The Buffalo Bills are 4-2. Woohoo! While some of the recent wins (Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons) do not look as good as they did at the time, a win is a win, and the team is 4-2 and only a game out of the AFC East. I’ve made (and am making) travel plans to go back to Buffalo for games. “The Process” is working.
Maybe we all need to relax.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do, but we’ve been here before. The 2011 Bills started 4-1, beating New England (who finished 13-3) and the Philadelphia dream team (which finished 8-8). I moved into a new apartment that fall and named my wireless router “Ohohfitzmagic.” But the 2011 Bills were a fraud.
Chan Gailey could coach offense with the best of them, but a wide receiver corps consisting of Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, and Scott Chandler couldn’t get the job done. The team lacked talent on defense as well and gave up 27, 44, 35, 28, 23, 37, and 30 points as the team fell from 5-2 to 5-9.
However, the 2017 Bills are not the 2011 Bills. They have more talent, the schedule looks promising, and the defense just seems to have something about it to make plays when needed. But there are similarities. The 2017 Bills are not talented compared to the NFL as a whole (seriously, look at how bad the 2011 Bills were). The 2017 offensive playmakers are at the bottom of the league. The linebacker group consists of late-round picks, undrafted players, and Preston Brown. Shareece Wright had to play significant snap at the No. 2 cornerback position last week, and may have to again this week against Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. The Bills have given up 384 and 328 passing yards in the last two games. Bend but don’t break and relying on turnovers is great, but is it sustainable?
I think Sean McDermott is going to be a great defensive coach. He and his staff have shown the ability to call the right plays at the right times in key moments this season. Rick Dennison has been uninspiring to say the least, and the whole coaching staff (and most likely Tyrod Taylor, too) has botched some late-game or late-half situations. I have no idea if Brandon Beane will be a good general manager.
However, considering their lack of experience (a combined zero years as head coach and general manager), it takes quite an ego to do what McDermott and Beane did on arrival in Buffalo. Trading talented players for draft picks is a gamble on your ability to find and replace such players, and it has taken the Jaguars, Rams, Browns, etc. years and multiple coaches/front offices to turn draft capital into talented teams. If the “tank” talk motivated the player’s to exceed expectations, great. It should have. I can’t imagine any professional wants to read and hear what was being discussed in August. The locker room is united and it has been awesome to see.
But that doesn’t change that trading your top wide receiver in August for a future pick and worse replacement makes you a worse team. EJ Gaines has been a revelation and is tabbed as a better scheme fit, but Darby is still a good young player. There is a reason Philadelphia gave up a 3rd round pick AND a solid, if unspectacular, wide receiver for him. Even if Gaines has played slightly better through five games (I know, Darby is hurt), the drop-off from Watkins to Matthews is greater than the gap between Gaines and Darby. Yes, Watkins had one year left on this contract, but that was a self-inflicted fact (see below). The reality that this team has won four of its first six games does not change the facts of what happened in March-August. Kyle Williams and the veterans were pissed people thought they were tanking. Kyle is a legend and always will be, but One Bills Drive was not trying to make the team better in 2017.
If the team’s personnel is better in 2017 (overall and especially on defense, it is certainly better coached), it is hard to give credit where due. Doug Whaley was the general manager overseeing the Bills’ key offseason acquisitions of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. He was also the general manager when the team let Stephon Gilmore leave (considering his contract), didn’t sign a non-Andre Holmes wide receiver to replace Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, didn’t use the fifth-year option on Sammy Watkins, failed to sign or match Mike Gillislee’s contract, and didn’t sign a linebacker or cornerback to replace Gilmore and Zach Brown. Whaley was also the GM during the 2017 NFL Draft when the team traded back in the first round to draft Tre’Davious White, traded up to draft Zay Jones, and traded up to draft Dion Dawkins. Lots of pluses and minuses on both sides of the ledger.
I get the sense that the above paragraph is at least subconsciously being attributed to McDermott and the Process. Maybe it should be. Whaley could have been a lame duck resigned to making decisions based on McDermott’s wishes. We don’t really know the answer. The success on the field and likeability of McDermott (he lets local news media talk to him!) has the Process gaining traction. I just worry that on-field success may be obscuring the reality that the Bills lack depth and talent, and McDermott and Beane have never run a team before.
Chip Kelly was considered an offensive genius who had never run an NFL team before. He went 10-6 in his first season and expectations were sky-high. Then he traded LeSean McCoy, cut DeSean Jackson, let Jeremy Maclin leave in free agency, and traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford (and signed Mark Sanchez as a backup). We know that didn’t work out so well for Chip.
4-2 is great though. Go Bills.
Do you Trust the Process?
This poll is closed
Too early to tell