When I drive to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the season finale on December 30th, I’m half expecting to see the phrase “Stay The Course” in big, bold letters on the back of the Jumbotron.
That seems to be the general message emanating from One Bills Drive these days as if the organization is preparing its fans for a fourth season of the Buddy Nix/Chan Gailey era.
But the 2012 season has been all about the Bills veering off course which is why these last 2 games should be the final games in the Nix/Gailey regime.
In interviews on WGR, we heard the General Manager say you can’t fire the head coach every 3 years to energize the fan base. Less than 24 hours after the blowout in Toronto, the Head Coach said he didn’t think he’d ever see another game like that, believing the Bills had “turned the corner”. On Wednesday, Bills CEO Russ Brandon said you can’t make changes to “appease the March crowd or the off season crowd”.
There is merit in the argument that teams need continuity but that doesn’t mean changes shouldn’t be made when warranted.
Chan Gailey enters Sunday’s game at Miami with a 15-31 record as Bills Head Coach. To put things into a scary perspective, Gailey needs to win the remaining 2 games just to move into a tie with Gregg Williams who had a 17-31 record in his 3 uninspiring seasons in Orchard Park. If Gailey wins the last 2 games, he’d still be 4 games behind the even more uninspiring Dick Jauron.
Actually Gailey is keeping with the fine tradition of the franchise having below average coaches. The Bills have had 16 coaches in their history and only 4 left with a winning record: Lou Saban, Chuck Knox, Marv Levy and Wade Phillips.
Gailey’s winning percentage of .326 is currently the 6th worst in franchise history. In addition to the 15-31 overall record, low lights of the Gailey era include a 3-13 record against the AFC East and a grand total of 1 win over a team that ended up with a winning record(New England, 2011).
When you break down this season, some will point out that Gailey’s 5 wins have come over teams with a combined record of 20-50 but this is the NFL and plenty of teams “fatten” their record against mediocre competition. The more damning statistic is the Bills record against teams that currently have a winning record. It is 0-6 and in those defeats, the Bills have been outscored 225-101. They’re good enough to beat the bad teams but not nearly ready for prime time.
Take a look at the defense and how it performed based on the level of the opposing offense. In games where the Bills faced an offense that is currently ranked anywhere from 21st to 32nd, they gave up an average of just 19 points a game and were 5-3. In games versus offenses that were 11th-20th, Buffalo went 0-2 and yielded an average of 28 points. Finally, in matchups against offenses ranked 1st-10th, the defense was ripped to the tune of 38 points a game and the Bills lost all 4 contests.
Gailey has had 2 defensive coordinators in his 3 years and neither has been effective. In fact, all 3 Gailey years are in the Bills record book, listed among the top 5 worst single season performances in terms of points allowed and total yards allowed.
It shouldn’t take this long to turn things around in a league designed to promote parity and keep teams from being down for an extended amount of time. Look at the team that just kicked the Bills butts, the Seattle Seahawks.
Pete Carroll was hired the same off season the Bills brought in Gailey. Carroll inherited a team that had gone 9-23 the previous 2 seasons. Carroll went 7-9 in 2010(Gailey was 4-12) and 7-9 again in 2011(Gailey was 6-10). Now Seattle is 9-5 and in a playoff spot. They also appear to have found their franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson, who Nix and Gailey liked but felt drafting him in the 3rd round would have been too high.
You shouldn’t make change for the sake of making change and Russ Brandon is partially correct that change shouldn’t be made to “appease the March crowd” but isn’t that how the Bills have been selling hope for most of the last 13 years?
You make change because it’s the right thing to do and the time has come. I think the Bills do have more talent on the roster than they did 3 years ago when Nix/Gailey were given control of the football operations at One Bills Drive but the results aren’t showing up in the won-loss record. That goes on the coach and his staff.
As far as I’m concerned, the Bills need new direction(again), so here’s my advice for Mr. Wilson. Thank Buddy Nix for the job he’s done and for upgrading the roster in some areas. Then tell him its time to step aside and give the job to Doug Whaley who is considered an up and coming GM candidate around the league.
Whaley can then be allowed to make the coaching change and find the 17th Head Coach in Buffalo Bills history. The duo can also cut ties with Ryan Fitzpatrick, identify the best quarterback available in the draft and move heaven and earth, if that’s what it takes, to get that guy.
If the Bills instead opt to “stay the course” expect fans to “stay away” from their games in 2013.