was a candidate for the Bills’ job.
Ryan’s challenge in Buffalo would be similar to the one he had in New York — providing a spark to a sputtering offense. The Jets finished 22nd in yardage last season — four spots ahead of Buffalo.
Quarterbacks were concerns for both teams, involving two players drafted in 2013 draft.
The Jets faltered behind second-year starter Geno Smith, who was eventually benched and replaced by Michael Vick. In Buffalo, second-year starter EJ Manuel was benched after four games and replaced by 10-year journeyman Kyle Orton, who has since said he plans to retire.
Manuel has two years left on his contract and is the only experienced starter on the roster.
Bills players were already expressing their support for Ryan in posts made on their Twitter accounts.
“Love the hire!” center Eric Wood tweeted.
Rookie receiver, and former Clemson player, Sammy Watkins wrote, “Can’t wait, gotta love REX RYAN,” and then linked a photo Ryan wearing a Clemson T-shirt and posing with several Tigers players.
Running back Fred Jackson wrote: “Excited about the hire of Rex!! Great coach to come in and keep us moving in the right direction!”
Roman is regarded as a good fit under Ryan, because the two share a similar run-first philosophy. Under Roman, the 49ers’ running attack ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in each of the past four seasons.
He and the Pegulas also share Penn State ties. Terry Pegula attended Penn State and is a major supporter of its football and hockey programs. Roman was a candidate to become the school’s football coach in each of its last two vacancies.