Adam Schein, a Sirius NFL Radio host and a columnist for FOXSports.com, has named the Buffalo Bills the NFL's worst franchise heading into the 2011 season. He starts his analysis with this line: "I feel so terrible for the amazing and diehard Bills fans."
Well, thanks, Mr. Schein, for the shout-out. We'll go ahead and assume that he already knows we need to pick this argument apart, considering our diehard and loyalist nature. While we do that, I'll continue to wait patiently for the day where my fandom isn't something to be pitied; I'm not particularly fond of the obligatory sad face perpetually directed at our fan base.
I'll get into Schein's analysis after the jump, but I wanted to preface this post by saying that I'm perfectly willing to listen to arguments about the Bills being the NFL's worst franchise. Let's face it: in a "what have you done for me lately" league, the Bills haven't done much worth writing home about since a glorified yesteryear in which I hadn't yet hit puberty. They have deserved criticism for over a decade. I'm just not convinced that they're the NFL's worst franchise, because I don't think Schein made a very convincing argument.
Check out the opening paragraph of the article to see how each organization was graded in Schein's completely subjective study. It's not exactly FJM-style, but we'll pick Schein's argument apart line by line.
"They deserve an in-touch owner...
Ralph Wilson is obviously a controversial topic amongst Bills fans, and he's definitely made a lot of poor decisions over the past decade that have led to the vast majority of the organization's struggles, and we've been over them sufficiently (as has Schein) that it's not necessary to list them all here. Over the last 18 months, however, Wilson's newest regime has their ducks in a straighter row than they'd been in for years. Furthermore, I'm not sure how "out of touch" an owner can be if he was one of two in the league that voted against the 2006 CBA that now has the NFL in an unprecedented labor crisis. Ralph Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills. We're indebted to the man. It's fine to criticize his decisions, but I don't know if I'd say he's lost touch.
"... and a team with a plan."
This is the most ridiculous part of Schein's argument. You don't even have to look very hard to see that there's a plan in place in Buffalo. The Bills now have a classic, established hierarchy in their front office, starting with GM Buddy Nix and trickling down to Doug Whaley, the revamped scouting department, and Chan Gailey's coaching and training staffs. Nix has spent half of his six draft picks in the first three rounds on defensive linemen. They've found a "bridge" quarterback with sufficient youth to afford them patience in selecting their long-term quarterback. It's absurd to insinuate that there isn't a plan here. On the surface, it's tough to argue that it doesn't look like a solid and consistently executed plan, too. The only argument I'd listen to on the plan front is that there's no reason to believe the latest Bills rebuilding plan will work, but that's not the argument Schein is making.
"And the Bills put in pay cuts for all employees and cut pensions during the lockout. Awesome."
Schein was fair in bringing the lockout into his analysis, knocking every team that's done this for their decisions. It's fair to bring the lockout and organizational decisions into the discussion, as well, because part of Schein's grading criteria is "public relations." There really isn't a way to beat around the bush on this one: the Bills' decisions on this front have been something of a PR nightmare, and haven't been panned nearly as loudly as they could've been because of the distinct "well, it's just the Bills" vibe permeating the league. Schein's getting no argument from me here.
Buffalo's highest grades are assigned to its coaching staff (4/10) and its quarterback (3.5/10), while they get lowest-possible marks for owner and front office (and likely intangibles, as well, were it not for the fan base). Schein did not have the space to expand on those grades in his breakdown.
That's the end of Schein's argument.
In June of 2010, Schein was adamant that the Bills should name Trent Edwards their starting quarterback immediately, so that he'd get all of the first-team reps throughout training camp and be able to "exert his leadership" on the team. Then, after the Bills did all of that (save the nomenclature) and abandoned it after two horrific regular season games, Schein blasted them for having no plan. I was closer to agreeing with Schein at the time than I was to disagreeing, but in retrospect, I'd blast them more for handling the quarterback race the way they did as opposed to scrapping the miserable Edwards experiment after two weeks.
Then, heading into Week 7 last year, Schein blasted the entire organization; the article fit the mood of the day, as the Bills were 0-5 at the time and heading into a Week 7 game in Baltimore off of their bye week. He ripped apart Nix for quipping that he'd be asleep when free agency started, then went on to question Wilson, point out several poor personnel decisions, and ended with questioning the team's viability in Buffalo. He entitled the article "Buffalo Bills hapless and hopeless," said the Bills were "lightyears" away from the Dolphins, and questioned whether or not the team would score a single point in Baltimore.
It seems as if Schein's views haven't changed one iota from the 0-5 Bills he so aggressively trashed. Although that's not true, since he loved what they did in the 2011 NFL Draft.
It's baffling to me that a team like the Lions, who have not been to the playoffs in as many years as the Bills, are rated nine (9!) spots ahead of the Bills and double up their grade because they've managed to go 8-24 under Jim Schwartz. Or how the 49ers get kudos for doing well with social media. Or how the Raiders' intangibles grade more than triples Buffalo's just months after firing a head coach that swept the AFC West. Or how a team that has never made the playoffs (Houston) can rank No. 18. Articles like this are designed to create debate, I understand, and this one is a doozy.
Again, Mr. Schein: I'm perfectly willing to listen to arguments about the Bills being the worst franchise in the league. This argument falls short of the mark.