ESPN’s Mike Sando put out an Insider piece Tuesday looking at the continuity each NFL team has displayed since 2012 in a few different key roles. It’s a simple ranking based on the number of different people who held five positions with each team over that time span: general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and primary starting quarterback. Ties were broken based on overall roster continuity.
Needless to say, the Buffalo Bills did not fare well.
The Bills have had two general managers, four head coaches, four offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, and three primary quarterbacks since 2012, placing them 31st in the league. Only the Cleveland Browns fared worse, and the other two teams in the bottom four are the two teams picking behind the Browns at the top of the NFL Draft this year, the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears.
To answer your first question: no, I can’t tell what definition he uses for “primary quarterback”. The Bills have had four quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards since 2012: Ryan Fitzpatrick, EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton, and Tyrod Taylor. I’m guessing that Orton was left off on account of Manuel starting the first four games for the Bills in 2014. Also, I counted four defensive coordinators in the time frame: Dave Wannstedt, Mike Pettine, Jim Schwartz, and Dennis Thurman. He may have given Rob Ryan some credit for filling a pseudo-DC role, but again, who knows?
It’s also important to note that not all of the major changes were necessarily anybody’s fault. The only general manager shift since 2012 was a result of Buddy Nix’s retirement, and whether or not you feel that Doug Whaley should have been fired by this point, he’s still there. Mike Pettine would have remained in place as defensive coordinator into 2014 had the Browns not come calling with a head coaching offer, and may have even stayed on with the team under his mentor, Rex Ryan.
Regardless of the caveats, though, let’s not dance around the fact that the Bills have an inordinate amount of turnover in positions where stability should be prioritized. The top five teams in Sando’s rankings are the New England Patriots (who have seen zero turnover in those roles since 2012), Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers. Those teams combined to fill 11 of the 20 spots in a conference championship game and five of the 10 spots in a Super Bowl since 2012. Meanwhile, every team in the bottom five of the rankings (the New York Jets placed 28th) has “earned” at least two top 10 picks in the NFL Draft in those five seasons.
The methodology for this list might be all over the place, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the Bills have been a beacon for stability in recent times. There’s a reason that the Pegulas have preached “continuity” since purchasing the team in 2014. Ideally, Sean McDermott and his staff will stay in place for a long time, and the team will reap the benefits of not being forced to teach a new system to the players every year.