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Photo: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports
Posted: Thursday, 05 January 2017 10:24AM

Schopp: Have Bills looked ahead?

It all feels a bit like piling on. No plan here to steer your attention back to Monday when Doug Whaley played dodgeball against a roomful of attackers, or any other of the recent unfortunate moments in the final stages of yet another disappointing Bills season. I'm not raising my hand to do that; it wouldn't just be the punch Ali didn't throw Foreman, it would be that punch plus a barrage of others with Foreman already prone on the mat in Kinshasa.

I don't want to look back. I want to look forward. For all the bluster of the last month, I want to know if the Bills have thought much about where they're likely to be at in a year.

It would be nice to think they have. You want your sports teams to have a plan. Recent Sabres history teaches us that losing, while less than fun, can be compelling. Buy into a plan and you can live with the losses -- at least for a while. Bills fans don't sound to me lately like they're opposed to a rebuilding effort, in fact a lot of them have told me they want one. Have a plan.

LeSean McCoy has been a great player for the Bills but an hour before they traded for him he wasn't a gleam in their eyes. Oh hey, look, LeSean McCoy is on sale so let's buy that. Wait, look over there, I can't believe Sammy Watkins is HERE IN THIS STORE so let's buy that. You know what would be really fun? Signing Charles Clay away from the Dolphins. (OK, this is all about the past.)

There's no plan there at all. There's just shiny stuff and money spent. You're buying a new XBOX as cold air blows into your house through cracked windows.

The Bills may not want Tyrod Taylor back? OK. He's not a must-keep. But any analysis of whether the Bills should let Taylor go comes down to who will be their quarterback instead.

Do they know?

The Bills punted Rex Ryan, also someone you can live without. Now they go about replacing him and establishing a cleaner power structure where the coach answers to the general manager and the general manager answers to the owner (I think).

I suppose whoever the new coach is can win and then your problems are solved. I also think I've written that about 400 times in this space, always allowing for the possibility the Bills will fall into success.

What is more likely though, that the Bills replace Rex (and Taylor) and win the 10 or 11 games necessary to make the playoffs, or that a 7-9 team making yet another coaching change will fall short of a 50-60 percent win improvement?

Have the Bills run the possibilities?

Terry Pegula said that under Rex the Bills were going in the wrong direction. Actually, they weren't going in any direction. They were a .500 team when Rex arrived, they were one last year under him, and at no time this year where they anything other. They were standing still.

Apart from Tony Romo landing here this spring I see no scenario where the Bills are projected to be better than 9-7. Let's say they go 8-8. Is that still going in the wrong direction?

The most interesting aspect of that scenario is what would happen to Whaley. I wouldn't say fans have been clamoring for him to be let go -- until the last month, when Pegula demonstrated a higher trust in him than what he showed in Ryan. I predict a difficult off-season for the Bills as fans continue to exude less hope for them. So they go into 2017 with fans questioning Whaley, and if a poor season ensues, is Pegula going to trot him out again? If not, what happens to the "new" coach? And what direction will we call that?

If there were some real discord between Ryan and Pegula, irrespective of Whaley, that would justify Ryan's being fired. The owner has the right -- and even the duty -- to eliminate people from his organization that stand in the way of success. But we don't know if that's what happened, and Pegula apparently isn't compelled to enlighten us.

Apart from that hypothetical scenario, one where Pegula finds employing Ryan to be counter-productive, here's what should have happened:

Everybody stays. Rex goes into Year 3, which by absolutely no means is a sign of a long leash. Give me the 2017 Draft. Give me money spent in free agency. Give me Tyrod Taylor again. Give me a .500 team, with a tune-up. The Jets won 10 games in 2015; the Dolphins won 10 games in 2016. The Bills really weren't that far away.

You go 8-8 or worse next year and want to clean house? Go for it.

But this way, what will you do next January if you don't win 10 or more?

As always, good luck with everything.


01/05/2017 10:33AM
Have Bills looked ahead?
Please enter your comments below.
01/05/2017 10:59AM
Have a plan and be honest with them
Fans can take it. Plus, what is the point of making the playoffs if you have no hope once you are in them? I had no idea Ryan would wreck their star defense. But that to me was enough to be fired. A top QB doesn't need star receivers like EJ needed (or Taylor). Brady has had a revolving door of receivers. Dan Marino threw to two midgets for most of his career. Keep drafting and be creative. Don't buy the shiny stuff on sale like Mike said. Go prospecting. Once you have that, fill in holes through free agency. Maybe stop going after guys with poor character, too? Someone who makes $10 million a year should find life exciting enough without racing cars in the street or taking drugs. Sabres fans have been patient. Bills fans will be, too. Explain the plan. Selling out the future to win 10 games doesn't sound like a good plan to me...
01/05/2017 11:04AM
Was this written in a drunken haze ?
01/05/2017 11:14AM
TotallyAgree With Your Assumption
Your last paragraph was right on. The moves Pegula has made so far are not impressive. If Rex had to go then Whaley should have been following him out the door. His Monday presser further reduced the reputation of this organization and it was real bad prior to the presser. If Tony Romo becomes available he wouldn't come here anyway. They should have stayed the course for 1 more year (including Tyrod) and if the third year failed then blow the whole thing up. I will guarantee you if they don't keep Tyrod he will move on and become a star with another team. It happens to us all the time because of stupid moves made by Whaley. You know, the definition of Insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different result. Fits the Bills perfectly.
01/05/2017 11:18AM
Rex was the scapegoat in 2016
and Whaley will be the next scapegoat in 2017. This is what happens when you have owners that run a team as a "hobby". What's disturbing is they think they have a clue when they are really lost. The Bills need a "George Costanza" moment like when George confronted Steinbrenner with his poor decisions. Fresh blood needs to be injected into this front office and tell the Pegula's the way it is and the way out. Yes-men like Whaley and Brandon will not end the playoff drought. Can some one be brought in who knows what it takes to win a Superbowl? All I see are a bunch of amateurs pointing fingers at One Bills Drive. Until Pegula receives the "Costanza treatment", the endless road of mediocrity will continue.
01/05/2017 11:23AM
Nailed it gain Mike!! You're a gift from God.
There's really nothing more to say than this was a fantastic thought piece. It's amazing we have such a talent in our own backyard. I hope you continue to work in Buffalo we need talent like you!!
01/05/2017 11:28AM
the Problem is worse than you think
The Problems with the Buffalo Bills start AT the TOP and trickle down. This is the ONLY time Regonomics actually works! Pegula is the BIGGEST problem the Bills (and the Sabres) have. Pegula is a rich FAN with absolutely Zero knowledge and understanding of how a successful professional sports franchise needs to be run. And he has NOT put powerful intelligent pieces in places (like a Bill Polian) that could help him bridge the mistakes he is making and help make intelligent decisions. After Pegula, comes the head coach and GM positions. Neither has had a truly talented person in those positions since the 90's which shows in the overall "culture" of the franchise and how and what players are brought in and let go. Which leads to the talent on the field. SOOO many mistakes have been made over the past 18 years regarding the players that have been acquired through the draft and trade. A simple google search of drafts will show the numerous proven better talent that was passed up for the busts that are brought in on the team!! Simply put, the Buffalo Bills are the land of forgotten toys. Players who cannot or could not get an opportunity to play on a legitimate professional football team play in Buffalo. And those few players with talent that actually do play in Buffalo, get traded away quickly for a myriad of reasons. So what's the solution? My position has not changed in years nor has it been popular. Do what the Cleveland Browns did, but without Manzel. Dissolve the team for 3-5 years!! Wipe the slate completely clean. And then petition for an expansion team. As an expansion team the "new" Buffalo Bills would be able to have top round draft picks for years and would be able to "raid" the league of their top players. Build a truly talented team that way. That is the only way I see this team ever getting better than .500
01/05/2017 11:45AM
What a waste of time.
All you are doing is talking directly to Howard Hughes here and not your listeners. It's so obvious you are conflicted and compromised by your role at the station to bow down to the Reclusive Great One.
01/05/2017 2:16PM
"Let's say they go 8-8. Is that still going in the wrong direction?" this is such classic Schopp psuedointellectual, semantic nonsense. Here's why Schopp is on sports talk radio, it's not that he knows a lot about sports. It's not that he's particularly astute, or someone sports figures can stomach. It's that doing sports radio he gets to hear himself talk and think that he sounds like a smart guy (helps when you get to hang up, and talk over the callers though, huh?). Schopp is not a smart guy. His arguments are pedantic, and dressed up in impress-me-speak. He's in the right spot though, because if he had to actually talk with smart guys, he'd feel pretty silly.
01/05/2017 4:38PM
You MUST "Look Back"
Not necessarily to throw punches at a prone boxing opponent or to "pile on" the Bills for the simple purpose of re-hashing old grievances ... BUT you DO (and MUST) LOOK BACK for the specific, and necessary, purpose of ANALYZING WHAT WENT WRONG SO WE DON'T REPEAT THE MISTAKES !!!!!!!! You have identified one glaring mistake that must not be repeated: the lack of a coordinated improvement plan going forward while instead filling the void with undisciplined/reckless spending on players WE DON'T truly "NEED" to SUCCEED simply because they became unexpectedly available (e.g., LeSean McCoy [indisputably a good player, but (a) the NFL is no longer a run-centered league, (b) he represents a large salary cap hit, (c) Shady is closing in on 30, and (d) perhaps most important, the Bills have several other good RBs such as Mike Gillislee who are plenty effective]; Charles Clay [another good player, BUT (a) the Bills wasted his talent by largely failing to utilize him/make him a target, and (b) he, too, takes up a disproportionately large chunk of the salary cap space -- especially when his production is stacked against his cost). So, yes, the Bills MUST acquire the DISCIPLINE to craft a PLAN and ADHERE TO IT. But there are other mistakes which MUST also be avoided. We need to hire a PROVEN, SUCCESSFUL (ideally CHAMPIONSHIP-level) PRIOR head coach. The Bills can't be "Margaritaville" for washed-up/burned out/overrated re-tread middling coaches, AND the Bills also can't be the experimental lab/proving ground for the "next wunderkid" hoping to make the leap to successful head coach at the NFL level who will make his mistakes here at our expense before moving on and getting another HC chance somewhere down the line. How does one discern between the "Margaritaville" re-tread middling coach on the one hand, versus a truly high quality coach who didn't do so well in his first pro head coaching opportunity but is primed to "take off" and do very well with his next HC opportunity (e.g., Marv Levy, Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy [and yet the inclusion of Dungy into this example is slightly unfair insofar as Dungy made the playoffs in Tampa, he just couldn't get over the SB hump])? Well that leads me to the third lesson: the Bills MUST hire a PROVEN, Objective, and Successful OVERSEER of Football Operations who has the ability to discern which former head coaches deserve a second chance as opposed to those who failed because they simply were destined to excel no higher than as a coordinator or position coach -- somebody like a Bill Polian (who identified both Marv Levy and Tony Dungy as high-quality head coaches worthy of a second NFL head coaching opportunity), or some other highly successful senior football executive. Such a person would be a tremendous asset to the Bills and a huge help to Doug Whaley -- because it's quite clear through a lengthy demonstrated track record of organizational FAILURE and fan MISERY that BOTH Whaley and Russ Brandon have a huge "blind spot" in assessing, evaluating, and discerning football talent at both the coaching and player levels. An experienced senior "football czar" with a proven track record of success would be a HUGE "get" (and in reality a vital necessity) for a foundering organization whose owner is a good guy but lacks pro sports experience, whose president is a marketing/ticket selling whiz kid but is horribly deficient at football operations, and whose GM is marginal/still learning the ropes on the job. Such a "czar" would make folks surrounding him better at their jobs, and he'd be able to discern whether, for example, a guy like Jim Schwartz (who had "some" success as Detroit's head coach before backsliding and getting fired) is ready to become the next Bill Belichick if provided a second chance to be an NFL HC ... or if he'd likely only be another Rex Ryan or Chan Gailey whose coaching excellence tops out at the coordinator level.
01/05/2017 5:08PM
you are slipping in the standings. Sullivan and Gleason have moved up on my list of media people I loathe........
01/05/2017 5:25PM
Let E.J. go, keep T.T. with a restructured contract, keep Cardale and draft a QB, Hire a Game Manager for a HC, bring in a proven DC like Pettine and get a proven OC. There is No Law that states the HC chooses the OC and DC. This is the New Direction Forward.
01/05/2017 7:35PM
so rebuild it is then? but its not so hello 8-8
01/05/2017 8:47PM
Rebuilding PLAN
2 words not in the Bills current edition of Websters, or minds!
01/05/2017 9:27PM
once again a column that is neither super fun or interesting.
01/05/2017 9:50PM
Team is going nowhere ...
Team is going nowhere fast. The team lacks the talent and the front office to bring in the talent. After this past weeks showing of dysfunction do you think they will be able to garner a quality head coach? I highly doubt they will. Team has no QB and the picks that were to be our saving grace have not panned out. Watkins taken over Odell Beckham: Fragile over Tough, Dareus who can not keep from being suspended every year, Gilmore who can not tackle and the list goes on. The Bills are a mess and there is no sign of relief anytime soon. New ownership usually means the whole thing gets revamped from the front office to the coaching staff. The Bills however maintain status quo just to keep the money rolling in and a Billionaire's wife amused. Western New York deserves better than what we have been given for our money so far! It is truly time for the ownership to step up and make significant changes throughout the organization.
01/05/2017 10:25PM
Anthony Lynn
That's why Tyrod will be back and Lynn will be the HC. They'll keep that continuity together, and then have an excuse to fire Whaley and everyone next year when they go 8-8. Unless Tyrod's the answer and picks his game up to the next level in year three. Jim Kelly didn't have good stats in his 2nd or 3rd years either. Get a RT, WRS, and a S and CB, hope ASammy stays healthy and hope the defense can be better {could they be any worse?}, and give Tyrod a legitimate chance with a 3rd full season. Get a legitimate WR2 in FA, and a S or RT too. Meanwhile try to draft the best QB in this draft and if not him then the 2nd best one. Go to camp with Tyrod Cardale and a promising rookie. Spend in FA too, and restructure Clay, Darius, and Hughes if possible. No to Gilmore he will cost way more than he's worth. Need a thumping Safety for sure. Get Lawson and Ragland back and better defensive coaching and BUF has a shot at breaking it. Tyrod has to improve though or all bets are off.
01/05/2017 11:38PM
The only plan the Bills ever have
is to draft a running back.
01/06/2017 6:40AM
There is no one else out there to replace Rex with.
It was Whaley or Rex, don't like this move at all.
01/06/2017 12:59PM
re:Anthony Lynn
Tyrod Taylor is out. Schefter just reported that Buffalo has zero intent to bring him back for 2017.
01/06/2017 4:39PM
@ Hmmm, @ Anthony Lynn
Yes, let E.J. go, keep TT with a restructured contract (if he'll agree to it), keep Cardale Jones as a developmental prospect, and draft a QB (as well as keep an eye for a free agent veteran QB who gets cut during the off-season or in training camp). Hire Coughlin or Schwartz as head coach, hire Schwartz as DC and "Assistant Head Coach" if Coughlin takes HC; hire Frank Reich as OC and "Associate Head Coach," and pay whatever it takes to get Rusty Jones back here out of retirement -- Rusty was truly "that" good, and there is no way the Bills could have been physically capable of short off-seasons with 4 consecutive Super Bowl appearances if not for him (a far contrast with the Bills' present strength and conditioning)! As for Kelly ... Kelly's "stats" weren't the most important thing -- there was NEVER ANY DOUBT about Kelly's leadership swagger, and that took on a much larger presence of its own that would dwarf any stats line!
01/07/2017 8:21AM
Mike! Whats the use?
Still lacking that special QB? Yes, Rex is the scapegoat for this mess and I don't blame him for leaving?
01/07/2017 11:05AM
I've read better...
I've read better... on a cereal box label.
01/07/2017 11:35AM
You must look forward and not backwards.
Maybe Pegula did hire Rex as the Bills coach and not Whaley. Whaley now is going to pick a coach of his choosing. He better think this out or if this coach is not successful, Whaley could be gone. The Pegulas' are first time owners of a football team. They are making mistakes that first time owners can make. I think they should have consulted an advisor of football operations to give them in-site into football. When Pegulas' took over they the team wasn't very successful. But since Whaley became general manager, he has brought in talented football players to the Bills. Draft picks are not always going to be star players, you need to bring players that the General Manager and Coach agree on to fit the scheme the Coach has implemented. Every successful team to go to the Super Bowl is that every football player becomes not a stat persons(so he can get a fatter contract)but a TEAM player!! Glory come to a Team when everyone becomes as one unit.
01/07/2017 2:51PM
@ the Problem is worse than you think
The flaw in the logic though is that, if the Bills ever "dissolve" and/or go away for 3-5 years, Buffalo will NEVER get another NFL franchise back. As lousy as Cleveland was/is, it's still a far larger city and metropolitan area than is Buffalo, it has an iconic NFL history with Paul Brown (a developmental giant in the game of football), and it exists in the football hotbed state of Ohio. Much as I may love my hometown Buffalo, we are, well ... Buffalo. You have to recognize how the rest of the country views us -- they have ZERO respect for small-market, erstwhile failure Buffalo. Ditto the NFL and the greedy robber barron billionaires like Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, Robert Kraft, Roger Goodell, etc. who run the league, call the shots, and absolutely can't stand us. Buffalo is a thorn in their side, and even though we have arguably the league's GREATEST fan base (because, unlike elsewhere, we unquestioningly support our team through thick and thin and are stupid enough to continue enabling bad ownership/management by supporting a BAD team/product through continued robust ticket and merchandise sales), from the perspective of the robber barons' insatiable appetite for $$$, the Bills still DON'T make them "enough" $$$ revenue in their view (!!!!!!!!!!!) because of an allegedly "inadequate, obsolete, and too antiquated" stadium (their opinion, not ours -- in today's NFL, they expect new multi-billion $$$ circus stadium palaces built largely on the backs of taxpayers every 20 or so years !!!!!!!), because of a lack of additional PSL revenue, vecause of a lack of Fortune 500 corporate sponsorship, because of a lack of big advertising profits, because of a depressed economy where people simply can't afford even more outrageously priced tickets, etc., etc. So the NFL honchos would NOT shed a single tear if the Buffalo Bills went away/re-located to a larger/more prosperous market (such as the losing metro area of the Oakland/San Diego new stadium derby, St Louis, San Antonio, Las Vegas if the Raiders don't move there -- especially if Las Vegas proves not to have any gambling problems with the upcoming NHL Vegas expansion team, Toronto, London, etc.???). And the rest of the league's fans from other teams wouldn't care either. The only other tiny market NFL franchise -- Green Bay -- is a far different animal than Buffalo, and it has a decidedly more advantageous position of leverage. Green Bay has the huge advantage of being an ORIGINAL NFL team, they are owned by shareholder fans, and they have a RICH CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY (they didn't earn the moniker "Titletown" over the decades by accident) that is indispensable to the core fabric, identity, and "branding" of the NFL shield (again UNLIKE Buffalo) ... so the league can NEVER simply "write off" Green Bay. Also, the Cleveland Browns did NOT "dissolve" or disband with the players dissipating to other NFL teams; rather, Art Modell moved them to Baltimore and re-named them the Ravens. The people of Cleveland sued Modell and the NFL to keep the Browns name and team colors for the City of Cleveland, and forced the NFL to grant them a future new expansion team to help settle the lawsuit. Buffalo would have NO such luck. If Buffalo lost the Bills, I'd wager the NFL would "highly encourage" the owners to move them to Toronto for several reasons: (1) it would get the NFL into the expanded Canadian market the league covets, (2) it would get them into Canada's LARGEST city/market at one fell swoop, complete with PSLs, outrageous ticket prices, Rodgers Communications media clout and $$$, huge other corporate sponsorships and an unending revenue stream, (3) placing the team in Toronto would be least disruptive logistically and would preserve the geographic alignment/balance of the present AFC East and not force a tweaking/re-shuffling of team rivalries, (4) it would enable the NFL to: (a) insulate themselves from a lawsuit and also (b) pretend that they were doing the people of Buffalo/WNY a "favor"/cushioning the blow of losing the Bills and not "selling us out" by keeping a more economically viable team (that had once been ours) "close enough" for us to be able to continue to follow them/attend games, and (5) under the false window-dressing of reason #(4), the NFL robber barrons could nonetheless "stick it to" the people of Buffalo by FOREVER preventing a new expansion team to rise in Buffalo (or at least making it VERY difficult legally) by hiding behind the articulated concerns that Buffalo is "too close" to Toronto and we'd both: (a) be unfairly competing within THEIR protected economic radius (ignoring the fact that the NHL's Sabres and Maple Leafs co-exist -- not to mention the NFL's pairings of same city Giants and Jets, and geographically exceedingly close pairings of 49ers and Raiders, Redskins and Ravens, Eagles (with Giants, Jets, Ravens, and Redskins) ... not to mention other very close franchise pairings like Buccaneers-Dolphins, Rams-Chargers, Cowboys-Texans, and Browns-Lions, Browns-Steelers, Browns-Bills, and Bills-Steelers, and (b) we couldn't/wouldn't be "viable" as a franchise anymore because we're nowhere as large or economically strong as Toronto/GTA, and we'd no longer be able to depend upon the $$$ support of Canadian fans who previously supported the Bills as the then-only NFL team available to them. Bottom line: we really don't have the option of pursuing a "new" Bills NFL expansion team.
01/08/2017 8:15PM
WGR too lenient on Bills
It is so hard to criticize the Bills. The owner and GM either are incompetent or just do not have basic communication skills. What has happened in the past month will have long lasting economic repercussions on the financial stability of the Bills.
01/09/2017 3:53PM
Shillp 550
Mikes grand Plan is Anthony Lynn and signing Taylor to a 20 year contract. Buffalo sports is a joke but why not the station that represents it is a joke as well and has grown old and stale.
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