I know what you are thinking..
“Really? Do we need a gloom and doom post from you already?”
Yes, the thought of rebuilding makes Bills fans grab for a case of Genny Cream Ale and guzzle it down. It makes you think that the Super Bowl 47 odds are better than the Bills odds of finishing 10-6 next season. It is a word we’ve heard one too many times in Buffalo. No one wants to hear it. Fans want to go with reloading instead of rebuilding. However, when Bills news hits the airwaves, your attitude towards them changes for the better.
The Bills were much better in their clock managment than Chan Gailey ever was at changing the faces at One Bills Drive. Within 6 days, we saw the firing of Gailey, the announcement that Ralph was in a coma stepping aside, the leaking of coaches who would be interviewed, and then the hiring of a young coach who most Bills fans and “experts” wanted.
It happened so quickly that the stench of the 2012 season began to fade and optimism filtered into the air. Hell, even I couldn’t put together my “The world is coming to an end” or “The apologists’ review” of the Bills season. Smart, Russ. Most fans have a wait-and-see attitude mixed in with some cautious optimism. Of course, there are always a few knuckleheads who are never happy. *shifty eyes*
But I’m wondering if this is a rebuilding process? And that’s not trolling, it’s a genuine question.
Here are some things to consider..
1) The Bills need a QB. Period. Maybe they can get away with having Fitzpatrick as the backup or competing for a job, but I seriously doubt the Bills are winning 12 games with him as the QB. You have Mike Vick, who everyone hates more than Ray Lewis’ dancing. Possibly Alex Smith, who I have mixed feelings about for now. All in all, the free agent class at the position doesn’t include any franchise guys. I know the new copycat idea, based on this season, is that a rookie QB can get you far into the playoffs. However, I’m not going to assume most rookies are going to be a game-breaker like RGIII, Luck, and Wilson. The history of the NFL tells me that. Sure, it could be a changing of the guard with rules favoring the QB and spread offenses, but I need a good five years or so to point at for judging rookie QBs as being top notch stars right away. It still feels like an anomaly to me. Just realize from 1990-2010, 47 QBs were taken in the 1st round and 28 of them were busts. 21 of those QBs started fewer than five games their rookie years. For every RGIII, it is quite possible to have a Blaine Gabbert or a guy who is going to have a lot of growing pains in his rookie year.
2) New defensive scheme – “Both” was the answer Mike Pettine gave when asked whether the Bills were going 3-4 or 4-3. The rule of thumb seems to be that if you are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 or vice versa, it can take about a year to reap the benefits. Are there situations where this is untrue? Yes. The Texans’ 4-3 was near the bottom in defense in 2010, but Wade Phillips took over and implemented the 3-4 and they finished tops in the NFL. However, we’ve seen times when the Bills have changed defenses and it has taken years for them to adjust. Could it be #becauseitsbuffalo? Sure. If we just take away the schemes, you have to understand that Pettine’s defense is vastly different than what the Bills have run over the last 6 years. The Bills were cover 2 under Jauron, 3-4 under George Edwards, and 4-3 under Wannstedt. If we focus on what Wanny had, it was all about getting pressure from your front four and playing zone. It sucked, obviously. If Pettine’s defense is anything like the Jets’ system, everyone is going to be blitzing, meaning, we will have Aaron Williams or Ron Brooks on a cornerback island. Sorry, but I’d rather have Gilligan and the Skipper on those islands. Just realize the Bills are going to be in a complicated defense in which there is going to be a lot of movement from the DE to the LBs to the secondary.
3) College coaches – I know everyone wants to point at Jim Harbaugh as an example of a college coach who turned things around quickly with the 49ers. He is the gold standard at this point. However, keep in mind that since 1995, only 3 of the 11 college coaches hired have made the playoffs – and the Seahawks were lucky to get in at 8-8 – during their rookie years. I’m not saying Marrone is going to suck. He may be great. But the odds of turning it around his first season are a lot longer than doing it his 2nd or 3rd year. Also, keep in the mind that the Bills have done the youth movement with coaching. Gregg Williams, Perry Fewell, Mike Mularkey, Jerry Gray, and Tom Clements were all under the age of 50 when they started coaching here. Young doesn’t necessarily mean better.
4) They are still the Bills. 13 years, kids. It is not a pretty number. I’ve come to the realization that “Where were you when the Bills last made the playoffs?” is becoming like our “Where were you when JFK died?” moment in Buffalo sports. I’m not saying it is as important, obviously, but it has been so fricken long since it happened, you just kind of go, “Oh, yeah. What was I doing that day again?” The Bills have been bad for so long that a head coach putting together an 11-5 year in his first year seems impossible to accomplish.
Final word: I hope this article doesn’t come across as too negative. Maybe it does. I am definitely in a wait-and- see mood with them, but I think it is kind of crazy to expect the team to make the playoffs with an overhaul of offensive and defensive schemes and a lack of a QB. Sure, they have talent on the defensive line and Spiller/Stevie on offense, but they still need a number of pieces going forward if they want to make the playoffs in 2013. I mean, this team won 14 games in three years. Miracles don’t happen every year.
I wouldn’t say this is a rebuilding job like in 2010 with Gailey or 2001 with Gregg Williams, but it feels a little like 2006 under Jauron. That was after they cleaned house after finishing 5-11 and jettisoned Donahoe and Mularkey quit. The Bills finished two games better at 7-9 and people thought they were going in the right direction with the Losman/Evans connection and young guys like Kyle Williams, Donte Whitner, and Aaron Schobel.
That’s probably what my expectations are for the 2013 season. They aren’t rebuilding, but they are retooling. Yeah, that sounds better.
In other words, unless they make a BIG splash – something like trading for Revis or signing Greg Jennings – I don’t think 10-6 is going to happen. I’m not being negative, I’m just being rational.