In hindsight it may not have been such a great idea to by that Terrell Owens jersey. Probably an even worse idea to get the T.O. throwback, but can you blame a guy for thinking our newest wideout would someday rank with the all-time greats in Buffalo Bills history, bound for the Bills Wall of Fame on the way to his enshrinement in Canton? I don’t want to panic just yet, but I’m thinking I may back out of the replica Buffalo Bills Super Bowl ring I pre-ordered – I’m going to lose my deposit but it’s probably still the most prudent financial move I can make now. If things continue to go downhill I’m guessing I’m going to have to either remove or alter the T.O. tattoo over my heart, but I don’t want to think about that yet (maybe if I added the CN Tower people would think I was proclaiming my love for Toronto?).
Yes indeed, week 3 of the season and I’m back in incredibly familiar territory – feeling that the season is pretty much lost and hoping that the silver lining could be the departure of Dick Jauron. This is a feeling I carried for much of the 2008 season – I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
To this point, T.O. has been a bust, much like Lee Evans was last season. Through 3 games he has 5 catches for less than 100 yards (Evans has 8 grabs for 88 yards). This puts our wide receiver “studs” in the statistical company of such luminaries as Maurice Stovall of Baltimore and Keenan Burton of St. Louis (unless you play in a 20 team fantasy football league or are related to these fellows you’re probably saying, “who?”).
Lest you think I am blaming $15.5 million worth of receiving talent for the poor showing so far, let me explain myself. Owens and Evans are talented receivers – very talented. While Owens is advancing in age and drops more than a few passes and Evans sometimes has problems shaking coverage, both are capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level. The problem is, they’re not playing at a Pro Bowl level – they’re not even playing at a game ball recipient level.
The problem goes much deeper than the receivers. Much of the trouble stems from the conservative coaching philosophy that has failed to utilize Owens and Evans for more than decoys. Very little effort has been made to get Owens and Evans involved in the offense. Few passes are being made beyond 10 yards as check down targets are almost always favored over longer routes. In clutch situations Josh Reed continues to be the go-to man to pick up the 8 yard gain needed to move the chains. When you’re playing not to lose or keep the game respectable you’ll take those 8 yard gains – when you’re trying to win a game and impose your will you need to take some shots and utilize your best offensive weapons. Unfortunately, the hallmark of Jauronball is to not lose to the bad teams and try and hang with the good teams for as long as possible. Jauron is so conservative he makes Glenn Beck look like a commune-living social activist left-wing hippie.
In the most intense and unshakable feeling of déjà vu, an analysis of the Bills’ offensive woes also needs to pay a visit to an offensive line that is a work in progress (“The Bills Offensive Line – Under Construction since 1992” ™). Already down a man with an injury to Brad Butler and starting 2 rookies and a newbie at tackle, the Bills have failed to build a solid foundation for the offense. While the interior has shown promise they are learning on the job and getting schooled by the better defensive fronts they face. I like the potential, but right now they are not carrying the team.
The combination of a conservative, playing scared offensive game plan, a quarterback who has yet to step in and challenge opponents, and offensive line staffed by trainees and the loss of two tight ends (“The Buffalo Bills – Looking for a Tight End Since 1996”™) and we once again find an offensively inept bunch who often seem incapable of finding the end zone with a map. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s one game with no offensive touchdowns – how many more will follow?
Also like years past, the Bills are getting hit hard by the injury bug. With talent in many areas already thin, the loss of starters make it nearly impossible to compete. A tight end and a tackle are already gone for the year, another tight end is injured which stunts his development, a middle linebacker gone for multiple games (not even sure how good he is because he hasn’t been on the field long enough) and now two starters in the secondary are down. I don’t know whether it’s a lack of conditioning or just dumb luck, but injuries are going to snuff out whatever flame remains on this team if things don’t change.
I know I’ll be accused of being an overly negative Chicken Little and people will accuse me of overlooking the positives of the season so far, but be honest – are you seeing much to make you excited about how the rest of the season is going to unfold? Due to a crash of my hard drive I was unable to write last week and comment on the win over Tampa Bay. While it was great to see the Bills play fairly well and win a game, do I really need to remind Bills fans not to get too excited about beating bad teams? Did we not beat 5 bad teams in the first 6 weeks last year and hear fans to start saying stupid things like “Playoffs” and “Super Bowl”?
So the Bills are back to recent form – does that shock anyone who follows this organization? After the Owens signing I warned that the change would not be dramatic but I was blasted by euphoric T.O. fans. Did anyone really believe Owens was going to come in and magically transform the Buffalo Bills into one of the better teams in the league? Did you think he was the one missing piece the Bills needed to obtain greatness? If you did you either refuse to believe what you’ve seen so far or you’re starting to stockpile weapons and explosives in your basement for use later in the season when your world comes crashing down. Take heart, Owens maniacs, it’s not totally his fault if that makes you feel any better (and remember, violence is not the answer). For my part I’m going to keep cheering for the Bills as they march towards the 5 win season I predicted and hope that I don’t need to get expensive tattoo removal or alteration services.