|The Bills are looking ahead to '13. (CBSSports.com original)|
As each NFL team is officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Eye on Football crew will whip up a review of that team's 2012 season. Today, we look at the Bills. For more of our End of the Road series, click here.
What went wrong
Let's start with Week 1 when the Bills were thoroughly embarrassed by the Jets. New York scored 48 points and now-benched quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns. This is the same New York team, by the way, that has averaged 11 points in its last three games and shares January plans with the Bills. Namely, sitting on the couch watching the playoffs like the rest of us.
In terms of the season-long ineptitude, the blame falls to both sides of the ball. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been erratic, and general manager Buddy Nix said last month that the team still needs a franchise quarterback. (Worth mentioning: Nix signed Fitzpatrick to a tidy little contract extension last season.) Then there's coach Chan Gailey's odd approach to using (or more accurately: not using) one of the team's most dynamic players: running back C.J. Spiller.
Buffalo dropped $100 million on Mario Williams in the offseason and injuries and inconsistencies have affected his performance (but not his paycheck). This is also a group that has allowed opponents to score 48 (the aforementioned Jets debacle), 52 (thanks, Tom Brady!), 45 (thanks, Alex Smith!?), and 50 (thanks, Russell Wilson).
So, yeah, a lot went wrong.
What went right
Spiller is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and has over 1,000 rushing yards for the season. If Gailey didn't have some weird obsession with not using him, we'd be talking about Spiller in the same way people talked about LeSean McCoy last season. Safety Jairus Byrd continues to play at a high level. He has five picks and six pass break-ups, and ProFootballFocus.com lists him on their AFC Pro Bowl roster. Rookie tackle Cordy Glenn has played well when he's been healthy.
It's not a lot but it's something.
It's fair to say that Gailey's on the ol' hot seat. Consider this nugget from the Buffalo News' Jay Skurski: "Gailey's three-year run as coach will go down as the worst stretch of defensive football in franchise history. It's all but assured the Bills will have three of the four worst scoring defenses in the club's history and three of the five worst seasons in regards to yards allowed since Gailey took over."
Gailey's background is as an offensive coordinator (and a good one, too), but he's also the Bill's head coach; the buck stops with him. If the defense is a joke, Gailey's responsible. Of course, it doesn't help when he says things like this: “I think we make too much out of numbers sometimes,” he said Wednesday via the News. “Statistics are for people to make evaluations that sometimes are true and sometimes aren't completely valid.”
Nix has talked about drafting a quarterback but the 2013 class pales in comparison to 2012's. If Nix knew in April what he professed in November (in a roundabout way: Fitzpatrick ain't the long-term answer), the Bills, who took cornerback Stephon Gilmore 10th overall, Glenn at 2.41 and wideout T.J. Graham at 3.69, could've had their choice of Russell Wilson (3rd round, 75th pick), Nick roles (3rd round, 88th) or Kirk Cousins (4th round, 102).
Have we mentioned that the Bills could be in the market for a quarterback? NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang and Dane Brugler have Buffalo picking eighth overall, with Rang predicting the Bills will take Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson and Brugler going with Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Whomever the organization settles on won't magically fix this team. Which leads us to this...
2013 will be...
… A lot like 2012. Unless the Bills can find a dynamic coach to motivate a team desperately in need of it. Who might that be? We have no idea but he needs to be able to do for Buffalo what Jim Harbaugh did for the 49ers. Remember, when Harbaugh arrived in San Francisco in 2011, the team hadn't had a winning season since 2002. And with most of the players Mike Nolan had drafted several years before, he took a six-win outfit in 2010 and turned them into 13-3 division winners that were a couple turnovers away from the Super Bowl. The task, should Nix decide to give Gailey his walking papers, is finding the next Harbaugh.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.