The Buffalo Bills fired their offensive coordinator two weeks into the 2016 season. The timing is certainly not ideal and the curious news keeps piling up from the Pegulas butting in and meeting with players behind Rex Ryan's back to them firing him right after they took the team photo. How can they justify the move? It's a combination of multiple problems coming to a head.
A common argument against firing Roman is that the offense put up a lot of points in Week 2. It's misguided. Buffalo had two sustained drives in Week 1, resulting in a missed field goal and their lone score. In Week 2, they hit on the big plays that were lacking in the first game but had just one sustained drive before the Jets went into their prevent mode. Two huge plays for long touchdowns are great, but they cover up a big problem for the 2016 Bills; only four drives have gone past their opponents' 42-yard line.
Third down futility
The biggest reason drives are stalling comes on third down, where Buffalo is 6-of-23 this season. Six third down conversions is fewer than the number the Jets had in a single game against Buffalo. The Bills' current third down conversion rate of 26.1% is 29th in the league. Even if you include all of Roman's 18 games as coordinator, it is just 36.8%.
How many blown timeouts have the Bills used because the play call came in late? How many times have they approached the line of scrimmage with six seconds remaining on the play clock? In the fourth quarter, down six points, the Bills had a third-and-one at the Jets' 45-yard line. EJ Manuel was stuffed on a keeper, then they called timeout to get into position for fourth down after he couldn't draw them offsides with a hard count, a game stop they could have used later when making their comeback attempt. (The conversion attempt failed, to boot.) In Week 1, Buffalo was forced to call timeout 5:34 into the third quarter after a 3rd-and-16 play call came in late. (They gained one yard on the subsequent play, hardly worth the play stop.) Later that week, in the fourth quarter of a one-score game, they called timeout before a third and seven play because the call came in late. (They failed to convert.)
Greg Roman thinking Rex Ryan is a "buffoon" is pretty bad. That's enough where he shouldn't have been around to start the season at all, an opportunity Roman wanted but apparently couldn't find. If folks aren't pulling in the same direction, it wastes time and energy.
This is the most egregious for me. Sammy Watkins wasn't targeted until four minutes remained in the second quarter in Week 2. He had just five targets all game. In Week 1, he wasn't targeted until the first play of the second quarter. Two looks before halftime and six times overall in the first week isn't enough. It's become a weekly joke on Twitter. Get the ball in your playmakers' hands. Charles Clay has four more targets than Greg Salas. Why are you paying him if you're not going to use him?
If Roman lost the trust of those playmakers, and those players told the Pegulas during private meetings, that's a big deal. If I was the owner and heard Tyrod Taylor or Sammy Watkins say "Roman is the problem on offense," I'd call up Rex Ryan and tell him to can the coordinator, too.
It's obvious Rex Ryan is further committing to the 2016 season as a "make or break" type season. He has personal friends running the offense and helping him run his defense. If it wasn't playoffs or bust before the season, it's shaping up that way early on in Ryan's second season at the helm.