The Buffalo Bills are the professional sports equivalent of the movie "Groundhog Day." In the movie, Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman who dreads having been assigned to cover the ceremony with Punxsutawney Phil for the news. Murray ends up re-living the day over and over. Every morning when his hotel clock radio goes off, the same Sonny and Cher song is playing and its Groundhog Day once again.
That is exactly how I feel every December when it comes to the Bills. I wake up on game day, and prepare for my pre-game show only to realize the Bills are out of the playoff race and have a month of meaningless games left. We get call after call from fans saying the team will never win until they get a new owner. We wonder if the front office can fix this mess? Do they have the right coach in place? Can this quarterback really be the answer? Will the Bills ever make the playoffs again?
We start talking about draft position and what the priorities are since they won't be big spenders in free agency. Then we say it doesn't really matter because they'll just miss on the early round draft picks anyway. How many consecutive Decembers have we been going through this? Like I said, its Groundhog Day.
Even though I should be used to this or immune to this by now, this may be the most depressing December yet. This season was different, or so it seemed. There were bright spots in a number of areas. Various moves by the front office were panning out like Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears helping stabilize the offensive line. Recent early draft picks like Eric Wood and Andy Levitre were playing well. Even a rookie, Chris Hairston, was faring well when pressed into starting service.
Who needed Lee Evans? Stevie Johnson and his fellow receiving cast of no names were doing just fine. The Bills actually found a tight end who could make big catches in Scott Chandler, picked up off the street by Buddy Nix and company. Fred Jackson was being mentioned in NFL MVP conversations and lo and behold the Bills found their quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick got the big contract the team had been holding onto while waiting to see if JP Losman or Trent Edwards were worth it. Chan Gailey looked like an offensive genius with the Bills among the highest scoring teams in the league.
On defense, the Bills were giving up massive amounts of yardage but they were getting pressure on quarterbacks, taking the ball away and even scoring touchdowns. Good riddance Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner, the team was much better off with Nick Barnett and George Wilson.
The it all came crushing down in November, one of the worst months out of way too many bad months in the last 10 plus years. If you had put together a list of positives and negatives of the 2011 Bills, by now almost everything that you listed as a positive has either been moved to the negative column or put into a new category called not sure anymore.
As far as the front office, despite the performance of CJ Spiller last Sunday, the 2010 draft class hasn't had much of an impact this season. The no name receiving corps made for a good story but it sure looks like the Bills need more talent to surround Fitzpatrick with. Questions about Fitzpatrick's accuracy and consistency have returned. Now I'm wondering if the Bills should draft a qb next April.
Chan Gailey just had what I think was his worst single game as head coach of the Bills and for the last month it appears opposing defenses have caught up with Buffalo's offense and Gailey has been unable to counter attack. A slew of injuries has also made clear something we were afraid of, the depth isn't good enough. On defense, the takeaways have dried up. There were 18 in the first 7 games and 4 in the last 4. The pass rush is non existent. Whether its a 4 man rush or the rare blitz, the Bills aren't getting near the quarterback.
A strong final month of the season would help allay my fears that the franchise is back to square one but I'm not excpecting that. In fact, I'm not so sure they won't end up in the basement of the AFC East. Not too long ago, the Bills were 5-2 and 5 games up on the then 0-7 Miami Dolphins. Now Buffalo is only 1 game ahead of the red hot Dolphins who will be at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the 3rd place showdown a week from Sunday. Its quite possible that this Sunday's game in San Diego is the most winnable contest left on the schedule and should they lose to the Chargers, a 5-11 record is extremely possible. Even the most pessimistic Buffalo sports fan couldn't have envisioned that(I think).
Here's hoping come December 2012, I'm not writing this article again(although I will save it in my files just in case) and we're not feeling like Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day." Anyone else hearing Sonny and Cher singing "I Got You Babe" in their head right now?