Reasons For Optimism: Bills Are No Longer Toting ‘Mistake On The Lake’ Moniker

Seems like the only interesting argument one could make about the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills is deciding which team would win the award for the biggest “Mistake on the Lake.” Both teams have been almost as cringe-worthy as the other for what seems like nearly an eternity. Which team will turn the corner first?

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jimmy Haslam has created quite a circus in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The question becomes all the more interesting in light of the housecleaning done this week by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. The two men responsible for hiring Mike Pettine away from the Bills are gone before the end of February. Also, Coach Pettine will now apparently report directly to the owner and not the general manager?

Oh my, things could get very interesting between these two teams this year. Both teams have been most notable for their cellar dweller status and picking the earliest in the draft for what seems like forever. I’m not sure what it would be like for either team to get some national attention for the right reasons, but it would be nice to see it happen for a change.

The Bills and the Browns will meet this season in Buffalo (or sadly, possibly Toronto). That should be a very interesting match up for many reasons. First, aside from all the front office drama in Cleveland and the poaching of coaches from the Bills, these are two teams who have been trying desperately to find a long-term solution at the head coach and quarterback positions. Obviously, neither has been successful in doing so since 2000.

Fortunately, the Bills appear to be a bit ahead of the game at least as far as having the same head coach and quarterback(s) as last season. However, as Bills fans we also know that the jury is out on whether EJ Manuel will turn out to be the answer.

Coach Marrone should be awarded an Oscar for how he orchestrated the Bills situation regarding the Browns nightmare with Mike Pettine. It was difficult not to feel embarrassed for Coach Pettine, who certainly deserved better than to be treated like a last choice prom date.

The Bills have made more than a few hideous mistakes over the years. The insulting contract offer made to retain Chuck Knox back in the 70’s might be one of the oldest to still make this old fossil “see red.” However, at least the Bills didn’t virtually make an agreement in principle to hire a coaching candidate, hold another team hostage in terms of assistant coaches, and then hop on a plane to go interview someone else.

It was painfully obvious that Coach Pettine was horrified in terms of the Bills being inconvenienced during his introduction interview with the Browns media. It’s pretty rare to hear from a coach’s mouth that he basically told the team they had 24 hours to make up their minds or he was heading back to Buffalo, as was reported by various media outlets.

Make no mistake, the Browns are a much better football team than the majority of people seem to think. They beat the Bills last season, and their defense is going to improve under Mike Pettine. Let’s hope that Buffalo’s offense makes a second year “leap” with a healthy EJ Manuel so the Bills can defeat the Browns and return the favor in 2014.

Anyway, it might be time to give Coach Pettine a friendly little headache of his own. That is of course if he isn’t buried in enough of them reporting to a team owner who was recently investigated by the FBI and other government agencies for alleged fraud. When Bills fans want to complain about ownership, it might behoove them to remember that getting a new owner is not a guarantee of getting a better owner.

It’s anybody’s guess if Coach Pettine is going to enjoy a good working relationship with the new general manager, Ray Farmer. It’s a pretty strange organizational structure, but maybe it will work for them. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, losing Coach Pettine was looking like a serious blow to the Bills development.

However, in hiring Jim Schwartz, they got a very solid replacement. Signing Pepper Johnson after he left the Patriots was like icing on the cake for this Bills fan. Although it is way too early to tell, I suspect that both the Bills and the Browns will be making more news than they have in the past. The real question is what kind of news they will make?

Will both teams rise from the ashes laid on the south and east shores of Lake Erie to bring respectability back to the teams of the Great Lakes region? Any change in ownership can send Richter scale-worthy tremors through any organization. Buffalo Bills fans should make note of the disastrous way the Cleveland Browns ownership and front office have been conducting the rebuilding of their franchise.

As Doug Marrone would say, “at the end of the day” it all boils down to winning, regardless of how dysfunctional a front office situation may be at a particular time. And sadly, winning has not been something that either the Browns or Bills have done much of for nearly the last decade and a half.

It’s hard for Bills and Browns fans to dislike each other too much. It wasn’t that long ago that the Bills organization reached out to disenfranchised Browns fans and invited the Dawg Pound to cheer for the Bills after Art Modell took their team and moved to Baltimore. Now Browns fans are left to wonder when the circus is going to end with their new owner.

The “Mistake on the Lake” has moved to the south shore of Lake Erie for now, along with our former defensive coordinator and some of his assistants. However, it remains to be seen which team will rise faster out of the ashes. There’s plenty of reason for optimism that the Bills will get to that turning point. It’s just a question of whether or not they can get it done before the Cleveland Browns bounce back from their current chaotic situation.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.