Things certainly got ugly in a hurry for the Bills. Shortly after dismantling the Browns, some were wondering where the Bills could end up on the other side of their showdowns with New England and San Francisco.
Well, they came out 2-3, like many thought in the preseason. But the Bills didn’t end up 2-3 in the manner that most expected. A pair of lopsided losses has all but drained hope and interest from most fans. What remains are lingering questions and some semi-sarcastic remarks about #GiveUpForGeno and what number the Bills’ eventual number one pick will wear.
There are three specific questions that need to be answered by the Bills before the season is out. Assuming that some of the same song and dance continues, these questions might be answered by mid-season.
1. What is the expiration date on Dave Wannstedt as defensive coordinator? – Wannstedt took over for George Edwards after he was gassed last season. Edwards was canned after two seasons of abysmal defense and his obvious inability to adjust his scheme. Well, Wannstedt might be staring at an awful defense that is at least twice as deep and talented as the Bills had last season. I would appear that his scheme isn’t flexible enough to keep up with the big boys and the holes in the defense are digging the Bills an awfully deep grave. Does Wannstedt deserve to be fired? It is possible that he could end up on the chopping block. He can’t make much out of a dynamic front four – despite the obvious shortcomings in the secondary and at linebacker – and hasn’t been able to adjust when it is obvious his game plan has gone up in flames.
However, firing him wouldn’t solve much. All that would happen is the installation of an interim coordinator who likely wouldn’t make many drastic schematic changes. The same answer serves for those calling for Chan Gailey’s head. Sure, you get the poison out, but who runs the units if one or both are dismissed? The best solution might be to wait until the end of the year, which is a scary thought.
2. When will the personnel misadventures end? - The Tavaris Jackson acquisition combined with the release of Vince Young is looking dumber by the day. The same could be said of releasing Drayton Florence in the spring and pinning the Bills’ hopes to Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore. Ultimately, the Bills have made some poor choices with personnel this season and it would seem to be biting them now that the injury bug has reared its ugly head.
If Jackson isn’t going to see the field, cut him. Sign another receiver who might add more of a threat to the offense than they have currently. Maybe there is a quality corner on the market who is capable of defending the pass, unlike Aaron Williams attempts to do each week. Or, better yet, find some more help along the offensive line. Injuries have suddenly ravaged the unit and talent is suddenly at a premium for the group that was previously the best on the team.
3. What direction does this team take? – No matter what is said by the staff, the fix is likely in for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He isn’t any better than a .500 quarterback who is likely best served as a backup in the NFL. That would mean that the selection of a quarterback in the draft is imminent. That brings into question the ridiculous notion of tanking the season to ensure the first pick. While that is a highly unlikely notion to maintain, there is also a chance that the Bills could spiral out of control and end up near the top of the draft on their own. I will say that they likely won’t finish worse than 6-10 based on their schedule and the talent that has been on vacation these past two weeks.
One issue regarding the direction the team will pursue the rest of the year not only revolves around their relatively easy schedule, but the vast number of needs that need to be addressed immediately. It is painfully obvious that Aaron Williams isn’t a starting cornerback and the linebacking corps appears to be flawed in many aspects. Injuries have suddenly decimated the line and that group will need to be treated soon. Should those issues not be addressed right away, the season could get away from the team. However, players will get healthy and the team will find a way to win some games. No matter how horrible the Bills looked over the past six quarters, they are still 2-3. Believe it or not, a few wins not only keeps them in second place in the AFC East, but would keep them within a sniff of a wild card spot. So, no matter your opinion, the direction should still be towards winning. If you already bought a Geno Smith jersey, don’t take the tags off just yet.
Is this a playoff team? Probably not. There are a few too many flaws that remain that will keep the Bills out of the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean they still won’t string together more wins. While they face planted in each of their losses, most fans expected a 2-3 record after the 49ers game. In fact, most expected a sub-.500 record after playing Houston and New England out of the bye.
Opinions about the last two losses shouldn’t be tempered. However, the Bills are right about where most expected them to be. Now it is time to right the ship and address the flaws staring them in the face.