Now nearly three full seasons into the Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey era, the Buffalo Bills are sporting a 15-31 record since the start of the 2010 season. That record is markedly worse than the 20-26 record that Gailey's much-maligned predecessor, Dick Jauron, had at this point in his Bills coaching career. Needless to say, Bills fans are clamoring for sweeping organizational changes yet again.
Nix, however, has been playing the continuity card for months, publicly backing his head coach as far back as the bye week. In fact, he grew so tired of repeating himself on this front that he's told media outlets that he won't be discussing it again until after the season - when he may very well repeat himself. Again.
"I hope I can put that to rest," he said of the idea of making a coaching change on November 2. "The age-old thing - and they've done it around here for years - is to start over about every three years. What that does is make damn sure you don't make it."
"I know you fans have been through 12 years, or whatever it is, and you're frustrated about it," Nix would later continue. "The big thing is you don't want to start over. If you start over, you're going to get 12 more, and that's not where we're headed."
It's 13 years now, but who's counting? We are, and in painstaking fashion. We, as fans, have a much different perspective on the continuity argument than anyone currently in the organization other than Ralph Wilson, because none of those guys have worked through the entire playoff drought.
That doesn't mean the argument is without merit, of course; as Buffalo has tanked in recent weeks and fans have transitioned into off-season mode, the idea has come up time and again. I wanted to get my thoughts on continuity out on paper if Gailey winds up keeping his job, and before the off-season begins. Here we go.
- The key selling point to the idea of continuity is to avoid the cyclical nature of the three-years-and-dump-it model. That's a philosophy I am fully on board with. Radical change can be made without starting over. Determining how high in the football operation to start making said change is critical. Buffalo needs new ownership, but that won't happen voluntarily; where's the next place on the organizational chart to start making tweaks? (You'll discover my opinion here shortly.)
- Continuity only works if systems are maintained. Nix's scouting operation has systems in place. Gailey's offense has had systems in place for three years. The defense is another matter entirely. If the Bills are committed to continuity, they'd keep Dave Wannstedt, right? As appealing as the idea of a new coordinator may be to some, we all know how things turned out with Jauron and his persistent shuffle of offensive coordinators. If you're staying the course, stay the course.
- There are exceptions to that above rule - see Houston hiring Wade Phillips - but those are rare, and only worth contemplating if the opportunity presents itself and has a shot in hell of going down. (Like, say, if Rex Ryan is looking for work in a few weeks, gets no serious job offers from other clubs, and can contemplate the idea of being in the same meeting room as Gailey without laughing his ass off. That'd be okay by me.)
- To wrap up the three points above: if a team is going to commit to continuity, then it should extend to all organizational systems in place, from the head of the football operation to the terminology used on the practice field, unless no-brainer alternatives are present and realistic. The big changes, then, must logically start at the player level.
- If the Bills are going to commit to continuity, they need to be much more flexible with their personnel. Nix needs to get better players at the key positions he's neglected since he's been here, chiefly quarterback. Gailey needs to fine-tune his offense to utilize its best players (why hello there, C.J. Spiller) for once; he did exactly that when he got here in 2010, but his creativity has stagnated over the years as his personnel upgrades have been few and far between. The principle they started with - fit your scheme to your players - needs to be re-emphasized.
- Here's another way to put the above point: if I hear anyone in the organization say "this guy fits our scheme" this off-season, I'll be much more depressed than I am at this point in time, because it'll indicate that nothing has really changed. (Mercifully, I can't recall anyone in the organization ever saying that in the past three years.)
- From the angle of aggression, Nix had better not rest on his laurels. Every ounce of aggression the organization put forth in signing Mario Williams - which was a significant and surprising amount of aggression for an otherwise overly conservative group of people - needs to be applied to finding a franchise quarterback, and making significant upgrades in several more key areas. Continuity does not - and cannot - mean status quo.
As much as fans refuse to admit it, the chance still exists that both Gailey and Nix will be retained heading into 2013. As such, I haven't (yet) wasted any brain cells on coaching candidates or the radical changes that fans like to talk about. Instead, I've been mulling what's written above. That's where I stand on the organization's buzz word of the week: continuity. Where do you stand?