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Howard Simon's Blog

Give Spiller The Ball, Please!!!

During a recent segment on WGR, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix was asked by a caller if he would fire Head Coach Chan Gailey should the Bills fail to make the playoffs. 
Nix essentially said no when he explained the Bills usually fire their coach every three years to energize the fan base and  constantly starting over isn’t a good idea.
Two days after that comment, Gailey may have sealed his fate as far as most of Bills Nation is concerned with some very questionable play calling in a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texans.
Now there is some truth in Nix’s answer.  The Bills have been searching for the right coach since Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season. 
They’ve gone through Wade Phillips(3 years), Gregg Williams(3 years), Mike Mularkey(2 years), and Dick Jauron(fired in his 4th year).  Gailey  is 13-27 midway through his third season on the job.
While continually changing your head coach isn’t necessarily the right way to do business, you shouldn’t keep someone in the job if he isn’t getting it done and as each week passes, Gailey seems to be providing more reasons to put up a “Help Wanted” sign after the season.
For many Bills fans, the tipping point may have come last Sunday in Houston when Gailey basically did the same thing Wade Phillips(Texans Defensive Coordinator) was trying to do: take C.J. Spiller out of the game.
The most dynamic offensive weapon the Bills have, recorded a mere 6 carries out of the 57 offensive snaps.  But Gailey followed through on his plan of “sharing the load” as Fred Jackson managed just 6 carries too.
The last time a Bills running back had a carry came with 8:23 left in the third quarter in a 14-9 ballgame.  In the second half, the Bills had 24 pass plays and 3 runs. 
By looking at those numbers you might think the Bills were down by 20 points or so at halftime but the score was 7-6 Houston.  It was 14-6 Texans with 12 minutes left in the third quarter. The Bills made it 14-9 with just under 8 minutes left in the third and Houston pushed it to 21-9 with 11:25 remaining in the fourth.  Not exactly an “abandon the run” game in my opinion.
The lack of runs may have been enough to draw the wrath of Bills fans but Gailey made it worse with his explanation that Houston showed a look designed to prevent them from running so the Bills did exactly that.
“We went into the ball game assuming they would play the defense they’d been playing the previous seven ball games but they went in and changed and loaded up the box and wouldn’t allow us to run the football” Gailey said during his Monday show on WGR. “ I mean we could have run the football but it would have been one yard, minus one yard, one yard, beating our head against the wall so what we tried to do was throw the football to get them out of loading up the box and they never did.”
For the record, Spiller’s 6 rushes went for 3,0,3,5,6 and 22 yards.
Gailey was asked if he could have used different personnel groupings to counter the Texans defensive approach. “You can change that” Gailey told WGR “but what happens is you’ve worked on one game plan, a certain number of plays and a certain way to block it during the course of the week then you get to the ball game and they’ve got something totally different out there and you don’t have all the weapons at your disposal to go make those adjustments on the fly.  Then we got behind and it was a throw game.

As far as it being a throw game, remember the Bills largest deficit was twelve points and there was still 11:25 left in the fourth quarter when Houston went up 21-9.  The Bills ended up with three more possessions and certainly could have sprinkled in some runs.

The lack of involvement for Spiller is mind boggling and ironic when you consider he was the first draft pick for the Nix/Gailey regime and one they took considerable heat for, yet Spiller has turned into an electric player and one the Bills should lean on.  Even more so when you take into account the struggles of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Bills go into the matchup in New England ranked 6th in the NFL in rushing yards a game and 2nd in yards per carry.  It is clearly the strength of the offense and the best part of the entire team.

Spiller has just 78 carries which is an average of just over 9 a game.  Even if you take out his injury shortened game in Cleveland when Spiller had just 4 carries before getting hurt, his carries per game average is still just 10. His season high for carries in a game is 15 against Kansas City.

His total of 78 for the season is the lowest number among the top 26 backs in rushing yards.  The next closest player in terms of carries is Frank Gore who has 41 more rushes than Spiller.

There are 14 backs ahead of Spiller in rush yards and the average number of carries for that group is 151, which is nearly twice as many as Spiller.

Since week 13 of the 2011 season, Spiller leads the league in yards per carry with 6.6.  The 4 players right behind him are Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Doug Martin and Reggie Bush.  All 4 have more carries than Spiller. Rice has 98 more, Bush has 60, Peterson has 45 and Martin has 9.  Keep in mind Martin wasn’t even in the league last season.

There have been way too many head scratching moments from the post Marv Levy Bills head coaches like Phillips saying they viewed punt returner Chris Watson as more of a “punt catcher.” 

How about Gregg Williams with 4th and stupid, punting from the New England 32 on 4th and 2 on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter with the Bills trailing 17-7. This despite the fact the Bills offense was among the best in the NFL at the time.

Then there’s Mike Mularkey who channeled his inner Hank Bullough after a loss to Denver where a number of plays went against the Bills on the Broncos first touchdown drive.  Mularkey explained “I think those type of plays take the sails out of your winds a little bit”.

Dick Jauron was…well…Dick Jauron.  Too many head scratching moments to pick from. 
Gailey felt trying to run the ball against the Texans would have been like “beating our heads against the wall”. If he doesn’t go with a heavy diet of Spiller and the ground game the rest of the season, I’ll be beating my head against the wall every game.

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