ďíI want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad! You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to doÖBut first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ĎIím mad as hell and Iím not going to take it anymore!íĒPeter Finch as Howard Beale, Network, 1976
Itís been more than a week since the Bills folded like a house of cards in Foxboro on national TV, and Iím still seething. Like many of my fellow Bills fans, Iíve hit my limit. Iím no longer disappointed with the Buffalo Bills, Iím just downright angry. Disappointed would have been my emotion had the Bills been torn limb from limb in front of a national TV audience as I had expected. Anger comes from winning a game on the field but not on the scoreboard. Anger comes from watching a team without heart failing to get the job done.
In recent history the Bills have been completely dominated by the Patriots, particularly when the game has been played in Foxboro. They have also played very poorly on nationally televised night games. The Patriots were hungry after suffering a rare string of defeats and were coming off their bye week. In case you hadnít heard (it was kept pretty secret), they received an emotional boost from the return of linebacker Tedy Bruschi. All of this hinted at a scenario where you would have been wise to bet your money, house, and transplantable internal organs on the Pats minus the 8.5 points.
But the Bills stepped up and played a solid game against their nemesis from New England. Solid, that is, until it really mattered. When push came to shove, the Bills turned tail and shrank from the challenge, leaving angry and bewildered Bills fans in their wake.
Anger comes from years of watching the boys in blue continue to fall short of the win. Continue to fall short of their potential. Continue to fail to rise to the challenge. Continue to wallow in mediocrity or worse. Continue to accept defeat.
When youíre a bad team, you get beat badly. When youíre a decent team, you lose badly. The Bills are a decent team, and thatís what makes me mad as hell.
Last Sundayís game was a perfect demonstration of the differences between teams that win Super Bowls and teams that fail to make the playoffs. The Patriots were dominated throughout the game and found a way to win. The Bills dominated throughout the game and found a way to lose. An ugly win is still worth more than a well-played and executed loss.
And so Iím angry. I am angry at myself for continuing to watch a team on the fast track to nowhere. A team whose greatest games were played over a decade ago. A team who lacks heart and the will or ability to go for the kill. I am angry that the current team lacks leadership and guys who force the others to follow and play better. I am angry that players seem to tolerate losing on a weekly basis because they get their checks win or lose. I am angry that some players have proclaimed themselves to be the best at their positions without letting their actions speak louder than their mouths. I am angry that this team is heading in the wrong direction and taking all of the fans along for the ride.
I am particularly angry at management and their inability to build a winning organization in Buffalo. The talent evaluation was a strongpoint for the Bills in their Super Bowl years, but seems to be lacking currently. Theyíve had some success drafting in years past, but theyíve also had their share of picks far off the mark. Since the 2001 draft the Bills have selected 42 players, 28 of whom are still on the team and 9 of these are starters. They have a combined 2 Pro Bowl appearances. They have brought in a number of big name veterans who seem to have left their best days behind them with their previous clubs.
The Bills suffered a setback in 2000 when they blew a first round draft pick on defensive end Erik Flowers. Flowers was a complete bust. Nothing hurts a franchise more than using a precious high draft pick on a guy who doesnít help you win. Fast forward to 2002 and the Bills select Mike Williams as a tackle to anchor their offensive line. The problem is, Williams has been physically and emotionally fragile and his on field performance justifies neither his draft rank nor his salary. Williams is the Bills highest paid player this year, and is being paid as a premiere tackle when heís no more than an average guard. The Bills will likely cut Williams next season (heís due almost $9.5 million) if they can afford the $5 million cap hit Ė another albatross draft pick weighing down the team.
Management has also hampered their plan to build the Bills into a force in the AFC by making some bad coaching decisions. The Gregg Williams experiment was an outright debacle that set the team back years. Their insistence on hiring young, first-time coaches has not reaped great rewards Ė the jury is still out on Mike Mularkey but his tenure has been marked by an inability to get early wins at the season start. Perhaps the fault goes past the front office to the owner Ė it has been reported that the salary rate offered to coaches in Buffalo is a fraction of what other organizations are willing to pay their head coaches.
Looking to the future the Bills refuse to acknowledge the problems in the organization and insist that they are capable of winning now. I donít buy it, but itís not important what I think. What is important is that the correct football decisions are being made and I donít believe they are. At the halfway point of the season, the quarterback of the future, J.P. Losman, sits on the bench while the team toils in mediocrity. Because the Bills arenít willing to admit that they are not a serious contender this year, their young quarterback is hardly any less green than he was at the season start. At the current rate the Bills will finish at 6-10, out of the playoffs and with an inexperienced quarterback slotted to be The Man next season, a situation remarkably like last year. When does the learning begin? When does the future begin?
The Bills appear to be doing their best imitation of the Cincinnati Bengals. Put a touted QB in, pull him when he struggles and ride a veteran journeyman into mediocrity while refusing to bite the bullet and prepare the youngster for the future. The Bengals finally learned from past failures in 2004 when the resisted the temptation to go with Jon Kitna and instead let Carson Palmer get his experience. It took Palmer 11 games to hit his stride, but since then heís failed to reach a triple digit quarterback rating only once in his last 11 games.
It is clear that something isnít working with the Bills and it is time for a change. As much as I hate the thought of rebuilding, it seems that the current Bills organization is not capable of bringing the success sought after by the fans. Players and probably coaches need to leave the organization. Tom Donahoe must be replaced in order for the necessary wholesale changes to take place. Heís made some good decisions and made some bad decisions, but the bottom line is that the Bills are not where they need to be after a lengthy stint as President and GM of the club. Iím tired of waiting for next year for things to pan out or improve Ė if youíre not producing results NOW it is time to go. In the end, the bottom line is winning. If you canít win now, at least make the changes needed to win.
Of course nothing I say will create a Bills team that is instantly successful. It will require rebuilding and that will be painful. What I and many fans are looking for is a team that is willing to take a step back, make the changes that will bring future success and not try and spin it as instant success. Tell us we are rebuilding, tell us when weíll get there and we can probably muster a bit more patience, but donít continue to insist that we can have success now and then never deliver it.
With any luck the Bills have some pieces in place already in their young players. Willis McGahee has certainly shown he is a top back in the league. Lee Evans has shown he can be a solid receiver. Aaron Schobel is a solid defensive end, and Terrence McGee has tremendous promise as a corner as well as a return man. If we ever get to see Losman for an extended period of time we should be able to see if heís going to be as good as weíve been told or will be yet another draft pick who never produced as expected.
Now if youíll excuse me, I have a window to go open Ė join me, wonít you?
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