It’s only November, but it sure feels like February around here. The weather is cold, the days are short, and Buffalo Bills football is in short supply. Mostly, though, there’s Groundhog Day – a day named for a large rodent where time stands still and the same things happen again, and again, and again.
I sit here this evening wondering what to write about – the anemic Bills offense, the maddening defense, the poor quarterback play, the realization that the Bills won’t go to the playoffs this year, either. I’ve about written all of those things – several times. Read my past articles, change some names and it could be a recap of Sunday’s game or even the Bills entire season. I feel like I’ve been here multiple times before – some sort of Sisyphusian déjà vu.
Yes, Groundhog Day is upon us, especially if you’re watching the Bills. Sitting in front of the TV on Sunday I got the strange feeling that I was watching the same thing over and over and over again: an offense that can’t score, a defense that can’t get off the field, stupid penalties, an average opposing quarterback looking like an all-pro, the bitter end to a failed quarterback experiment, a team that is going nowhere. Just like the movie, it’s enough to make you want to take a toaster with you into the bath.
The Bills have the 31st ranked offense in the NFL, averaging a measly 15.2 points per game on an average of 267 yards – only San Francisco is worse (even the hapless Dolphins rank 9 spots better). Other statistical lowlights: 30th in passing (166 yards per game), 29th in scoring, 27th in touchdowns scored, 31st in number of plays run. These numbers are virtually unchanged from similar rankings in 2006, 2005 and even 2004 – that’s four years. Start up the truck and let the rodent drive.
Defensively the Bills show signs, but can’t seem to get the job done, even against mediocre offenses. The Bills’ “Two Down Defense” can make some plays and put opponents in 3rd and long situations, but they always seem to let up that third down conversion and fail to get off the field. The Bills are dead last in the league in allowing opponents to convert 49 percent of their third downs, and dishonor they also had in 2005. The Bills rank 31st in yards per game allowed, a stat that again mirrors 2005. This comes from a unit that was supposed to improve over last year due to increased offensive prowess. Time to jump from the bell tower.
Penalties, penalties, penalties – the Bills may not lead the league in this category, but they certainly know how to make them count while looking stupid. The penalty for too many men on the field that kept a Jacksonville drive alive was so typical of this team – it was as dumb as it comes and incredibly painful. It shows a lack of discipline, awareness and coaching. Step off the curb and into traffic.
Somehow the Bills always seem to make statistically mediocre quarterbacks looks great, and Sunday’s game was no exception. David Gerrard looked like he was heading for the Pro Bowl against the Bills, not unlike Rex Grossman, Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler, Vince Young and a host of others who have had rare career days when facing Buffalo. Why can’t the Bills ever seem to find some sort of later round gem of a quarterback or get a first rounder to live up to his potential? Time to slit your wrists.
Probably the most painful moment for Bills fans to live over and over again is the sense that the guy playing quarterback isn’t the answer and it’s time for him to go. Nothing could more accurately descibe the current J.P. Losman situation. Given opportunity after opportunity he has failed to deliver. He has shown some ability but is maddeningly inconsistent and overall does not appear to be a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. Losman’s demotion to the bench is well deserved and likely permanent – his days in Buffalo are over. Oddly, everyone including Losman himself saw the move coming – if you were surprised by the move you haven’t been paying attention. The end of an era mirrors the end of the Rob Johnson era, the end of the Bledsoe era, the end of the Kelly Holcomb era – the guy you hoped would step up and be the answer leaving the position in disgrace. Time for the new guy, time to live though his growing pains, time to possibly install a whole new offense that better suits his abilities. Next year we’ll be better on offense – next year. Time to take poison.
So overall, the Bills are where they’ve been for years – a bad team with plenty of deficiencies that optimists believe is on the cusp of returning to the playoffs and realists understand is the perennial unfulfilled promise. Sure, the Bills have some young talent and yes they have been bitten hard by the injury bug, but when the end result is the same does it really matter? Are the bright spots for the future just another reason for the fans to get their hopes built up and destroyed next year? In the modern free agency/salary cap era timing is everything – you have limited windows with your solid players before they move on and if those windows don’t line up you never seem to get better. When your offense gets better your defense falls to the bottom – when your defense is good your offense can’t move the ball or put up points. Every time you suffer serious injuries, completely retool an offensive line, install a new quarterback, coach or system you throw off the timing and you fall into a rut like the Buffalo Bills, but that’s where we’ve been for years and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.
So life remains tough if you’re a Bills fan and doesn’t look to improve in the near future. That’s not pessimism, that’s just the way it is – it’s only pessimism if it’s unnecessarily grim and this isn’t. So when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning and you hear Sonny and Cher crooning “I’ve Got You Babe”, understand you’re in for a long, long, long day, even if you elect to simply stay in bed.