The Bills are 6-6 but mired in internal turmoil and dissension again, and Rex Ryan's tenure at coach is believed to be nearing an end, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
It would take an overwhelming performance down the stretch for Ryan to be back in 2017, the sources said, and he could be out as soon as Monday, depending on the team's results against Pittsburgh.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is losing the support of the front office and could soon be benched as well.
Ryan's relationship with general manager Doug Whaley and other Bills executives has always been rocky, and that has continued through this season. The front office continues to maintain that the team has superior talent than the results indicate, a message that has been repeated to owner Terry Pegula regularly.
The Ryan/Whaley relationship is not tenable long term, which ownership is aware of, and a lopsided loss to the Steelers on Sunday might be enough to spur an in-season coaching change, sources said. Regardless, Ryan would have to win his remaining games or come close to it to secure a return next season, given the strained relationships and behind-the-scenes foibles of Ryan's regime.
"I'd say I'm 95 percent sure Rex is gone by the end of the season," said one source who has been in contact with Pegula and other Bills brass, "and he could be out as soon as Monday."
Furthermore, sources said the club's decisions-makers are intrigued to see rookie Cardale Jones -- a raw quarterback but a dynamic athlete with considerable upside who was selected in the same round as Dak Prescott -- play this season, and it's virtually certain the team will not be picking up Taylor's 2017 option.
The Bills gave Taylor close to $8 million in new money this season as part of a revamped contract that includes a five-year option. If Taylor is on the roster on March 11, it would trigger $31 million in new guaranteed money. Sources said the Bills will not pick up that option, and, if they were to make a coaching change, they would likely change starting quarterbacks as well.
"Unless Tyrod turns into Russell Wilson the last four weeks -- and that's if he's even playing all four weeks -- then he's not going to get that option," said one source with knowledge of the situation.
Ryan is in his second year with the club, and the decision to hire his brother Rob as defensive coordinator has not been well received. Rex Ryan made significant changes to his staff after a 2015 season in which the Bills fell well short of the coach's playoff talk, and that bled into this season, when offensive coordinator Greg Roman was fired mere weeks into the season. The Bills' passing game remains limited, and the secondary -- thought to be one of the team's strengths -- has struggled while top paid defenders like Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes have slumped or been absent, injured or suspended.
Sources said Pegula seems to have cooled on the idea of bringing in a senior vice president of football operations of some sort -- he's considered Bill Polian for such a position in the past and spoke to Tom Coughlin earlier this season -- and Whaley has formed a strong bond with ownership. It seems unlikely the Bills would make major changes in football operations, though a brutal finish could conceivably alter that landscape as well.