You play to win the game. The 2009 season is about to begin for our beloved franchise the Buffalo Bills. Back in April of 2007, Brian Galliford initiated this blog here at Buffalo Rumblings, and it went from a couple of users like myself, to the thousands of hits it now receives daily. Since that time I have been a loyal reader, active participator, and always a die-hard Bills fan. The growth at Rumblings over the last two years has been fun to see, the site has gotten better, the tools are improved, you can have an avatar for example, and the quality of the content has indeed improved, thanks to the great writers Brian has assembled. The one thing that has remained constant is that the Bills have continued to be mired in mediocrity, and Kurupt still hates Chris Kelsay more than ever.
Why am I mentioning all of this? Well, because this blog has developed and grown into something Dick Jauron and his staff has not in his three-plus years on the job. Entering year four, there are a million questions surrounding this Bills team, mostly on the offensive side of the football. I am here to give my take on the upcoming season, to use logic and analysis, and to try and calm some fears that many of the national media critics and fans have ingrained into their brains before the season has even begun.
Oh, what a difference a few months make. Back in March of 2009, T.O. signed a one year contract with the Bills on a seemingly boring Saturday afternoon. I couldn't believe what I was reading on ESPN's bottom line ticker. Just days earlier, he had been released from the Cowboys and now was a Buffalo Bill? Emotion was riding high, fans were mostly excited, and getting used to thinking that T.O. was now a Buffalo Bill was hard for me to really comprehend. The thought of pairing T.O. with Lee Evans, revamping the OL to a more nasty style, and moving to a more up-tempo no-huddle attack was supposed to bring points to the Bills offense in 2009.
Why then, a week before the season are we so negative on the expectations for this offense? Yes, I know they fired Turk Schonert and I know they released Langston Walker, but is that really all that big of a deal? I understand the argument that the Bills should have acted sooner, that putting Walker at LT was a severe miscalculation, and that Schonert should have been canned last January, but to see things clearly you must look at it objectively.
However, I believe it is prudent to also give credit to an organization for making such bold changes in the face of a must-win season. I agree, these decisions should have been made earlier, but Bell is no worse than Walker at LT. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in athletic ability and skill, along with motivation. I haven't been a fan of Schonert since he took over for Fairchild, and I am not a fan of Alex Van Pelt for various reasons. However, canning Schonert was one of the most important decisions Dick Jauron could make. Great leaders are successful because they have the nerve to make decisions that will affect people personally. Firing a man affects his family, people around them, and their future. However, if that person is not "all in" into the Standard of Performance (Bill Walsh term) of that organization, then they cannot be tolerated and must be dismissed.
In my opinion, Dick Jauron has two major weaknesses as a Head Coach:
1) He has not hired an offensive coordinator that can get the job done. In hiring a coordinator you need someone that shares your coaching philosophy, that will do whatever you as the head coach ultimately say, and is creative in developing schemes that maximize the output from your personnel.
2) Call it being loyal to a fault, call it protecting his players/staff, call it being too nice. Whatever you want to call it, because Dick Jauron is such a believer in what he does, and more importantly a believer in people, he does not see things objectively enough. A great leader must plan for every situation, must build an organizational culture (Standard of Performance) that permeates throughout the building from the secretary to the water boy. I believe it is this second point that Dick Jauron has somewhat, to a varying degree been underminded by Ralph Wilson. I cannot state that matter of factly, but I do believe that some decisions, to whatever degree have prevented Jauron from some moves, and have aided Jauron in other transactions. John Madden often said "when you have a lot of something you have nothing." That's how I feel about the Bills Front Office. They have a lot of people that have a voice in the organization, but no one true leader. The 49ers with Walsh, the Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson, the Patriots under Bill Belichick are all examples of how having one true voice leads to success. For whatever reason, Ralph Wilson refuses to see what worked in the late 80's through the mid 90's with Bill Polian and Jon Butler, and continues to allow the committee approach. But I digress....
So what does this all mean? I have never had so many negative feelings going into a season as I do this pre-season, just hours before Monday Night Football in New England. I am ticked at the media, Jauron, the organization, Trent Edwards, etc for this feeling. I feel cheated that I can't have the hope that was there in March/April with the T.O. signing and the draft, because I'm led to believe the organization is dysfunctional, and Dick Jauron is a lame duck coach.
What my eyes tell me is that this offensive line is much better. Across the board I believe the combination of Bell, Levitre, Hangartner, Wood and Butler are much, much better than last year's version of Peters, Dockery, Fowler/Preston, Butler, Walker. Will they suck sometimes? Yes. However, trust me in the fact that they cannot be worse than last year's OL unit (Side note, if any of you watched the Redskins yesterday, Derrick Dockery was abysmal, whiffing on blocks CONSISTENTLY). I also believe that the addition of T.O. dramatically changes this offense. In 2006, Owens first year with the Cowboys they won 9 games and Owens collected 85 balls and 13 TD's after the Cowboys had won 9 games the year prior. In 2003, the Eagles won 12 games, and when T.O. arrived in 2004, they won 13 games, Owens caught 77 balls and 14 TD's in just 14 regular season games, and of course made the Super Bowl. Owens impacts teams in positive ways. Sure, his mouth never stops running and he can become annoying to teammates but the guy always shows up on Sundays, which is what matters the most. This is an unique position for Owens as he now tries to help a 7-9 team, improve its record by 3-4 wins to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. However, Owens will contribute in a positive way, and if he does act out, it'll do nothing but add some extra ESPN attention to an otherwise boring season anyhow.
The 2009 season we are told by the "experts" is one in which we are told to prepare for massive failure. We have been told our OL is too young, QB is too Trent-ative, and our coach is too conservative. These things may all come to be true. However, a great leader that has the respect of his players through good and bad times as Mark Guaghn of the Buffalo News so nicely laid out in his column on why players love Dick Jauron, will ultimately win in the end. Because preparation, work ethic and team work ultimately lead to success on the field. However, having a solid plan (offensive scheme), evaluating talent (player personnel) also are obvious keys into achieving the kind of success that Belihick and the Pats have endured this past decade. After all the great John Wooden sums up coaching when he says "don't confuse being active with achievement." Meaning, working hard, persevering, and having high character all crucial to success, but if you are working at the wrong things, you will never find victory in the end. If you want to know why the Bills Front Office struggles read this article penned by Michael Lombardi over at the Post. Brad Butler had this to say about Jauron:
"I think it's important a good leader has a vision and that he's able to paint a good picture for everybody he leads," Butler said. "I think he does a good job of that. We understand where we're trying to go and it's going to be a week-by-week and day-by-day process."
Take it for what you wish. Maybe, after all Jauron is just a good guy, who works extremely hard, but just doesn't know how to develop successful schemes or evaluate talent. I think that hardly is the case, however at the position that matters most, QB, he has clearly tied his wagon to Trent Edwards. Edwards is mini-Jauron. He talks like Jauron, he works extremely hard, is intelligent, and after all is only 25 years old. However for the Bills to be successful the season rests on the shoulders of these two men. How well can Jauron prepare this team to win, and how well can Trent Edwards play? Last year in weeks 13 and 14 with must win games at home vs SF and MIA, the offense produced 6 points? That isn't going to cut it. The defense is definitely capable. A healthy Shobel, the addition of Maybin, and the experience at DT, LB and in the secondary with players who know their roles and scheme, lead me to believe the table is set for Trent Edwards and this Bills offense. Now is their time, the future is now. There will be no season 5 for Jauron's staff, if there are not significant improvements in overall team success in 2009.
There is no doubt this team will fight to the end in 2009. Jauron will not go down without a fight. He is prepared to open it up on offense, because he believes he has a defense in Buffalo that can stop by people, especially if his team can lead games in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Jauron wants to take on the Indianapolis Colts identity. Jauron stated over and over again in the off-season that he wants to lead more games, score more points, and put his defense in position to make TO's and get (gasp) sacks. Regardless of what you think of our DE's and this defense overall, Jauron thinks the world of it, and you wouldn't expect anything else from a defensive-minded coach who built this defense. I assure you they will be ready tonight to play.
The day is here Bills nation. Another season of hope and dreams is about to be embarked on. I encourage you regardless of what happens tonight or in the next two games versus the Bucs and Saints that you remember that who wins in September has little bearing on who wins in January. We want instantaneous results. We want to see T.O. celebrate in the end zone, Schobel/Maybing reek havoc on Brady, and McKelvin take one to the house. Be patient. It is what it is. Jauron is our coach, Edwards is our QB, and this is our team. Let's stand up and cheer and fight for them like we want them to do tonight in New England. Tonight we hope our team can go and make us proud, and I have every reason to believe they will. Monday Night Football, in New England, ESPN, T.O. Brady's return, year four of Jauron. Enjoy it. It is out of our control. Don't get too high or too low regardless of tonight's results. But, remember to have the whiskey at all times within arms reach. For a moment today imagine being in the shoes of Dick Jauron; the off-season, the investment, the pressure weighing down. He's ready to fight, and so is this team. LET'S GO B-U-F-F-A-L-O, LET'S GO B-U-F-F-A-LO, LET'S GO B-U-F-F-A-L-O!