Then We Started to Play the Games

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

People say that you really don’t know a team until you start playing the games. That statement is so true. With teams built off of hype and promise, “dream teams” and Cinderellas, no one can predict how a season can go. You can have a fair idea in the preseason, but that’s why they play the games.

The 2012-2013 season started off with a lot of hope for #Billsmafia. From “Yes We Chan” shirts to “In Nix We Trust” labels, from the biggest free agent signing in Bills history to an offense that looked very good last year even with injuries, this year seemed like it could be a good one for Bills fans. Then we started to play the games.

Suffering a 48-28 beat down by the Jets was not something any Bills fans expected, but we turned it around and beat a decent Chiefs team. Next thing you know, we roll over the Browns and almost held on to a victory against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
This is where I must pause and break down this game a little bit. First of all, look at that name: Tom Brady. What else can you say? He hasn’t just made the Bills look foolish year in and year out, but he has done it consistently to each and every team in the NFL for the past decade. He has made the most challenging and physical defenses cave in through game-winning drives and flat out shredding of defenses.

So to curb all of the “Fire Wannstedt” and Mario on the milk carton comments I say, just relax. This is Wannstedt’s first year, it’s a new scheme and there are new pieces in place. You cannot throw money at something (although 100 million would seem to do the trick) and expect the problem to be fixed overnight; it takes time. No one picked the Bills to win that game, and honestly through the first 3 quarters we looked like we might win. Belichick and Brady have won multiple Super Bowls on last second field goals so they know how to conduct game winning drives in the 4th quarter.

Also to #Billsmafia that put all the blame on the defense for that game, no one expects to dominate Tom Brady, the key is to keep him off the field. When your offense goes 3-and-out consistently in the 4th it’s hard to not get beaten down by the running game, and you are going to get shredded by Tom Brady. Did you really expect anything different? If you did then you must believe in miracles, and the Bills shouldn’t be your team. They are the anti-miracle workers.

After that heartbreaking loss the Bills then had to go on the road to what is probably the best team in football in their home stadium and try to squeak one out. Instead they just got flat out dominated and shattered ancient defensive football records.

So what do they do? Pick themselves up and squeak out a win against a surprisingly good Arizona Cardinals team at their place. So at this point in the schedule, the Bills are 3-3. With 2 losses expected in preseason for this time, we were looking at a 3-1 squad whose only loss was to the New York Jets.

My goal for this article is dual-purposed.

Firstly, I feel the flame of heat of pure anger from the #Billsmafia fan base has gone from a small kitchen candle to a ten story building burning down. And honestly over what? Not hanging in and pulling out a win over Tom Brady or the spanking by San Francisco? If that is all then there really is no need to be upset, because if you had the Bills better than 4-2 after 6 games you are lying.

However, the second purpose of this article is to show #Billsmafia that you are right, you have a reason to be angry. Especially over the game against the Titans.

That is a game that we absolutely had to win. Every game is important, but you want to go into a bye focusing on the next opponent (AFC-leading Texans, by the way) — not focusing on fixing your mistakes. I believe that most of the mistakes in the Titans game came from the coaching staff.

You can point out the shanked punt, the non-review of the fumble on the sideline. You can criticize Fitzpatrick for the pick in the final three minutes, but I want to know why the heck that play was called? A 3rd and 9 conversion is fairly difficult, but why not try to ground it out, gain maybe 4 or more yards and punt the ball? Seems more safe and puts your team in a better position than an interception.

Even still, you can point to the defense for letting Chris Johnson gain 196 yds and 2 TDs, but he’s a pretty good back. You can even point out the missed interception by George Wilson or the pure breakdown of coverage by Rogers for the touchdown. But that is not looking at the big picture. A winning team is a byproduct of the organization, and the organization is a reflection of the owner.

Look at the (hated) Dallas Cowboys for example. Jerry Jones’ fingerprints are all over that organization, there’s not a beam or pencil he probably has not touched. Have they suffered the same futility in the past decade as the Bills? Yes. It’s hard to win in the NFL. They have gone through coaching changes and they’ve also had their Emmitt Smiths and their Deion Sanders’ and the great Troy Aikman.
But we have also had Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith and Jim Kelly. Great teams are not built solely on players and talent, but also the right combination of coaching and front office personnel, and finally the owner himself.

There are coaching changes all the time in the league, but rarely does a coaching change, especially midseason, bring around a championship. Consistency and championships start from the top down. Name me the last time a struggling sub .500 team fired members of the coaching staff and found themselves in the playoffs the same season. Let alone within 2 years. With a new coach comes a new system, a new philosophy, and new characters and that might not necessarily be what a team needs.

What this Bills team seems to lack is immunity from injuries, a motivating force, and maybe a bit of consistency. That is not on the coaching department, and a change in coaches would completely shatter the foundation of the team, not build it.

The Bills have talent, there is no denying that. You could even say that the coaches have not put the players in the best possible scenario to succeed, but this team lacks talent in the 2 key positions on the field.

If you were to name the weakest position on offense and defense for this Bills team it would have to be QB and linebacker. That is what seems to be the problem. If that is fixed and the Bills still continue to lose, then you must look at the very top. Until it is addressed, however, we must deal with what we have.

We all know that the quarterback is the most important position in sports, but the linebacker position is really the quarterback of the defense. Look at the most consistent defenses in the NFL. The Ravens have had the great Ray Lewis lead their defense the past 16 years much like James Harrison and Patrick Willis have led the Steelers and 49ers in recent years. I still hate San Francisco for that pick because instead we had to select a running back that we ended up trading for a 4th round pick. Not very solid front office work.

As for the real QB, Fitzpatrick is average at best and that’s really all it is. He is maybe the 25th best QB in the league. Don’t believe me? Start naming some QBs and you’ll realize that Fitz is sub par. His timing looks off, and it seems as if he can’t even throw 40 yards. That would be something to blame on the front office, because there have been many quarterbacks that have turned out to be great that the Bills have passed on in recent years, and quarterback is the one position that we can’t seem to get right. From Rob Johnson to Captain Checkdown, there has been talent on many a Bills team, but not enough talent in the quarterback position. That would be the first thing I would address in the draft, but we are not there yet. These next two games on the schedule will be tough. We can easily be 3-6 after week 9, but one can never tell how a game will go in the NFL.

We can still hope and root for the Bills, but our expectations shouldn’t be that high. We don’t need to fire Wannstedt or Gailey, at least definitely not now, first let the rest of the season play out. The real question is, where will the leadership of this team come from? Is Fitz going to step up and earn his contract money and can the defense stop a nosebleed? To that I say, we can only Billieve and hopefully “Yes, they Chan.”