As Usual, Buffalo Bills Try Changing Everything

Photo of Sean McDermott from buffalonews.com.

This time is different.  It’s undetermined whether that’s a statement or question.  Buffalo Bills fans are participating in the annual ritual of convincing themselves the upcoming season will be the pleasant anomaly.  Cheering for an exception is like watching a Three Stooges short guest-starring a classy pearl-clad lady.  Will this be the time there won’t be a thrown pie hitting her in the mug?  There’s been enough slapstick since 2000.

Spot who’s unfamiliar with success by how mundane their dreams are.  Bills followers have quite minimal ‘wildest hopes’.  It’s understandably hard to remember that we’re supposed to picture winning a championship.

Aim a bit higher for municipal pride’s sake.  The city’s not holding a parade if our beloved side gets a wild card berth.  At least, I don’t think they would.  That said, we are part of the fanbase that tore down goalposts after the season opener, so who knows what sort of party is in store?  No matter how much fun a fairly good season would be, aspire to more than nine wins and a few tiebreakers.

Here’s to the new hire.  Loyal citizens always try to make the best case for a regime even if it’s usually overthrown.  One of these professed strongmen should be able to wrest control from the AFC East autocrats.

Those who believe in mercy think the Bills should eventually have a good coach. Statistically, it should happen if for nothing else than standard deviation.  But consistently bad human input affects data.  Like the Chicago Cubs going 108 years between championships, poor management can make the superstitious perceive that a drought is actually a curse.

The Dick Jauron Era… one of many Bills fans would rather forget. Photo of Dick Jauron from ESPN.com.

Restless backers naturally make the case for whatever style the latest coach prefers.  Don’t judge desperate zealots harshly in retrospect.  Hoping the no-nonsense collegian style of Doug Marrone would go pro helped us overcome the Chan Gailey Experiment.  But it turns out he should’ve pursued another degree.

By contrast and yet similarly, Rex Ryan’s mouthiness would’ve been fine if backed up by actions, which is the important part here in reality.  He dared others to stop him, and they did.

The style of head coach I like is the one who wins games.  Yell at players or don’t bother setting a curfew: just do whatever will lead to scoring more points.  Still, it’s been nice so far having a coach who’s loud in his quiet way.

Sean McDermott seems driven when he’s noticed at all.  The lack of need to to draw attention to himself like certain immediate predecessors is enjoyable just by comparison.  He’s more interested in running stringent practices than defining himself publicly.  The lack of shtick itself defines personality.

Proficient application of mentality is what would make this time different than the last 800 or so failures.  Specifically, using the proper defense means the rookie coach has already scored points.  McDermott has the right personnel for the task, if you can imagine.  Sure, putting the wrong guys where they shouldn’t be over the last two years was surprising.  But there can be a downside to doing what opponents don’t expect.

Get excited about two sort-of bonus draft picks if you need more hope that improvement’s in store.  Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland will ideally both be playing in their first opener short of even tougher breaks.  But that never happens with this club, right?

Buffalo Bills draft picks Jonathan Williams (40), Reggie Ragland (59), Shaq Lawson (90) and Kolby Listenbee (18) gather during their NFL football rookie minicamp in Orchard Park, N.Y., Friday, May 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Regardless, a thin defense got a partial season from their top two picks thanks to sloppy vetting and bad luck, respectively.  Those have been two Bills trademarks.  But they don’t always have to be.  It’s true!  Buffalo making the playoffs isn’t even technically illegal.

It felt like this time was going to be the one for success.  I could’ve pasted that sentence because I usually have it copied.  Disappointment has been ready to go.  Yet Bills fans think fortune simply must change even though there’s nothing to ensure the lull could last a couple centuries.  Nobody has more practice at being human.

It’s natural to think optimistically, even just as relief.  Casual gamblers buy a Powerball ticket not expecting to win but because two dollars buys a few minutes of fantasizing about gold-plated counters and robot butlers.  Despite probability, some dare dream about their numbers getting picked.

Think about it going well.  Getting crushed again doesn’t scare us, as we’ve had endless hours of practice.  Our personal preseason only feels endless.  How else would we keep going?  A reversal is bound to happen one of these eras.  All it takes is competence by those in charge.  Well, at least it’s easy to temper expectations.

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Anthony Bialy

About Anthony Bialy

Anthony Bialy lives in New York City and acts like he's still in Buffalo. He thinks "Buffalo 66" is biographical and considers it a crime against mankind that Steve Tasker is not in the Hall of Fame. He knows every bodega in Manhattan which sells Labatt Blue. Follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyBialy.

16 thoughts on “As Usual, Buffalo Bills Try Changing Everything

  1. I would be excited by a horrific season. A great season would be fantastic, too, but that’s pretty unlikely. Nope, unfortunately we’ll probably be looking at the usual sub-mediocre season, but just good enough to fall around 10th in the draft instead of top 3. But what make it worse is they could have easily set up for a terrible season and setting themselves up next year by unloading Tyrod, Kyle, and even McCoy if they wanted to go that far. But no, winning 6 games seemed like such a better plan.

    • I’m with ya Joma. It’s either playoffs or be at the bottom, no in between. Finishing between 6-10 and 9-7 does the team no good as they will draft between 8-19. During their 6-10/7-9 average, they would draft between 8-13. If they’re not going to make the playoffs, I’d rather see them draft in the Top 5 and in order to do that, they’re going to have to be between 2-14 and 5-11.

  2. The only hope, shy of them starting out on a tear, is for them to have a bad start and bench Tyrod and see what their young QBs can do, and win 3 games as a result. I’d rather they win 1, but 3 might be little enough to get it done.

  3. Good morning…

    Nice article Anthony, as you shook me back to reality. It is never an easy thing for a team with new coaches and now with a new front office to be competitive (much less a playoff team) in their first year or two..

    We have to hope that McD is laying a solid foundation for the near future. 5-6 wins seems about right for this team as they learn another system. If that is all they win I just hope we can see the team heading in the right direction with stable coaching that has a plan and with players that don’t give up (like last year’s defense -who stopped tackling).

    17 years is way too long to wait for a playoff team!!!

  4. They’re idiots for trying to win 5-6 games instead of tearing it down to win 2 instead.

  5. thanks for the article AB but i aint convincing myself of nothing but we know there will be those that will.
    however i really do not see the backslide some are predicting either.
    the offense was about as simple as it gets, they should not throw too much at this year’s team because they are geared for certain things and certain things only.
    the defense definitely underachieved- complicated schemes, baffling chain of defensive command, a worthless dareus and an inconsistent gilmore who phoned it in just enough to beg for deliverance.

    joma, steve-
    aren’t the colts the definition of tanking? as we can see it is no guarantee of success.
    the dolphins were a consistent .500 or less for the last (7) years but they are on the move thanks to a coach and GM that seem to know what they are doing.
    the jets have been up and down including (2) tankworthy 4 win seasons in the last 12 years- but they couldn’t get off the ground because they have a dysfunctional organization.
    say no to tanking.

  6. Nells, of course it’s not a guarantee, but it makes a huge difference! The Colts would be terrible without Luck…instead they’re the Bills. If the Bills had Luck, they’d be a contender.

    As for the Dolphins, whatevs. If they become anything, it’ll be because their QB finally develops. If/when he doesn’t, they’ll be the Bengals or Chiefs…at best! Yes, being the Bengals or Chiefs and making the playoffs every year is certainly a step up from the Bills pathetic existence, but I’m sure it’s nearly as frustrating after a while. And why are they limited? Because their fackin’ QBs are limited!

  7. Good morning…

    I don’t think they go into the season trying to win 5 or 6 games, they go into the season with the goal to win the SB.

    There just isn’t enough elite QB’s to go around, it has been shown teams can win a SB without an elite QB if they have a great defense and a average to above average QB.

    The questions is what is more attainable to get a elite QB or to build a dominant defense to get you there.

    Of course the Pats are the symbol of success as they win no matter what and are far a head of everyone else. It has to do with the organization as a whole.

  8. It’s been done like twice in the last 20 years, winning the SB with a hack QB and historically good D. I think building a historically good D is even harder than finding a great QB, not to mention the D route isn’t sustainable. They typically don’t have more than a one year run because it’s tough to keep all those players together, keep everyone healthy, and playing D like that just doesn’t seem to be an easy thing to reproduce year in, year out. Sure, you can be good for a multiple year stretch, but not historically good every year.

  9. Good morning…

    How many elite QB’s are there in the league? We know Brady and the Pats dominate but who else… Luck is excellent but the Colts are so so, Wilson is he elite or above average, Brees is still playing on a high level but the defense is awful, Newton, Ryan, Carr? The league is QB driven but there is a shortage of QB’s…

  10. McCoy is trying to recruit Maclin to the Bills. IMO, the more help the Bills can get at WR the better. Who knows if Watkins will be on the team next year if he can’t stay healthy.


    Rapistburger is still playing at a high level, same with Aaron Rodgers. But I agree, there is a lack of elite QB’s in the league. I don’t watch college football, so I have no clue how the 2018 QB draft class looks like?

  11. lots of teams interested in maclin- seems like it would be a nice move if the bills could land him. reportedly alex smith was shocked when the chiefs released him.
    however he was the no. 3 receiver on the chiefs and had the lowest catch percentage on the team ( a dismal 57.9%) . worth a look but not a lot of cash. on the plus side he does stay healthy and would not be another percy.

  12. Unless the Bills are willing to give him a multi year deal, Maclin would be taking a big risk coming to Buffalo. Unless something big changes with their offense, he’s not likely to see a lot of balls thrown his way as the Bills don’t pass very often for starters, and further, TT has historically only tended to get the ball to one WR with any consistency. Presumably that guy will still be Watkins if he’s healthy. So if the Bills were to only offer a one year deal (or a bogus 2 or 3 year deal that’s only for the sake of spreading out a bonus,) Maclin’s not likely to have a big year…and two ‘down years’ in a row, teams are going to likely assume he’s hit the wall. If I were him, I’d steer clear unless they were offering a legit multi-year deal.

  13. Good morning

    Maclin would definitely add depth and be an insurance policy if Sammy is on the mend. In Philly he was the #2 because he played along Desean Jackson. His numbers weren’t the greatest in KC but they were a run offense that likes to throw to their T.E.

    He would be a good addition and a possible bridge #1 if Sammy gets hurt or leaves after this year. Zay Jones still has to prove himself but with Maclin he would have more time to learn.

    The Bills are a run first team so another receiver would keep teams honest and open up the field as they would have another weapon to use.

    This has been an interesting off season.

    • left WNY without a deal and off to Baltimore. looks like the Bills were smart with their $, unlike their new DB Shareece Wright.