Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
About this time of year all around the world, boys and girls of all ages begin making their Christmas lists. They think long and hard about what they want Jolly Ol’ St. Nick to bring them under the tree or in their stockings. Some things come easy, some take more thought, but usually the list is full by the end of the process!
This year, Bills fans were treated to a 5-1 start, best since 1991 (a year in which we were also treated to our second-straight Super Bowl appearance) and that super start has definitely made the recent stretch where they have posted a 2-6 record even more pronounced and harder to bear.
So what do Bills fans want for Christmas? What’s on their Christmas list?
First and foremost, you’d have to think that since the season is technically still salvageable, Bills fans want to see four straight wins. Another quarter of the season where they are 4-0. And a win streak going into the playoffs usually spells success in the post season, too. So, beating all three division opponents, plus Denver out at Mile High… that would be tops for this Bills fan, and dare I say most Bills fans.
But some are taking a different approach.
Dick Jauron is in his third season as Bills head coach, and it’s really just time to “put up or shut up,” as they say. Jauron has only had one winning season in his career. It was a very good season: 13-3. But up-close observers say it was also helped along quite a bit by fortunate bounces and other lucky breaks. Losing bad in their only playoff game that year, and then tanking the next season would suggest they were right.
So now he has two 7-9 seasons with the Bills, and has taken a 4-0 start and managed to go 6-6 by week 13. What do those numbers mean for Jauron and his staff? I’d say they point toward an imminent coaching change.
I have been a big supporter of Dick Jauron. I really like his demeanor, even though most do not. I like the way he has changed the attitude of this team from an arrogant, self-centered bunch of guys to a team-first, hard-working, high character group of guys who love to play together, and are more like a family. I think that is important. And every report I hear is that the players love that, too.
But the question has become, is that enough? And unfortunately, I think after the Cleveland game in which the coaching staff decided to run three straight plays up the middle to settle for a 47-yard field goal (which sailed eerily wide right…) I realized what many have been trumpeting since Jauron was brought to Orchard Park in the first place: the man is just not a winning head coach.
Where do we go from here then? Is it time to rebuild? Time to offer another unproven (or just plain losing) coach the reins once more? Is it time to start over again??? In many ways, I don’t think it is, but if I could make the ideal Christmas list, it might look something like this…
Ralph Wilson Sells the Team to Jim Kelly & Friends
We don’t yet know who the funding source for Jim Kelly’s bid to buy the Bills might be, but the rumors persist that such a group exists. In fact, on Sunday Night Football a few weeks ago, Peter King actually mentioned that fact as though a plan were already in motion to make it so. Until that time, most reports had Wilson not selling the team until after he dies, so that would be a slight change.
To me, this is the key. The Bills have been around for nearly fifty years now, and most all of their head coaches have been second-level coaches. Almost never has a “big name” coach been brought in to run this team. Why? Partly because of the “small market” deal, where Wilson insists we just don’t bring in enough money. I’m sure that is true. But it must also be from the owner himself. It’s been his philosophy. Spend as little as possible, and hunt for the hidden gems. At times it works, but for the most part… it has not.
But, if Wilson were to sell the team to Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Sabres’ Owner Tom Golisano, and whomever else Jim can rustle up, the Bills might begin to take on a different shape. Jim was not a conservative player. He was a “gun slinger”. He always trusted his arm to get him out of anything. He was hard-headed, tough-nosed, and a gutsy leader of this blue collar team in a blue collar town. I have to believe he would bring many of those qualities to his role as majority owner of the team.
That would be #1 on my Christmas list.
Nothing against Bills’ Chief Operating Officer, Russ Brandon, but he’s not a football GM. He is a business and marketing guy. And actually, he’s done a very good job. Bills season ticket base is second-highest in team history. The team has successfully “regionalized” and are hoping to further that with the 5-year Toronto Initiative. (First regular season game is this Sunday.)
But he’s not a football guy.
Most know that Mike Holmgren, currently the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach (and Executive VP of Football Operations… General Manager) is planning to retire from coaching at the end of this season. Another thing the Bills are sorely lacking at the moment is a good man at the top.
When Marv Levy decided to call it quits, the Bills lost their vision caster. I’m not sure Marv was doing much more than just being Marv-elous around the players, coaches, and staff around One Bills Drive. He certainly had a hand in bringing in the talent that is currently on this team (and pulling out the weeds from previous administrations) but he was definitely not the full role of the typical NFL General Manager.
Perhaps Mike Holmgren, a well-respected, long-time student of the game, would be willing to “retire” to a similar role with the Buffalo Bills? There is already a nucleus of talent. With a knowledge of the game, and of the league, and a track record of winning (won Super Bowl with Green Bay, got there with Seattle) it would make sense that he could do it again in Buffalo.
Look at what Bill Parcells has done for Miami in just one season. Perhaps Mike Holmgren could do something similar here with the Bills.
That’s item number two for my Christmas list.
You’ve heard us say it on the show. You’ve heard Bills fans for a few years now mention his name here and there. You’ve just heard his name right alongside perennial playoff contenders for decades in the NFL. Everywhere Marty has gone, he has won. (He still has the “Can’t Win the Big Ones” monkey on his back, but perhaps that could change eventually? Given the right circumstances?)
Schottenheimer is still available. He hasn’t been snatched up yet. The Bills greatest struggles in recent years has been their offense. It doesn’t make sense when you have players like Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, Roscoe Parrish, and even Trent Edwards who has shown so much promise, despite this year’s mid-season slump. Perhaps such an offensive-minded coach could be the impetus we need to move to the next level?
(Yes, I know, Schottenheimer played LB with the Bills when he was here in the 60s, but he is known for offensive teams. And he’s also known for winning.)
That would be Christmas list item #3.
In the end, I’m not sure I’ll really get any of the items on my Christmas list. The Bills have been very consistent in their mediocrity through the years, and most of it starts with the owner, and the way he wants to run his team. Bringing in guys like Holmgren and Schottenheimer are not his typical style. But, you’re never too old to change, are you? Ralph just turned ninety, and perhaps he’d like to turn over a new leaf for his team’s 50th anniversary in two years…
Or, maybe we’ll just keep plugging along with the status quo for Buffalo Bills fans. Some good moments, several bad… and year after football year that end with no meaning… no playoffs… and no real excitement for what lies ahead.
Well this Christmas, I’m hoping for the best. Either we win all four remaining games and make the playoffs, or Ralph calls it quits, and Jim Kelly (and his team), Mike Holmgren, and Marty Schottenheimer come in for the trifecta and take the team to Super Bowl 44 or 45, just in time for the Bills 50th anniversary season.
That would be a Christmas present Bills fans would not soon forget!
Merry Christmas, everyone! And to all, a BILLS WIN!