With the Bills sitting at 3-5 halfway through the 2013 season, how is the President and CEO feeling about the team? That was one of a number of topics Russ Brandon talked about during his weekly segment on WGR.
Brandon shared mixed feelings about the first eight games with Jeremy White and Howard Simon.
"I feel good about the team but I’d be lying to you if I said I was not disappointed at being 3-5" Brandon said. "I do like the progress and the direction the organization is heading. Coach(Doug) Marrone has really done an outstanding job of getting this team ready to play each and every week and I think we see a lot of good things on offense and defense."
"What Nate(Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett) has endured with the injuries and playing four quarterbacks, being in this system really for the first time" Brandon added. "To put up the number of points we have and have the rushing yards per game that we’ve put up over the first eight games is pretty impressive."
One of the bright spots, despite the sub .500 record, is the contribution of the younger players on the roster.
"Are we happy with the progress of some of our draft picks and our young players? Of course we are" the CEO said. "You look at the last two years with our first and second round draft picks( Stephon Gilmore, Glenn,EJ Manuel, Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso), they all play vital roles on this team. Some of them have emerged as elite players at their position. The young core of this team, I think, is going to be very healthy for years to come."
For many, the 2013 season was all about evaluating one of those young players, Manuel, and the progress he made towards becoming the Bills long sought for franchise quarterback. Manuel was knocked out in his fourth game but might be back before the bye week on November 24th.
"Very pleased with the progress he’s made" Brandon replied when asked to give his opinion of Manuel's play. "He’s everything and more that we thought he was when we drafted him and we’re very excited about his future. He’s four games in to his NFL career and there are going to be bumps in the road but overall, we all feel very good about the future with EJ under center."
While there is a feeling of optimism among many Bills fans in terms of the big picture and the future, Brandon and Marrone agree that "you are what your record says you are" so the CEO says the season will be considered a failure if the Bills don't make the playoffs.
" In this building it would be, that’s how we approach it. We’re in this for one reason and one reason only and that’s to get to the second season and try to make some hay in that season."
The CEO/President was also asked to evaluate the impact Doug Marrone has had on changing the culture of losing that has been hanging around One Bills Drive for the last 13 years. The Bills have been in every game this season although the game in New Orleans wasn't really in doubt in the second half. When adveristy hits, it doesn't appear this Bills team has the same "here we go again" mindset that previous Bills teams have had.
"The culture in the building changed the day that Coach Marrone walked in" Brandon said. "To have the adversity that we have gone through in putting different guys in and that old ‘next man up’ mentality, it all stops and starts with him. The reason these games have been where they are(all but one going down to the wire) is because of Coach Marrone."
You can listen to the entire interview with Russ Brandon and hear about the Bills decision to hire a Director of Analytics and whether or not the Bills could lose a home game in the future as part of the NFL's requirement that every club play a game in London. It is available in On Demand Audio.