What job is the most repetitive, boring, and mundane of all jobs? Well in my short time on this earth I haven’t had many, but I have watched enough Buffalo Bills football to notice that the rhetoric for writers and broadcasters covering the team hasn’t changed for over a decade. The job of a Bills reporter is walk into One Bills Drive and report to the masses the intense and unrelenting misery that is associated with rooting for this team, as if to say: “hey, you picked them, not me.” After the Bills 20-13 loss on Sunday to Indianapolis it appears that the Bills are not backing up against, not staring down, and not really, really, staring down another playoff-less season, they’ve done everything but written the obituary and prepared the snacks for the reception following the funeral. At 4-7 winning out would make the Bills 9-7, which in this season may or may not be good enough to join the rank of teams that have caught lightning in a jar at least once in the past decade. Get ready Bills fans, because barring a miracle, you will be hearing about 1999 for another long off-season.
Another recycled, tired line that we are hearing out of media outlets in Western New York that this is a team that simply cannot finish. What a sickeningly overused buzzword, right? Well if the shoe fits, wear it, because finishing games hasn’t just been a problem for the Bills this season, try the last 12. Through Gregg Williams, Mike Mularky, Dick Jauron, and now to Chan Gailey the Bills have not been able to put together a season where they played as well as they could have for 16 games. There hasn’t been a complete lack of talent in the Buffalo organization for the past 12 years. The 2004 team went 9-7 and was one win away from a playoff bid. Dick Jauron seemed to have a team that was on the fringe of the wild card every season about until week 14 or 15, only to finish 7-9. This team was by far the most talented since the last playoff birth, and they are looking at a 4-7 record and a pile of questions. Because we live in a sports viewing society that appreciates the blame game more than anything and unfairly places all the burden of loss and joy of victory on two members of a 100 plus man operation, I figured it would be time to view the future of the coach and the quarterback. For Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick, both have seen better days.
Chan Gailey was not anyone’s first choice when he was hired in 2010. Bills fans wanted a Gruden, or Cowher, or an Schottenheimer. Instead they got a North Florida native who had coached the Cowboys and Georgia Tech to relative mediocrity. “Great,” Bills fans thought, “if we are lucky we can keep going 7-9.”
Of course what Gailey inherited was a team without a strong presence at quarterback and the worst rush defense I have ever seen. After changing to Ryan Fitzpatrick the Bills began to play harder and although they went 4-12 in season one, there was something resembling optimism in the Buffalo air. A strong start coupled with not being able to finish (yup, that sickening word again) led the Bills to an improved 6-10 season in year two.
In the offseason the Bills made a splash that no one needs reminding of. After Mario Williams graced Buffalo with his presence the expectations grew with the new defensive toy’s bank account. A solid draft and another year of the offensive players learning the system had many Bills fans hoping for the playoffs. The record now stands at 4-7 and the question is quick off the lips of every Western New Yorker: does Chan Gailey get another year? The answer is a little more complicated then a yes or no. The Bills schedule going forward is one of the easiest in the NFL, so when Stevie Johnson says that he seriously believes the team can go 9-7, it isn’t just player speak. The Bills running the table isn’t out of the question. Obviously 9-7 should be enough to save Chan Gailey his job, were the answer gets more complicated is if the team goes 7-9 or 8-8. It is an improvement, sure, but this is a team that has quantifiable playoff talent. The knock on Gailey all year has been his inability to call a game. The Bills have one of the most electric players in the NFL, but because of a play calling style that can only be described as odd, he also remains one of the biggest mysteries in the league. Chan Gailey has vastly underutilized C.J. Spiller. This has been the hottest and most unrelenting source of criticism for Gailey this season, and it comes with good reason. Last week C.J. Spiller ran the ball only 14 times, but for over 100 yards. Why Chan Gailey doesn’t utilize Spiller more is beyond me, but if there has been one justified criticism of Gailey it is his inability to call a game.
Of the two, Fitzpatrick is the hardest to replace. The Bills are not far away from being a playoff team in terms of talent, and to start the process over with a new quarterback would do more harm than good. Yes, it is infuriating to watch Fitzpatrick’s inconsistency and yes, the only consistent part of his game has been is ineptitude in the clutch, but would a rookie or new mid level starter really catapult this team to the playoffs? Probably not.
The question should be asked, and pretty easily answered by Bills fans; can you win a Super Bowl with Ryan Fitzpatrick? Maybe if you gave him the San Francisco 49ers defense, but because the Bills don’t have that it is hard to imagine him hoisting the Lombardi trophy. If that is the case, what is the point of having him as your franchise quarterback? The Bills will eventually need a replacement at QB, but right now is not the time to make that change.
Time is something that is so often ignored in sports. Fans want a quick fix, but the harsh reality is that time is the only thing that will fix the Buffalo Bills. The fate of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey, both need a similar amount of time