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Monday, December 30, 2013

Grading our Buffalo Bills … and the other Up-tempo Offense … How it should be done … the Playoffs …


Another football season has come to a premature end for my Beloved New York State Buffalo Bills. It’s one more sub-mediocre end of season disappointment, especially for a team with enough talent to at least make the playoffs. What I fear most for the Bills is our management. It is not only “arguably” the worst in the league, it is, in fact, the worst in the league (i.e., results). Our yearly trip to Toronto is an aberration. Football fans with the gelt will travel anywhere to watch their teams play (I used to fly to Buffalo and San Francisco to see the Bills). Why Canadian Bills fans gets so much attention is a travesty. Between hiring loser coaches while pick-of-the-litter coaches were available (i.e., Lovey Smith), treating a rookie QB as if he’s the second coming (one who can’t get a bruise), and adhering to an offensive game plan that has been a proven loser within the franchise for decades, makes us the longest running (non-playoff team) joke of the league.

Nothing is worse than playing a home game (usually in December) in Toronto (and usually losing). It is nothing less than a travesty. This year we gave one away to the worst team in the league at the time (Atlanta—a southern team that was butchered by the cold weather in Green Bay just one week later—but they beat us in the controlled environment of the Toronto Dome, where Canadian Bills fans rooted for the other team).

Hey, Mr. Wilson, WTF already?

Our history speaks for itself … the last 3 seasons, we’ve finished 6-10 … it was worse before that. We have to go back to 2004 to find an above .500 record, and that was 9-7. There is parity in the NFL like never before, which to us at TK suggests that in most situations, coaching is what makes the difference.

Last year we let go of one no-huddle devotee to hire another, except this one came from the college ranks with a .500 performance level at Syracuse. He believes in an up-tempo offense, even with a rookie QB and his back-ups, which led us to another 6-10 record.

Our highlights …


And Evelyn sporting the cap …

Yes, us, the fans. Now for the grades.
Offense (C-) … EJ Manuel may have all the potential in the world, but if our organization is going to continue treating him like he’s a future Joe Namath, we’ll be doomed yet again. Like the Jets, our receivers aren’t very dependable. Unlike the Jets, we have two backs that rival all other combos. One is nearing the end of his career (Jackson), while the other seeks a 70 TD run on each and every carry (Spiller) … and while sometimes he breaks something big, he often barely gets back to the line of scrimmage and/or loses yardage (and then gets up limping).

Oh, how I wish Bill Parcells could coach this talent … even for just a single season … even just to get our players to quit the ESPN friggin’ drama of chest beating and limping ...

QB’s … Thad Lewis and EJ Manuel should have a genuine competition next season. Manuel needs to “develop”, but he won’t do so from the bench. Statistically, he and Lewis are close to even. Manual may be our future, but not if he’s going to spend half the season nursing injuries that one has to wonder about (i.e., how injured was he really?). Let them compete and the better man start the season. TK says: right now Lewis is the more effective QB, but we have to develop Manuel or jettison him for someone better. We have to know what the story is and he has to be on the field for us to figure it out. Legitimate injuries are one thing, but we have to wonder how legitimate they were (or if the Bills brain trust, those morons, were looking to protect him during another bust season).

Backs … Two great running backs, one near the end of his career and the other becoming a prima donna. One can only hope they aren’t ruined or gone before our QBs get up to speed.

TE’s … are big and immobile, but they can cause trouble (when they catch the ball and don’t fumble it). We can use more athletic TEs.

WRs … are so hot and cold, they need to be put on notice. And Stevie Johnson should be traded ASAP, before the rest of the league figures out he’s more a pain in the ass and a bust than a buy.

OL … is good to solid, even playing backups, and no excuse for our poor overall offensive performance. There we can look to play calling and the up-tempo game plan that doesn’t allow for the communication you get in a huddle/you can’t get on the line of scrimmage.
Defensive (B) ... we’re solid and getting better game by game. Mike Pettine was a wonderful steal from the Jets. His blitz packages gave us a chance in almost every game.

DL … improved quite a bit this season, but that had more to do with Dareus playing better and the play of both Searcy and Lawson (great improvements there), plus our true star of the DL, Kyle Williams. How Mario Williams made the all pro team is a stunner to TK. His 13 sacks, no matter how many were the results of good pass coverage, seems to be the ESPN highlight by which we judge good defensive players these days. Phooey, TK says. The guy was a stiff against the run yet again (finished with almost half the tackles of each of his fellow linemates), and his pressures weren’t all that great either. If anything, it was Pettine’s blitz packages that brought pressures. If he’s getting $100 million, the true star of the Bills’ defensive line, Kyle Williams, should be asking for $300 million. That said, our DL is close to rock solid.

LB’s … great improvement there, even with our new star, Kiko Alonzo, slacking off a bit at the end of the year. Alonzo showed signs of being the 2nd coming of Shane Conlan, but fell a bit short closer to the end of the season. If he gets better, he’s what the Bills can build their defense around. Our other LB’s (Hughes, Lawson, Bradham and Powell) all performed well enough. Their further improvement can only further strengthen a solid defense.

Secondary … we started out decimated by injuries and finished very strong. The Bird Man Of Buffalo, Jairus Byrd, remains the anchor in the secondary, but just about everyone else improved game by game. We’re young there, and if we continue to improve, we may have a defensive dynasty just about the time our management figures out head coach Doug Marrone needs to go … and that’ll be the next installment of another blown opportunity by the worst management in the NFL.

Special teams … Outside of kicker Dan Carpenter, we’re a disgrace.

Overall Grades: Mike Pettine (Defensive Coordinator) B+; Nathaniel Hacket (Offensive Coordinator), D-; Danny Crossman (special teams) F- … Doug Marrone (head coach) D- … = Overall a big C- (which is sub mediocre, EXACTLY what we are).

Oy friggin’ vey …

But, hey, wait a minute, TK, yous say. “Chip Kelly runs a true up-tempo offense and he came from the college ranks and his team finished 9-7 and is in the playoffs.”

A few qualifiers, TK, says: Kelly’s team finished 4-12 the year before, so they had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. They also play in the worst division in the NFL, and they have the best running back in the NFL. “Better than Adrian Peterson, TK? Are you nuts?” yous say. “Yep, for what he delivers as a total package,” TK says, “we’d rather have McCoy than Peterson.”

“So, what else?” yous say. “That’s a pretty flimsly excuse for Kelly’s success, especially if it’s all about parity and coaching being the difference (your words, TK).”

Well, he may well be a good, or even a great leader (that’ll take some time to discern), and he may well do great things with this team in the playoffs and their future, and if that’s the case, we’ll tip our hat to him, but his statement about “not being concerned with time of possession, just points” seems not only arrogant, it’s naïve (and he certainly seemed to have learned from prior mistakes by going into a huddle at the end of the Dallas game last night).

Only time will tell what his college offense will do in the NFL. The league has certainly changed the rules to enhance scoring (it’s been doing that forever, it seems, the next step no doubt being one foot in bounds like the NCAA). A passing offense (for the potential of Pass Interference calls alone) seems to be the way to go, but the bottom line is what is making Kelly’s offense so “seemingly” (remember, statistics are for losers) powerful, at least against the weaker teams they play, is their running game, and that is enhanced by their spread formations (which the better defensive teams in the NFL may not have much trouble stopping).

And that’s when we’ll learn whether or not Chip Kelly’s statement about time of possession holds any validity. When an offense controls the clock and a defense stops them enough times to exhaust the Eagles’ defense (which has happened this season – see their loss to the Chiefs—KC had the ball for almost 40 minutes in their 26-16 win). We’ll know a lot more once they play the Saints and/or whomever (if anyone) comes after them.

At this point, it’s nothing but big ups to what Kelly did manage to do with the Eagles. Benching Vick was obviously the smartest move he made. Foles has proven himself to be a smart QB. Their defense, at least against weaker offenses, rises to the occasion. The next few weeks are the true test, but there’s no denying that Kelly made a VAST IMPROVEMENT with his team. Then again, his record in college wasn’t too shabby (46-7) vs. Doug Marrone’s 25-25. There's history there, and once again our brain trust ignored it.

So, even if the Eagles get decimated in the first round of the playoffs, Chip Kelly gets a B. His grade can only improve with each step he takes starting next weekend.

How it should be done is pretty obvious … going in and out of an up-tempo scheme seems much more sensible than living (or dying) in one. My Bills were first taught this lesson vs. Washington in that super bowl fiasco … when Joe Gibbs gave Marv Levy yet another coaching clinic (going in and out of a no-huddle and making fools of us). Since then, it’s been Tom Brady/Bill Belichick who do it best. For the Bills, they need to establish a foundation from a huddle, where communication can be restored, before they develop QB’s into a one-way system. Keeping the defense from making substitutions was the excuse for our up-tempo fiasco this season. And how’d that work out for us?

The Bills need to learn how to walk before they can run. Once they establish an offense that can grind, they can develop one that can fly. Keeping our defense on the field longer than necessary is just dumb. Playing exclusively on the fly did nothing for us yet again. We are what our record says we are … sub-mediocre.

The Playoffs … my son, Dustin, a boy after my own heart, especially regarding picks 12 & 13, posted this on his Facebook page:

My playoff rooting guide:
1. Panthers
2. Bengals
3. Chargers
4. Colts
5. Broncos
6. Packers
7. 49ers
8. Chiefs
9. Saints
10. Seahawks
11. Eagles
12. The apocalypse
13. Patriots

TK is using this guide:
1. 49ers
2. Panthers
3. Chiefs
4. Bengals
5. Packers
6. Colts
7. Saints
8. Seahawks
9. Broncos
10. Chargers
11. Eagles
12. The apocalypse
13. Patriots


Our Buffalo Bills yearly end of season music …