I’m not going to ever be that guy, that typical blogger – rather, that typical Buffalo sports writer, if I may – who gets off on writing these long diatribes about how terrible the team is and ridiculing their readers for following such a train wreck. I’m also never going to be that guy that feeds you garbage to make things seem like they’re better than they are. I just don’t see a point in coming here every week to tell you folks that this team isn’t good, and especially don’t see the benefit in acting like they are.
The team’s lost seven straight. What’s the purpose of trying to build a facade of hope? We were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention as of last Sunday’s loss at home against Tennessee and right now are just playing the draft positioning game. We have fourteen players on injured reserve, eight of those starters. You want a silver lining? Look at the youth, look at the miniscule depth we carry, and look at the experience they’re getting. Guys like CJ Spiller, Da’Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Chad Rinehart, Justin Rogers, and Aaron Williams – guys that otherwise, without injuries, wouldn’t be getting the opportunity to play. All of these men are quickly growing up in front of us and giving us a sneak peek at the future. I have no doubt in my mind, after watching these particular six men play over the past few weeks, that they could all eventually end up being competent starters for the Buffalo Bills down the road.
If you want that silver lining, you can be the grand optimist for 2012 and just go gaga over the possibilities of when everyone’s healthy and today’s effective starters are tomorrow’s eager benchwarmers. I mean, truly, that’s what you’ve got to do if you’re an enthusiastic supporter of this franchise, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just sad to see it happen this way again, and it’s made writing about the team consistently a daunting task for me.
With two games left, we’re holding up the bottom of the East with a 5-9 record after starting the year 5-2 and looking like a contender for our first division title in sixteen years. With games against the resurgent Broncos and postseason-ready Patriots remaining, 5-11 looks like a distinct possibility which makes next season the epitome of a do or die year for head coach Chan Gailey. Gailey only netted four wins in his first season at the helm, and no matter how this one turns out, there is very little chance that Ralph Wilson decides to make a change this soon, which means he better come out swinging in 2012. It’s hard to place the blame on him with things such as the injuries, questionable free agent signings (remember when Brad Smith and Kirk Morrison were supposed to be relevant?), awful defensive playcalling, and horrendous quarterback play feeding so heavily into the losses, but that’s the nature of today’s NFL. I like Chan, probably way more than most of you do, but if we aren’t still playing next January, he needs to be shown the door.
To make that happen, the things that he can control are limited. Limited, though, does not run the same path as impossible. Simply put, he needs to find himself a new defensive coordinator. George Edwards has been insanely bad and it makes me wonder how long he would have lasted at Florida had we not snatched him up from his barely-dry contract with them in February of 2010 after just four weeks at the school. The logical and seemingly impending option is assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt, who currently serves as Edwards’ inside linebackers coach. Wannstedt has managed some very good defenses in his time and I can’t really imagine his expertise is being utilized as heavily as it should be in this capacity considering the current state of affairs. If Buffalo sends Edwards packing and does choose Wannstedt as his replacement, you can expect another scheme change coming, which will render a fair number of our players useless. Wanny runs a stubborn 4-3 base and rarely deviates from that. The thoughts of a defensive line with both Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus in the middle is more than enough to put me on board with this idea, though.
Gailey, more importantly, needs to put in some quality time with his multi-million dollar quarterback however. As was pointed out here early in the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick still locks on to his target and refuses to look to his other options on top of overthrowing whomever it may end up being a vast majority of the time. Lately, he’s had an especially hard time and seems to have something off with him mechanically. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear following the season that he’s been playing hurt on top of that all, and surely the timing differences with three separate starting centers since signing his contract extension aren’t doing him any favors either. Still, Gailey needs to make sure that his franchise quarterback – the centerpiece of his team – has his head in the right place and is doing the right things. As much as I’d like a top-tier quarterback in this April’s draft, this organization needs to back their promising signal caller and do what they can to ensure his (and their) success going forward by giving him help around him and on the other side of the ball.
Whatever it is that needs to be done, I sincerely hope that Chan, Buddy, and their crews are up to the task because it’d be nice to support a team that’s good for more than six weeks out of every year. Here’s hoping – until next time, keep looking forward, Bills fans.