Rex Ryan, HC – Photo credit: abcnews.go.com
Buffalo Bills: “The Winter of Our Discontent”
By Mary Pesarchick @HeyMom418
Weather wise, December in WNY was unusual, to say the least. We set a record for the latest date without measurable snowfall. The ski slopes were closed and the golf courses were open. It was 59 degrees on Christmas Day. Santa could have worn shorts!
Unfortunately, football wise, this winter is like every other winterâ€”or, specifically, the last 16 winters. The Bills are again on the outside looking in at the playoffs. All the anticipation and excitement that fueled the selling of 60,000 season tickets in July has turned to disappointment, frustration, even rage, among Bills Nation. This was supposed to be THE year where we finally relinquished the title of “Major League Sports Team with the Longest Post Season Drought” (and that is taking into account ALL the major sports, not just football. Weâ€™re talking baseball, hockey, basketball, ping pong, tiddlywinksâ€¦). Sadly, that trophy will stay on the cityâ€™s mantle for yet another year.
The tale of the 2015 Bills misfortune, full of comedy and tragedy, does seem to be one that Shakespeare would love. The players are talented, but undisciplined, and will finish the season as the #1 most penalized team in the league. A rash of ill timed and serious injuries certainly had an impactâ€”at one point, the Bills were missing Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins simultaneously. The loss of Taylor was particularly devastating as the Bills had no reliable backup QB on the team. EJ Manuel was a dismal failure and the 3rd string player, Josh Johnson, had yet to throw a pass in the NFL.Â
This situation put GM Doug Whaley on the hot seat for releasing former #2 QB Matt Cassel for no apparent reason other than Whaleyâ€™s stubborn allegiance to Manuel, who was a first round draft pick. The Bills’ usually reliable place kicker, Dan Carpenter, became a head case when it came to kicking extra points. Punt returns caused fans to hold their breath and cross their fingers. And, as if their own personnel werenâ€™t hurting them enough, the Bills were victims of incompetent referees whose decisions cost them at least two games. The NFL has since sent its sincerest(!) apologies.
(WHY, exactly, does the NFL bother to issue apologies? Just to give you the satisfaction of knowing you were right and the refs were wrong? So what?? Moral victories donâ€™t show up on stat sheets. But I digress…)
All of that said, â€œuneasy lies the head that wears the crownâ€, for the man who is the main target of the fansâ€™ wrath is Rex Ryan. The Bills have had little to be proud of these past 16 years, but the one thing they had recently was a great defense. It was so dominant in 2014, and fans were salivating thinking what it could do with Rex as head coach. Ah, but therein lies the rub. Inexplicably, Rex decided to tinker with something that wasnâ€™t broken, creating complex schemes that the defensive players couldnâ€™t or wouldnâ€™t follow. The vaunted, multimillion dollar D-line was asked to drop back into coverage instead of rushing the quarterback, a situation Mario Williams complained bitterly about to the media. The defensive backfield looked confused and disorganized, unsure of their assignments even late into the season. Consequently, the plan to have a dynamite defense that would shore up what was expected to be a shaky offense, failed miserably. And that is what so many fans find unforgivable.
At the post season press conference, the fans were exhorted to have faith in this coaching staff, to accept their assurance that NEXT year will be our year. After all, the team finished 8-8 and they may, finally, have found a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Nonetheless, it will take quite a while to shake this particular disappointment.
What is equally true, though, is that come next season, Bills fans will be ready and willing to follow the team â€œonce more into the breachâ€.