Well, that was fun. Another Buffalo Bills season is over, and at 3-5, this coaching staff will do their best to finish at a wonderfully mediocre record in the 7-9 to 8-8 area. Then, the Bills will be stuck, again, in the middle of the first round, where you either have to reach or settle.
I am absolutely convinced that all of this Toronto garbage is really just the NFL posturing to get a suitor to keep the team in Buffalo once Ralph Wilson is finally gone. My guess would be some group lead by Jim Kelly. If that is the case, I will probably get excited for the first time in a decade or so—but until then, we can only hope.
Until then, I can only hope for some level of sanity and that someone younger than 60 is hired to lead this team.
Look no further than the Colts for inspiration. Their new general manager, Ryan Grigson, is 40 and has a fresh attitude and view on building a team. The Colts went 3-13 last year. They are already 6-3. Now, admittedly, the AFC is a weaker conference this year, but that is stunning. Much of that can also be attributed to the surprisingly positive play of Andrew Luck. (Enough of them, though. It depresses me even more when a team endures a single losing season, coming right back into contention the following year.)
That should be a sign to Buffalo and provide a model for them to follow. Buddy Nix has shown that he does not have his finger on the pulse of the NFL anymore. I like his drafting—the best talent is from the Deep South—but everything else he has done has been questionable. Aside from signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson last offseason, his moves have yielded little return. There are no other notable signings, and those two players are already on the IR (Anderson) and struggling (Williams).
Time for Nix to be given his walking papers.
Let's start with DeCosta. He has been at Ozzie Newsome's side with the Baltimore/Cleveland franchise for 17 years. We all know Ozzie doesn't just walk in and tell everyone who he's signing and that's it. This front office has made some of the best decisions in the league since Newsome became the GM. There's no reason to think DeCosta couldn't be given a shot at the top position. Apparently, he's set to take over when Ozzie leaves, but it's worth a try.
The other option is Brian Gutekunst. He's been in Green Bay's scouting department for 14 years. The Packers are on a short list of the best personnel departments in the NFL. He had a hand in taking players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Greg Jennings early, as well as scoring later steals like Jordy Nelson, John Kuhn and James Starks.
Once that position is changed, Chan Gailey can also pack his bags. I like two candidates here as well: Bruce Arians and Chip Kelly.
Let's start with Arians, since he's a known NFL commodity. Aside from a relatively impossible situation with the Cleveland Browns, his NFL career has been marked only by success. He molded the young Peyton Manning and has also been a part of most of Ben Roethlisberger's success. Now he is guiding the young Andrew Luck. And if you look on his fingers, there are two Super Bowl rings. Enough said.
On the other hand, hiring Chip Kelly could be compared to Tampa Bay plucking Greg Schiano from the college ranks last year. Kelly seems rather comfortable, but will the Oregon Ducks ever be taken seriously or given a shot as long as the media has an obsession with the SEC? Probably not. A jump to the NFL could allow him to shine with—wait for it—a playoff!
Would Kelly's system translate? I don't know, but at least it would look like an effort by the front office instead of hiring more coaches with nothing but failures. He has had nothing but success so far in his burgeoning career.
On to the on-field personnel. There is some talent on this team. Nix has had some solid success in the draft.
The offense isn't bad. Aside from a missing right tackle, which could be filled by Chris Hairston, I don't see issues there.
In the backfield, as good as Fred Jackson is, C.J. Spiller is phenomenal. He is a game-breaker. My issues begin with the receiving corps. Stevie Johnson is the only useful player, T.J Graham is an unknown, and the rest is marginal at best. My choice would be a couple of free agency upgrades here. I would love to see a vertical threat in the form of Mike Wallace. I don't see Pittsburgh handing him a long-term contract.
The other player I'd like to take a chance on is Jared Cook from the Titans. He has been underutilized since entering the league and has already asked to be traded.
Wouldn't that be a couple of nice upgrades?
The biggest deficiency is Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is the paramount reason Nix should be fired. Fitzpatrick is and has never been more than an average quarterback.
Now is where I jump back on a soapbox from one of my previous articles. It's becoming more and more obvious that Blaine Gabbert's days in Jacksonville are numbered. The Jaguars will take a quarterback next year, possibly Matt Barkley. Gabbert hasn't looked bad this year. There is not enough talent protecting him, even though he has hung a lot tougher in the pocket this year. This allows you to not start from scratch at the most important position and contend for the playoffs next year.
I actually like most of the defense. We could use an upgrade or two at linebacker, but there is something internally wrong on that side, and it has to be Dave Wannstedt. With front office and head coaching changes, his head will roll as well.
That's it; it has to be done. From top to bottom, changes must be made. Isn't twelve years enough?