Let’s not pull any punches – the Buffalo Bills are an embarrassment. Sure, there have been some horrific Bills teams, but none have been as outright embarrassing as the 2012 Bills.
Due to organizational decay, cronyism and outright incompetence, the Bills of teams past have often had a dearth of talent. When matched up against real NFL teams, the Bills have often shown they don’t belong in the same league – figuratively and literally.
2012 was supposed to be different. You know the story – the Bills invested heavily in the defense. In addition to using several high draft picks in the past few years, the Bills brought in Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. They got Kyle Williams, one of the few good players on previous Bills squads, back from injury. On paper the Bills defense was supposed to be one of the best in the NFL. Even with a less than stellar offense, the Bills were widely expected to be a playoff or near-playoff caliber team.
Instead of living up to their billing as a premiere defensive unit, the current defense looks ill prepared to play high school football. In the last 2 weeks the team has played worse than any previous team. It’s been more than 60 years since a team gave up back to back games of over 550 yards. Last week against New England they gave up 2 100+ yard receivers, 2 100+ yard rushers and a 300+ yard quarterback. This week they nearly did it again – another 19 yards for Kendal Hunter and it would have been a true repeat. The defense has given up 95 points the last 2 games – that’s a basketball score.
Previous Bills teams were terrible because they didn’t have the talent to compete – the current team is an embarrassment because they do. If you can watch the total garbage the Bills have put forth the past two weeks and not feel downright embarrassed to be associated with that team you’re a better fan than I am – I can’t.
Look – I had no illusions that the Bills would win against New England and on the road against San Francisco – you had to be a pretty serious homer to think the Bills were going to take both of those games. Winning one would have been fantastic, but doing so was always a stretch. What I didn’t expect, however, was degree by which the Bills were dominated in their losses. The defensive line, and the defense as a whole, has looked like a group of lost schoolgirls, although I suspect lost schoolgirls feel stronger about their predicament than the Bills.
There have been numerous excuses for the Bills putrid performance. The abomination of the opener against the Jets was written off as a new unit acclimating to new schemes and personnel, with a seasoning of inexperienced replacement referees thrown in for good measure. After the Patriots debacle the heat fell disproportionately on Mario Williams and we learned he had been playing with an injured wrist. I must admit I didn’t feel very placated by the excuses, but in the back of my mind I suppose I was willing to believe these things had been factors in the poor performance.
You’d think that the incredible amount of heat and criticism showered upon Mario and company would have produced some sort of reaction, but you would be wrong. The entire Bills defense, particularly the front four, were absolutely destroyed on the field and showed absolutely no reaction. Buffalo’s $100 million man likes to pretend that he’s not aware of all the criticism heaped upon him, but in the age of 24 hour Sports Center, the Internet and social media like Twitter it’s completely implausible to believe that he doesn’t hear what is being said about him.
The only thing more embarrassing than being a highly-overrated and highly overpaid defensive unit is doing nothing about it and letting it happen again – the following week. When the hell is someone going to step up and make a play? When is someone going to take some responsibility, say “this is on me” and do something about it? When is someone going to look at this crap and say “this is completely unacceptable – we are better than this”?
The Bills squad on the field in San Francisco had no answers, no fight and no heart. I’m screaming at my TV and I see guys going through the motions and being beaten like the proverbial rented mule. Once again the defensive line provided absolutely no pressure on the quarterback, making Alex Smith look like Joe Montana. They let the running backs run wild and once they hit the linebackers they certainly weren’t going to be stopped by the Bills subpar unit. The time afforded Smith in the pocket gave him time to find the receiver without any coverage – he had plenty of targets from which to choose. The Buffalo secondary was often times nowhere near the receiver – Aaron Williams might have well have been Anson Williams out on the field today – he’s definitely earned the nickname Potsie.
I wish I had an explanation for why the defensive front four is so bad. As a Red Sox fan I’m pretty well versed in recognizing underperforming stars, poor coaching and general dysfunction – all of which I see with the Bills. I think the defensive game plans have been bland, unimaginative and completely inflexible (even in the face of utter failure adjustments are not being made), but I don’t think advocating for Dave Wannestedt’s ouster is justified (yet …..talk to me next week if we see another week of complete trash).
My greatest fear is that the Bills defensive woes aren’t a result of underperforming players or poor coaching but they are in fact the result of a lack of talent. Everyone says the Bills have talent on defense, but if they don’t show it on the field do they really have talent? Is it possible Mario and company aren’t nearly as talented as we’ve been lead to believe? It certainly would not be the first time the Bills talent evaluation has been terrible. You can in theory fix underperformance and coaching, but not a talent deficit – that’s a scary thought as games go by.
The problem on the offensive side of the ball is easier to diagnose but difficult to fix – its lack of talent, pure and simple. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a smart guy and by all accounts he’s a really good guy, but he is not an NFL quarterback. His inaccuracy is deadly, especially for a team with no defense. He has regressed from the past few years, especially when it comes to throwing anything aver about 15 yards. Fitzpatrick is completely unable to throw the long ball. He has thrown balls out of bounds to open receivers several times, but worse is his penchant for grossly underthrowing a receiver and allowing the defensive back to intercept the ball.
I don’t think the Bills have an answer for the quarterback problem. They traded for Tavaris Jackson but obviously feel he provides no better option currently. I’ve seen Tyler Thigpen and he has never shown an anything on the field (seriously – nothing – not a single thing) – I have no idea why he is even on the team. Brad Smith is an expensive toy the Bills didn’t need, but he also isn’t an NFL quarterback. It is an absolute crime that the Bills are not already grooming someone to play signal caller next year – even if they draft a prospect next year he likely won’t be able to contribute.
Many Bills fans recognize that the current section of the schedule is incredibly challenging and that the second half has some very winnable games. Many seem to think the Bills could win their last 7 or 8 games and get them to double digit wins and a playoff birth. I might be inclined to believe that if the Bills had shown me anything in their losses, but they haven’t – they’ve been completely outclassed by better teams. In order to turn it around the defense is going to have to compensate for the offense and right now that unit is so woefully poor it’s going to a struggle to beat even the lesser teams on the schedule.
The Bills will stay out west this week as they prepare for Arizona next Sunday – a very smart move not flying back to Buffalo. I know the fans are fired up – they don’t like seeing the crap they see from the Bills, the lack of passion from the players and the repeated drubbings. Sadly, unless the Bills suddenly find fire that they’ve been missing and start to live up to the talent they supposedly have its looking like yet another sub .500 year – embarrassing, damn embarrassing.