Would you jump off the bridge at Gillette Stadium just because every other franchise does it? Pursuing your own thing isn’t fun for the sole juvenile purpose of being different. That said, teams should recognize if their situation may be conducive to a trend-defying approach.
Specifically, the Bills don’t have to pass the ball incessantly just because so many of 2013’s teams find the ball traveling through the air enticing. Tending to run wouldn’t just be a novel way to operate an offense in today’s NFL: it’s the best use of who Buffalo has at what point in their respective careers. The Andrew W.K.-style offensive approach of letting the chief runner party til he pukes would let them get wet without even trying. And a pair of relentless rushers deployed properly will make the occasional pass seem that much more exciting.
Who wouldn’t want to see two weapons of brutality unleashed effectively? The opinions of opponents don’t count. As for a back who’s already no longer a league-wide secret, C.J. Spiller has learned to look where he’s going while speeding along. He’s displayed both last year and through limited looks through half this preseason that he isn’t just facing down his track lane but also learning how to avoid enemy runners determined to keep him from reaching the finish line. Now, he’s showing that he can cross the straightaway wherever he’d like.
Meanwhile, the complimentary Fred Jackson moves quite quickly for someone built like, and as hard to bring to the ground as, a redwood. As the odd 32-year-old rusher who hasn’t endured tremendous wear, Jackson is the shot of bourbon lurking at the bottom of the coffee mug. Jabbing with the Clemson product and uppercutting with the Coe man is a combo that will knock out opponents who don’t know where to guard.
It should be easy to quit wasting potential as long as the new coaching staff breaks the curious tradition of not bothering to watch games. A frequent criticism among a ceaseless barrage of them last year that Jackson was cutting into Spiller’s attempts. But an essentially grounded aerial attack that ought to have spared snaps. Spiller shouldn’t have gotten carries at Jackson’s expense; he should have gotten them at the passing game’s.
The NFL offers opportunities to correct mistakes, even if it sometimes takes a wasted season for players and fans. A humble franchise will consider listening to critics who knew more about the team than, say, the previous offensive coordinator. The philosophy can change even if some players have, too: while there have been notable improvements in the skill platoon, leaning on the established tailbacks is the best way to bridge the era of communal inexperience.
Entrusting the ball to the Buffalo Bills backfield duo would aid whoever wins the quarterback race. For one, it would be easier for a rookie to start at quarterback if he wasn’t expected to throw overhand too often, not to mention help him ease into the game as he regains the ability to fully bend both legs. The coaching staff could ease EJ Manuel into the league by tasking him with frequently executing a low-risk ball exchange. Assuming his knee has recovered by the start of real games enough for him to start, relying on the runners is still conducive to building his confidence.
Giving the job to Kevin Kolb on merit seems increasingly unlikely, but jittery fans could be assuaged by knowing he’ll likely perform a simple transaction after obtaining the ball. Even if relegated to the sidelines to start the season, Manuel would ideally only be slightly more of an observer than Kolb. Either way, making the quarterback a middleman would offer wholesale advantages.
Handing off the rock frequently would also alleviate pressure on a group of receivers youthful enough to still celebrate birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese. Like anyone else nervous with anticipation about the upcoming schedule, they can expect established runners to carry the team.
No one in football or otherwise can sustain success by being contrarian just for the fun of it. But it’s fine to be an exception to a broad tendency if it means adapting to the personnel they have.
This wouldn’t be the first time they’ve stayed earthbound: a ground delivery team in the air freight era would be reminiscent of Buffalo’s AFL championship squads that relied on a punishing rushing game in a league renowned for tossing the ball like a Frisbee. It’s not that the ’60s-era Bills refused to accept the forward pass as an option, as they still had Jack Kemp slinging the ball to the likes of Elbert Dubenion. But an offense can be multidimensional while still leaning toward one dimension. Buffalo should hand it off for as long as points scored still count if the ball is carried into the end zone. Just put in Jackson if the star rusher loses his lunch.