Bills fans don’t need to be reminded of the quality of football that the team has played in Orchard Park over the last decade. We don’t need to be reminded of failed quarterbacks and “retreaded” coaches. It’s time that we look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. During this offseason the Buffalo Bills organization has been changed from top to bottom. Mr. Wilson handed over control to Russ Brandon, Doug Whaley officially took over as GM, there is an entirely new coaching staff, and no matter who wins the job we will be watching a new QB play under center this year. There is nothing familiar about the Buffalo Bills that started training camp this week, and that brings a lot of excitement to the “FAMbase.”
Despite all the excitement, I’ve been told many times that while Marrone was a great hire, don’t expect too much in year one. This is probably sound advice because it often takes some time for a new system to get off the ground, but this isn’t always the case.
It’s 2011. The San Francisco 49ers just finished the season 6-10 and decide to move on from Mike Singletary and hire Jim Harbaugh as the new head coach. Harbaugh had limited NFL coaching experience, coaching only one year as a QBs coach for the Oakland Raiders before getting a head coaching offer from San Diego, an NCAA FCS team. He coached there for a couple years before being hired to be the head coach of the Stanford Cardinal, and from there the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh and his staff quickly turned around a mediocre 49ers team and turned them into a Super Bowl contender in his first year on the job. What is interesting to me is the minimal roster changes that he made in that first year. Other than the draft, the only major addition made to the roster was the signing of Carlos Rogers. He did have five rookies out of his ten draft picks who made his final roster, including Aldon Smith who is the anchor of the 49ers front seven. So with five rookie additions and only two major upgrades to his starting lineup, Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff did the impossible and took a 6-10 team to the NFC championship game, and two fumbles away from a Super Bowl appearance!
Though there aren’t an abundance of similarities between the 2013 Bills and the 2011 49ers, there are a few. Both teams hired fresh head coaches from the college ranks, both teams started the offseason with top ten draft picks, and both added talent nearly entirely through the draft. Although it may not seem this way at face value, there are similarities in the quarterback situation as well. You have Kevin Kolb, who much like Alex Smith was highly touted, and yet underwhelming in their previous systems. Both teams have a rookie quarterback who they hope is the future of the franchise, but probably needs some time and practice to get into NFL form.
Of course none of these similarities really mean anything, but they give me hope. If the 49ers could turn it around so quickly, why couldn’t another team? And to quote Stevie Johnson “Why not now? Why not us?”