Well, Well, Well…Look Who Fell Into the Well
There is surprise…and then there is SURPRISE!
It came as mild surprise to some people, that the Buffalo Bills ownership, and apparently, front office leadership, made a decision to fire the team’s head coach Rex Ryan.
But what was really surprising, was when they fired him.
I had written last week that the Bills would lose to the Dolphins (though not accurately about how they would lose the game), and that the Bills coach would get a pink slip in his Christmas stocking – but one that would be redeemed on January 2nd, next week, after the final game of the year.
Instead, the organization fired their head coach, along with his infamous sidekick brother Rob, on Tuesday, the traditional player’s day off for game week. That move actually surprised me.
My surprise doesn’t mean it was a wrong decision…I just didn’t see the timing of the act coming this week, and not next week.
Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over
The Rex Ryan party bus had a two-year layover in Western New York. The buffoonery and showmanship brought fan-favored attention to the region’s football organization, and for a while, we felt relevant in the world of the National Football League.
But the party is over, the guy-in-the-lampshade having finally been thrown out by the host, and now the house cleanup begins. And like a frat house party, the mess is total, and it smells.
Traditionally, with house parties, the size of the mess is often a good indicator of the success of the party. Unfortunately, with the Bills organization, this party wasn’t very fun, but the mess left behind stinks to high-heaven.
It’s as if the pretty girl sorority’s holiday cotillion got invaded by the Tapa Kega Day boys – there was a lot of loud noise, the cops showed up a couple of times, there was plenty of crocodile tears, and the next day showed broken furnishings and the smell of warm beer in the couch cushions.
And now, it’s time to clean the mess up.
Burning Down the House.
There is a lot of legitimate anger in BillsMafia land this week. A lot of statements like, “FIRE EVERYBODY!”
There are years of systematic failure. Years of built up resentment.
But, unlike Presidential elections, where deep emotional feelings can be acted on with the pull of a lever…this is business. Football, in the National Football League, is big business. The Buffalo Bills are a multi-million dollar franchise, within a multi-billion dollar economic niche system.
In other words…you don’t let your emotions make your business decisions.
I absolutely understand the base feeling of “FIRE EVERYBODY!!!”
My frustration, and resentment, are significant. My emotional brain says to flush the toilet, and begin again.
But the rational side of my brain tells me to halt…take a deep breath…look over the house damage, and the mess…and make a reasonable decision of what room to begin the cleanup in.
Some things need to be thrown out.
But, some things need to be kept.
Go On, Take the Money and Run
The Ryan Brothers are gone. And rightfully so. In the end, they were exposed as a fraud.
They were famous for being famous, not for being great. They apparently knew something once – something their daddy had taught them – but they didn’t know how to do other things, like adapt what you know when everyone figures it out, and how to be a head coach of an entire team.
We can criticize the Bills front office for hiring them both, but we then have to recognize that they took care of the situation when they realized they had been duped.
And to their credit, their firing of Rob Ryan, when they let his brother go, was an unprecedented (usually when head coaches are fired, the front office doesn’t fire a particular assistant coach, too) and significantly meaningful act.
But, should Doug Whaley go, too? And what about Russ Brandon?
Let me write my answer first, and then I will explain.
I believe the Buffalo Bills organization has made the correct moves so far, and I think they are on track to turning things around. The firing of the Ryan brothers, and the keeping of Doug Whaley, and Russ Brandon, is the right move. The one mistake I think they made, and this was a big mistake, was the way they handled the press conference situation this week…terrible moves on their part.
Ok, let me explain.
Take the Gun…Leave the Cannoli.
For those of you calling for an entire sweep of the front office – step away from the ledge.
Let’s take a look at what is going on here.
The Buffalo Bills did not go 0-16, or have a record anywhere close to that, and it’s not as if they were hanging around in that neighborhood for the past few years. The Buffalo Bills are not the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, or San Francisco 49’ers.
The Buffalo Bills are a team in the middle of the pack, which was legitimately in the playoff picture.
You do not burn the house down on a situation like that.
Did the team fail to meet their own expectations? Yes, they did.
Did the team add to years of fan disappointment by not making the playoffs? You bet they did.
Is the team a total train wreck, with a front office showing excessive ineptitude? There are those of you that say yes, but come on, step back and take a look.
For every mistake you want to bring up about Whaley, there is an equalizing move of his that improved this team. This team is better than it was before Whaley took over as general manager. You can bring up a move here, a mistake there, but every GM in the league has their mistakes.
The bottom line is, he has made the team better. Would the team be better with Kiko Alonso, instead of LeSean McCoy? Would it be better with Kelvin Sheppard, instead of Jerry Hughes? We can go back and forth about good moves, and bad moves (Percy Harvin, not drafting quarterbacks), but this team is better than it was before.
Once Rex Ryan was hired as head coach, Whaley allowed Ryan to have a lot of say in personnel. Hiring his brother was one of those moves.
In other words, much of the Bills failure was because Whaley allowed Ryan to fail. However, general managers are supposed to allow head coaches to set their agenda. Once Whaley saw that Ryan was the fraud that he was, he began to work to end that situation. That, is the work of a good manager.
Doug Whaley is not showing incompetence. He’s a pretty good GM. He needs to stay.
Now, Russ Brandon.
I get the idea he is pretty good with the financial part of running a multi-million dollar organization. Well, fine, keep him doing that. But get him out of the football personnel part of the operation. End of discussion.
Look, I’m as disappointed and frustrated as you are.
But this team doesn’t need an enema.
This team needs a head coach that can do two things:
- Lead men.
- Make good coaching decisions.
That’s what good head coaches do.
Rex couldn’t do either of them well. And that, is why the Bills did not make the playoffs. That’s why he was fired.
But don’t get rid of the guys who figured that out, and did the right thing for the organization.
Keep those guys. They want what you and I want.
Musings From Around the NFL
It seems like anytime I praise a team for doing well, they quickly drop their sails and sink like a rock. Sorry Tennessee Titans.
The Miami Dolphins are 10-5, and going to the playoffs. As much as most of us didn’t see the Bills not making the playoffs – we surely didn’t see the Dolphins taking our place.
Green Bay and Detroit – one game today for the division championship, and the playoffs. Nice.
The Cleveland Browns won a game, and that’s how I got knocked out of the survivor pool. Yep. Stupid Chargers.
What a game. It really was a great game to watch from a fan’s perspective.
So disappointing, though. Crushingly disappointing.
Did it show us anything about what Tyrod Taylor might be capable of doing? Maybe.
What it did show us, obviously, is that the Ryan brothers’ defense was a joke.
I predicted a Miami victory, but I certainly didn’t predict them to win the way they did, or that the Bills would be there, in it at the end.
But in the end, the Bills lost to the Dolphins.
The Dolphins swept the Bills this season, and I paid my brother-in-law his fifty cents.
Apparently, it’s a pre-season game against the New York Jets. A 2017 pre-season game.
Has E.J. Manuel improved? Could he be the answer for the future? What about Cardale Jones?
It’s also a coming out, of sorts, for Anthony Lynn, as a head coach.
Well, we’ll see I guess.
There is not a lot that is meaningful to say about this game. It will truly be a game for entertainment purposes only. Basically, a “let’s turn it on and see what happens”.
Bills rally around a coach they seem to respect. EJ shows he can be a factor.
Let’s wish for no significant injuries.
Buffalo 27 – New York 13
Thank you for letting me write these weekly game day articles for all of you of Bills Mafia and the blog at Buffalo Fambase. Look for me to write a couple more off-season articles, because I think it will be an interesting few months, and I’ve got things to say.
Happy New Year, Bills fans!