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The NFL balance of power changes, but not in Buffalo

On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
October 12, 2012

Maybe you've noticed and maybe you haven't, but in some cities the NFL evolution has begun. No, the players aren't getting bigger-except for their egos-although there are more 300-pounders than ever before. And they're not getting any faster, just wealthier.
But every few seasons, roughly every eight years or so, the pro football talent level changes and with it, the balance of power. Yeah, yeah, I know, there is one exception: the Buffalo Bills, who are well on their way to their eighth straight losing season and 13th straight without making the playoffs. More on them later. There are no forever-dominant New York Yankees in the NFL.
The teams with the worst records get to pick first in the NFL draft every year, no doubt to keep the league competitive. Not every team in the NFL gets better or worse at the same time, but given the way the 2012 season has started, it looks as if it's happening for some.
Take the New England Patriots, who have this generation's "greatest quarterback of all time," Tom Brady. Last season, the Pats went 13-3 and ran away with the AFL East. This season New England has started by losing two of its first five games. And Brady turned 35 back in August. He's still a great player, but his meter is running.
Want more? How about the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went 12-4 last year behind the golden arm of Ben Roethlisberger? Despite his good numbers so far this season, the Steelers started the year 2-2 and this week were on the road in Tennessee.
Speaking of the Titans, they were 1-4 after five games, last in the AFC South, after going 9-7 last season. Also on a downward slide are the New Orleans Saints, 1-4 now after going 13-3 in 2011.
OK, back to Western New York. Is there a more consistent team in the NFL than the Buffalo Bills-consistently awful, that is? Oh, they've had their moments-starting 5-2 last season before crashing to 6-10-but so far this season they've been hung out to dry.
Almost everyone thought this would be a turnaround season for the Bills after they made defensive tackle Mario Williams the most overpaid player on the planet. Instead of the Bills defense stopping opponents to get the ball back into the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, they might as well be trying to stop a lava flow with a paper towel. They've allowed almost 1,600 yards and 131 points in their three losses. As the good ol' boy from the South, head coach Chan Gailey, would put it, "it don't get no worse'n nat."
So who's to blame for what's happening and not happening with the Bills? With Williams on the field and the reputable Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, the word was that the Bills were all wired up and ready to turn on the juice. Instead, there are too many erroneous connections that keep tripping the circuit breakers.
Doubts are gushing from everywhere about whether general manager Buddy Nix and Gailey are in over their heads.
As much as I hate to admit it, Chan, Buddy and I might all have been wrong about Fitzpatrick. We thought he had the stuff to be a rock-solid NFL quarterback, so they gave him a long-term contract worth a reported $59 million. A mistake? Without question, unless something changes dramatically.
Fitz's numbers aren't awful, but they're not great either. He has completed 58 percent of his passes, with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His quarterback rating is a less than so-so 84.2. Hey, if what you're doing isn't working, try something else, but no other Bill has thrown a pass yet this season because Gailey and Nix have stayed with him no matter what.
The way they have failed to perform against good-but-not-great teams, my guess is the Bills might not even match last season's 6-10 record. They have too many problems to fix and nowhere near enough tools to fix them. If I were a betting man, I'd bet my whole roll that either Gailey or Nix or both of them won't be around when the Bills end another nasty season.
It's too bad. I like those guys, especially their good ol' Southern accents. When I see videos of them being interviewed by the media, I keep expecting one of them to say: "Interview over, y'all. I gotta go slop the hogs."
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 107.10/12/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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