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Neither lucky nor good, the Buffalo Bills should try something else

On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
November 16, 2012

Well, I have tried to avoid this subject for weeks now, but like a migraine headache, it won’t go away. I’ve looked the other way, watched old movies on TV, read books, played a little golf, taken afternoon naps, etc. Heck, everything but twiddle my thumbs.
And still it keeps popping into my mind. No, it’s not dreading our first snowstorm—assuming we will get one this winter—or putting my golf clubs away till springtime and hearing them whine in the basement.
The agony I have finally confronted is the never-ending disaster in Buffalo known as the Bills. When will it end? Will it ever end?
Many of us had thought this was the year the Bills would turn it around, finish with a winning record and maybe even make the playoffs. Instead of finding a way to win, they always seem to find a way to lose—not every game, but far too many.
They’re 3-6 after that stupid, ugly 37-31 loss to New England last Sunday, a game they coulda/shoulda won. (The paper goes to press before Thursday night’s game against Miami.) So what in the name of Ralph Wilson is wrong with “our” team? Lack of talent? Lousy coaching? Players’ lack of confidence? Players who can’t handle the pressure, who choke?
The answer is … it doesn’t matter what the answer is. General manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey have to get this derailed train up and running sooner than later. Otherwise, Buddy and Chan, y’all can hit the road and head back to Miss’ippi.
In the professional sports world, and especially in the NFL, things turn around on a somewhat regular basis because of the college draft and free agency. Teams evolve; poor teams get better, and good teams get worse.
Proof? The New York Jets were 9-7 in ’09, and as this is written they’re 3-6. The Houston Texans were 9-7 then and now lead the AFC South at 8-1. Baltimore was also 9-7 in 2009 and is 7-2. San Diego was 13-3 three seasons ago and goes into Week 10 with a 4-5 record.
How about the Dallas Cowboys? They were 11-5 in ’09 and are 4-5 so far this season. Philadelphia was 11-5 then and is 3-6 now. Atlanta was 9-7 in 2009 and now leads the NFC South with an 8-1 record. One more: The Minnesota Vikings went 12-4 three years ago and have already lost four games.
But some teams stay the same, a la the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999, when many players on the current team hadn’t even started shaving yet. And some weren’t even out of junior high.
So what’s the Bills’ problem? Uh, make that problems. Well, let’s start with the defense that was supposed to be capable of stopping an avalanche when Mario Williams joined the team. After nine games, Buffalo’s defense(less) is 31st in the NFL.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills are sixth in the league in rushing yardage, thanks to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. The only thing those two don’t do is get their hands on the ball enough. Spiller’s per-carry average is 7.3 yards and he has rushed for four TDs, but through nine games he’s averaging 9.6 carries a game. Jackson’s number is 8.3 carries a game.
How about passing numbers? Buffalo is 25th in the league, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is in the middle of the pack with an 87.5 QB rating. The downside, as we all know, is he makes too many poor throws that get intercepted.
He got most of the blame for the interception he threw on second-and-15 with only a few seconds left in last Sunday’s game, even though rookie receiver T.J. Graham said he ran the wrong route. Still, Fitz threw the ball where Graham was supposed to be, not where he was, and that did it.
Chan, ol’ boy, I know you’re busy, busy, busy, but is there any chance you and I could sit down, have a cool one and discuss your team? Probably not, but I do have a few suggestions based on one of the engraved rules in sports: If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.
How about putting some deception plays in the playbook—or, if they’re there, using them? You know, fake a down-and-out pass and have the receiver—Stevie Johnson?—cut toward the sideline and then turn upfield at full speed. How about running a draw play or two or three a game? How about a Fitzpatrick bootleg on first or second down inside the five-yard line?
Anyway, Bills, forget the cliche that it’s better to be lucky than good. Right now, you poor guys are neither. Let’s just hope things get better—much, much better.

Rick Woodson’s column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at His book, “Words of Woodson,” is available at Listen to his weekly program, “The Golf Tee,” at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.11/16/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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