Since the dawn of time there have been numerous empires rise and fall. Most empires rise and fall for similar reasons as history is doomed to repeat itself. In professional sports, the reign of good and bad teams can last for generations. As we have seen, some storied franchises have slipped into mere rubble while some have become the new rulers of the modern day NFL.
If we take a look at history, we perhaps can grasp why the Buffalo Bills, once a storied franchise reaching four consecutive Super Bowls, has become the basement dwellers of the AFC East.
The first thing we will look at is leadership in the front office. The philosophy of football has changed immensely over the last thirty years of football. Leadership is responsible for keeping up with philosophy changes and bringing in the appropriate coaches and players who embody the ever changing NFL. However, the leadership is also responsible for understanding what is a passing "fad" and what is a new mainstay.
Let's first take a look at the "fad," known as the "wildcat." The "wildcat" as we all know to well was a new system used by the Miami Dolphins involving the use of a multiple running back based backfield free of a prototypical pocket passing quarterback, if any quarterback at all. For one season, the Dolphins torched competition with surprising packages that were in fact rather predictable but played on the over-aggression of defenders to drive coaches crazy. During that one season, the Dolphins has multiple 200+ yard rushing performances on their way to the AFC East crown. However, this was a passing "fad" as teams around the NFL tried to duplicate the offense and defenses schemed ways to stop this.
The problem with "fads" such as the "Wildcat" is teams, the Bills included, made roster decisions to duplicate the Dolphins success. The Bills brought in former Jets WR/QB Brad Smith, paid him too much money and he was never productive enough to justify his paycheck. When leadership wastes salary cap space on a non-productive player and roster space, it hurts the team. "Fads" also take the place of prototypical offensive plays and disrupt a teams rhythm.
The other big "fad" was of course the run/read option. Long term prospects of this as an offensive staple may seem possible, but as Quarterbacks continue to get injured, will become more of a play grouping instead of a base offense. We were able to see first hand this year why this isn't a good idea for an offensive basis as EJ Manuel's injuries piled up from the hits he took.
Today's National Football League has become a passing league, as wide receivers have become taller and more athletic than their counterparts of the past. Leadership has a duty to try and search through the "fads" to get down to the basics for which successful teams have been able to duplicate in the current era and predict success in the long term. As we have come to see, our next part will explore success through the franchise quarterback.