The Buffalo Bills are inching ever so close to their 17th consecutive season without a playoff appearance, and, unsurprisingly, rumors are swirling about potential major changes being on the horizon at One Bills Drive.
If the Pegulas make any drastic changes or “clean house,” it must be due to unhappiness with what they’ve seen from the Bills solely during their time as owners.
For as deservedly upset as Bills fans are about 16 years with no playoffs, it would be bad business practice for Terry and Kim Pegula to allow the drought to factor into any decisions.
If wins and losses are the only, or maybe, the main judgement criteria here -- and they should be — the Pegulas would be smart to let the final three games play out before they possibly make changes, because an intriguing opportunity has presented itself.
How will the Bills play against a 0-13 Browns team after a second-straight loss to AFC team ahead of them in the standings which have put the club’s playoff hopes on life support? How about against the Ryan Tannehill-less Dolphins on Christmas Eve or an underwhelming Jets team starting Bryce Petty in the regular-season finale? Do the Bills flop and finish 6-10, 7-9, or 8-8?
If that happens, the Pegulas will have more than reasonable justification to shake things up, or even fire multiple front-office employees. To me, in theory, two years isn’t enough time to give an NFL head coach, but the Pegulas would’ve seen the Bills either regress from 8-8 in 2015 (if they go 0-3 or 1-2 down the stretch) or not show any improvement (if they go 2-1).
Or in the face of adversity, embarrassment, and widespread criticism, can the Bills go 3-0 in their final three?
At that point — and I’m just providing all win-loss possibilities — Buffalo would finish 9-7, a one-win improvement from the Pegulas first full season as owners, and, unless the Bills get considerable help — which isn’t totally out of the question — the “OMG, this team is a dumpster fire” would miss the postseason by a single game.
Think about that.
Honestly, I have no clue which Bills team will show up over these last three contests. And although those outings may not have direct playoff implications, they should be absolutely vital in the evaluation of key figures within the organization, especially when deciding the futures of those who take the field or roam the sidelines on Sundays.
Remember, only two short months ago — which I’ll admit, in today’s NFL seems like two decades ago -- Pegula said the following quotes in an interview with USA Today:
- “You have to have continuity. I don’t care if you’re drilling oil in gas wells or you’re running a sports team. If you keep changing things, nothing’s going to work.”
- “Our coach needs to know that, through the good and the bad, there’s stability. The players need to know there’s stability. And by the way, that doesn’t help our players any to start reading that their coach is going to get fired.”
- “The famous ultimatum that I supposedly gave them, I wasn’t even in town that day. I was up at my lake in the Adirondacks.”
Beyond those comments, Pegula said this in September: “In my mind, the team hasn’t been to the playoffs in one year.”
That statement indicates the Pegulas evaluation starts in 2015, not 2000.
Look at it this way... if you took over a business that had failed for years (which is essentially what the Pegulas did), hired some of your own people to leadership positions but didn’t see profits crawl out of the negatives in the two years, would you start firing and re-hiring again?
This dilemma is precisely why there may be a disconnect between Bills fans and the Bills’ owners.
I’m almost positive the vast majority of the Bills faithful won’t agree with the thesis of this column. I’m fine with that and think their angst is justified. I’m simply providing a perspective on the Pegula-led Bills I haven’t read anywhere but believe should be mentioned.
If they do fire Rex Ryan (and Doug Whaley) the next head coach (and GM) will take the reins knowing full well, that “jeez, we better win in year one, or the weight of an 18-year playoff drought will come crashing down on us, regardless of whether we miss the postseason by a game or go 3-13.” Don’t forget, there was a large contingency of people who thought Rex should’ve been let go after one year, which, to me, sends a horrible message to the rest of the league and is one of the purest forms of organizational dysfunction.
This let-the-entire-regular-season-play-out idea should be applied to Tyrod Taylor as well. He’s fresh off a crucial game in which he was ineffective for three quarters, but letting his sub-par performance against the Steelers erase any chance of the Bills picking up his team option would be using the same logic — just on the opposite end — as Buffalo handing Ryan Fitzpatrick a huge contract extension after the emotionally charged win over the Patriots and a 4-2 start in 2011.
If the Bills don’t play well in — and don’t win — their final three games, big changes will probably be warranted. But for as humiliating as Buffalo’s playoff drought is, I just don’t believe the Bills’ new owners should let it sway any organizational decisions.