Personal Sports

Lessons in Futility (from the Buffalo Bills)

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

We all know the numbers. 10 years with no playoffs. 4 games with no wins. 1 starting quarterback benched after two weeks, then just dumped on the street after three weeks. And of course, the biggest number of all is, 50 years, 0 Lombardi trophies*.

There are only 8 teams out of 32 in the NFL that have a losing record. Four of those teams are 0-4, including the Buffalo Bills. But when you look at this list of teams that either haven’t won a game, or have only won one, you tell me if you see any team that has looked more hopeless than the Bills through four games:

Cleveland: 1-3
Oakland: 1-3
Dallas: 1-2
Minnesota: 1-2
Carolina: 0-4
Detroit: 0-4
San Francisco: 0-4

You can’t, can you. Only perhaps the Carolina Panthers have managed to be quite as toothless and inept as the Bills. The one game where we had a fairly decent showing, we lost to our nemesis, the New England Patriots… maybe just because we are trying for a perfect season? No wins?!

Certainly Dallas and Minnesota do not belong on this list, and I’m sure they will remedy that. As for the other 0-4 teams, Detroit has literally been in every single game right down to the end, and had at least one (the opening weekend game) practically stolen from them when the refs decided to call a play by the book rather than by their eyes. (That was a TD!) San Francisco has been almost as inept, but yesterday they lost a game they were leading most of the way on a last-second, long FG.

And, if you look at the net points for each team (meaning, points against subtracted from points for) the Bills rank dead last at -64. Ouch. (The other 0-4 teams are San Fran -51, Carolina -41, and Detroit -24.)

I think it’s fairly obvious that the Bills are “on the clock”.

(Though perhaps Carolina and San Fran might be able to wrestle that position away from them…)

So what accounts for this meteoric … drop? I mean, for the last four seasons the Bills have at least gotten 6 or 7 wins. We were loving our mediocrity here in Buffalo. But now, we are quite possibly the worst team in the NFL! What has changed?

The only real “excuse” I have for the Bills is the new defensive scheme. It’s well known that the Bills shifted to a 3-4 defense this offseason, and it’s also quite obvious that they have not quite fully “shifted” as yet. Last season the Bills’ defense was one of the top takeaway teams (especially interceptions), and the #2 overall pass defense. This season, they are the #28 defense overall (thanks to still being #12 against the pass) and they have not only 0 INTs, but only 1 takeaway. ONE. In four games!

And the only reason that they are #12 in passing yards allowed per game is that they are dead last in rush defense, allowing teams an average of 174 yards per game on the ground. When you can get 174 yards rushing, you don’t really need to pass! (And, more evidence of their defensive futility, the Bills rank second-to-last in sacks with 4 for the entire season so far. Only the Cincinnati Bengals are worse.)

My family moved to Buffalo in 1986. The same year Marv Levy was hired by the Bills. The year after they drafted Bruce Smith and Andre Reed. The year Jim Kelly decided to join the team. (He was drafted in 1983, but didn’t play for them till 1986.) Then we met some friends who were big fans of the team. None of our family were football fans (or even any sport fans) … but one day in 1988 we were offered the chance to join those friends at a live NFL football game, and that endeared us to the football club from Buffalo from that moment on.

(The game? It was a 9-6 OT win over the New York Jets by which the Bills claimed the division title as a result of their then 11-1 record! It was exciting, electrifying—very wet… rained all day—and as I said, endeared us to this team from then on.)

Then came the Super Bowls, and a few more years of good players and fun wins…

Then came the last decade. Bad GMs, bad coaches, bad players, bad decisions by management, bad teams, bad records… mad fans.

But we had never hit such a bottom as this. This year, it seems to me, we could very possibly not win a single game. 0-16. Only the second team to ever accomplish such a feat. Wow.

So the Bills press on in their quest for ultimate futility. This week, the Jacksonville Jaguars (and former starting QB, Trent Edwards**) come to town. Surprisingly, there is no favorite in this game. The Bills have been very big underdogs in all the games so far, but in this one, the game is a “pick” game. I’m guessing that will change by the time they play the game this Sunday!

For the Bills and Bills fans, we now focus our attention on the 2011 draft. With the #1 pick overall, we can hope to finally have a great player in Buffalo again? Will it be one of the highly-touted QBs? Likely. Or perhaps a hall-of-fame caliber left tackle? Perhaps. The last time the Bills had the #1 overall pick was in 1985, and that was used to select Bruce Smith. One can only hope…

Until then… we still watch. And groan. And hide our eyes at times. But cheer for the few moments of good plays. CJ Spiller is fun to watch. Sometimes Roscoe Parrish. And, we do have a good punter… 🙂

But really, the 2010 season is all about planning for 2011.

“The Buffalo Bills are on the clock.”

* These numbers are slightly unfair as the Lombardi trophy has not been awarded 50 times, and the Bills technically were champions of their league before the Super Bowl years. In 1964 and 1965 they were the AFL champions… and they were one game away from being the AFL’s first Super Bowl representative in 1966, but lost to the KC Chiefs.

** By “former”, we mean of course, only two weeks ago. That’s a very recent “former”.

One reply on “Lessons in Futility (from the Buffalo Bills)”

Paul Posluszny begs to differ re: the defensive woes being a result of the new 3-4 defensive scheme. “We’re lined up,” he said. ”The coaches are putting us in the right spot. We have to get off a block and make a play, we have to come down a hill, hit a guy, get off a block, get to the ball carrier, tackle better. It’s not a scheme thing at all. We’re lined up in a great defense. We’re ready to stop the run, we’re lined up in the right places, and we’re running the right stuff. It’s us. We have to be more physical, we have to play better. Defensively, we just didn’t play well at all.”

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