By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
I actually feel sorry for Russ Brandon, who is trying to prepare for the future of the Bills in Buffalo as he watches the price of his stock suddenly start sinking like the Greek economy. There is no magic bullet to cure the drop either. Fire the coach? Done that. Fire the gm? Check. Cut players? That's a thought.
No doubt a lot of the ire of Bills fans, if "ire" is a strong enough word, will be directed at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has looked more like J.P. Losman than the Fitz we were watching until he signed his new $59 million contract.
No doubt Fitzpatrick is suddenly adrift, lacking confidence, missing receivers, but we do know Fitz is also giving it everything he's got and a lot of the horror show we're seeing, the latest the 35-8 embarrassment we watched in Miami, is far beyond his ability to control. How comfortable would any of us be if we weren't quite sure exactly where each snap is going? Don't blame Andy Levitre, 'cause he didn't ask to be the center, but with Eric Wood out, the Bills figured since he'd played the position he could step in and do it again. They figured wrong. Chan Gailey told the CBS broadcast crew Levitre is probably the Bills best interior offensive lineman, but that doesn't mean at center.
Two interceptions go on Fitz's stats, which read 20-39, 209 yards, 0 touchdowns and a couple sacks. One of the picks hit part-time wide receiver Brad Smith right in the hands, and the other hit the usually reliable David Nelson right in the hands as well. That's Fitz's fault? That's what the statistics say. We know Stevie Johnson is playing hurt, but he has gone from a concern for defensive coordinators to being no concern at all except for his own quarterback. It's still about talent in this league, and the Bills really don't have it at that position now that teams are doing a better job of defending against them.
Fred Jackson, who fortunately didn't break anything when forced out of the game in the fourth quarter, was a total non factor except for a couple early screen pass plays. He had 7 carries for 17 yards - a non impressive 2.4 yards per carry - as the Bills gathered only 37 yards rushing.
Defensively, the stats lie a little, as the Dolphins were actually out gained by the Bills 243-242. The Bills did manage to do a good job against the run, which was their focus, allowing only 2.7 yards per rush, but once again the lack of a pass rush left the secondary in a helpless situation. Matt Moore? He looked like Tony Romo for most the game hitting 14-20 for 160 with 3 td's and no picks.
Is it just me, or does it seem like a couple years ago the Bills were 5-2 and feeling pretty good, despite some flaws everybody could see? Since then, they've been outscored 116-26 by the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins, and with more injuries - wide receiver Donald Jones and cornerback Terrence McGee are both probably out for the season - so at least some rookies and backups will start getting some experience.
Ticket sales for the three remaining home games have slowed to a screeching halt, and even the Bills marketing plan to push the ducats will probably look like an umbrella in a hurricane.
To say the timing for the Bills sudden collapse, and that is what we're seeing, couldn't be worse is putting it mildly. The Bills, and that means Ralph Wilson, want somewhere north of $100 million in stadium improvements guaranteed before they even begin talk about extending the lease, and that speculation sounded a lot better a month ago.
The bottom line? The Bills have to stay the course with Gailey and gm Buddy Nix and ride out the storm. To think they'd go from 4-12 to the playoffs was never realistic in the first place, and with 6 games left, they could actually win another game or two and we could look back and say they're making progress. In fact, I believe they actually are making progress, and we could see it when they were fielding a healthy team.
But the Bills don't have anywhere near the depth a playoff contender needs, and they won't be able to buy that kind of talent on the free agency market. Their needs are many; defensive line and linebackers, wide receivers, and better players at just about every position except qb. Not to say the Bills don't need a better qb, but they will not get one through the draft that can help right now, so better to help Fitz in other areas.
The radio call in shows and the letters to the editor should be avoided by Bills players and their families at all costs, and while most the criticism will be justified, the suggestions that everything should be blown up - again - is the absolute worst suggestion anybody could make.
We don't know for sure if staying the course will work three years from now, but we do know almost certainly that more changes in head coaches and systems and gm's and scouts is a certain recipe for continued mediocrity. Don't get me wrong; an assistant coach or two might have to go, and more player changes will happen, but there is a core group worth keeping even if it doesn't look that way right now. Gaily and Nix didn't cause this mess; they inherited it.