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The Bills Win A Game!
Why It Doesn’t Mean Anything
by Tony Bogyo
October 20, 2009

Woo Hoo! Call your brother in San Francisco, pop the champagne corks, do cartwheels on your front lawn! Extend Dick Jauron’s contract by another 5 years! The Bills won a game! A DIVISION game! A game against a team that may finish the season with a winning record! My friends, it is time to party like its 1991!

Ok, out of your system? Are you hoarse from screaming? Have you rung up countless text charges on your phones sending "who's your daddy now?" messages to anyone you ever knew in New York? Do your neighbors think you’re some sort of dangerous lunatic?

Time for a reality check – this is the same team that it was last week and the week before that. Same coach. Same players. Same competitive fire. They may have lost Ugly Bowl I in Buffalo last week to the Browns, but they managed to stumble into victory in Ugly Bowl II: The Rematch at the Meadowlands on Sunday. In a game of who wanted to lose more the Bills actually found a compatible opponent and got a win – in the end the Jets wanted to lose more.

Lest you start looking at the season in a different light, let me tell you about how ugly it was on Sunday. The Jets ran for over 300 yards and allowed Thomas Jones to set a Jets franchise rushing record (remember Curtis Martin?). Even with 6 interceptions and a turnover ratio of +4 the Bills managed to only put 16 points on the board. They still haven't improved the red zone performance – yet another game where trips inside the opponent's 20 yard line result in 3 points or worse. Penalties and on-field personnel confusion still reign – discipline is nowhere to be found. Play calling is still terrible and the Bills continue to show no affinity for the kill – they are still playing not to lose rather than playing to win.

In any event, a win is a win and Mondays are always better when the Bills win, so I'll take it – but I don't have to be happy about it. Readers be warned about getting your hopes up on this team on those occasions where they actually start to win – remember this is a team of dream smashers and soul crushers. If the Bills should beat a bad Carolina team next week I shudder to think of the number of fans who will actually start looking at the mathematics of winning the AFC East and talking about such things as they playoffs all under the cover of being a "real fan".

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about why there is such disparity in the NFL. As dysfunctional and dismal as the Bills have been this season, they certainly have plenty of company among the bottom feeders of the NFL - so much company that few people outside of Buffalo are thinking much about a bad Buffalo organization. This year there are a handful of teams that make the Bills look like a well run organization going in the right direction – the Browns, Raiders, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Rams, Lions, Chiefs and Titans are all being completely outclassed through the first 6 weeks of the season. In a league where parity is supposedly built into the system, why are there so many teams in such dire straits?

I think the answer is twofold and certainly fits Buffalo: Poor talent evaluation and mediocre or poor play at the quarterback position. In theory, the NFL draft is supposed to give a boost to the worst teams in the league – they pick higher in the draft order and have access to the best college players to help them improve their team. That may have been the way it used to be, but having a top 10 pick these days is a tremendous burden. The outrageous contracts commanded by today's rookies – guys who have yet to take a single snap in the pros – is downright embarrassing and leaves absolutely no margin for error. Failure to find a great player in the early part of the draft can set a team back years in terms of salary cap and ultimately competitiveness. It's one thing to pay big money to a guy who is one of the best at his position, it is quite another to be locked into a contract with a guy who is merely average or even worse, a bust. Some of the teams I listed above have missed on high picks multiple years in a row, dooming them to salary cap hell and leaving them with little money to bring in bona fide talent.

And it's not just the top 10 pick that kill a team, although a Mike Williams, Jamarcus Russell or Charles Rodgers can certainly bring you down in a hurry. Drafting guys nowhere near where they would go if you could actually see their talent and production also kills – the Chris Kelsays, John McCargos and Roscoe Parrishs of the world. The Bills gave up too much in draft picks and salary to average or below average guys.

It all seems to fall on an organization's ability to find talent and pay a reasonable rate for it that dictates the success of the overall organization. Teams like the Raiders make terrible draft choices and suffer tremendous consequences; teams like New England draft at the last pert of each round and always seem to find very solid players at fairly reasonable price – they know how to get value where others don't.

So here the Bills front office, along with a whole host of other front offices, really shows their weakness – talent evaluation and the ability to get value. The higher the pick, the more dangerous it is – like putting a loaded weapon in the hands of a child who knows not the damage it can do. Take cover – the Bills may be headed for a top 10 pick in the 2010 draft.

In addition to inability to judge talent and get value, a common thread amongst the NFL bottom feeders seems to be substandard quarterback play. Unless you have an absolutely dominant defense, a team needs a solid quarterback in order to win games. Of the teams I mentioned above is there a squad with a quarterback that excites you? They range from the mediocre (Matt Cassel) to the rookie (Matt Stafford) to the downright terrible (Jamrcus Russell). At best Trent Edwards has shown himself to be in the mediocre category. Even as a huge Buffalo homer you have to admit that we've all had enough time to know that Edwards is not the answer to our problems.

15 years after Jim Kelly and Buffalo is still looking for their "quarterback of the future" – someone to provide solid if not spectacular play as the signal caller. Sadly, that person does not even appear to be on the Bills roster. If Edwards isn't the guy, neither is Ryan Fitzpatrick and neither is Gibran Hamdan. The Bills tried to go the route of bringing in a storied veteran once, but we all know how the Drew Bledsoe experiment turned out. Without a real leader with a real ability on the field the offense can only do so much, especially if the offensive line is suspect – there's little wonder why the Bills have been so anemic on offense in recent history and the reason lies at the feet of several mediocre or bad quarterbacks.

The lack of quarterback talent, both on the field and developing on the roster again speaks to the shortcomings of the talent evaluators in the front office. It's a tricky thing to find a college kid and know he's going to be solid in the NFL, but so many other teams have done it over the past decade you wonder why the Bills haven't at least lucked into something.

So there you have it – a meaningless win and my thoughts on why we are still the same bottom feeder team we were the past week and the past year. With the abysmal front office of the current Bills organization I can't say I have much hope for the future. I can only hope that the Bills squeak out enough wins to drop them out of the top 10 or 15 picks in the draft because I have no faith in their ability to use those pick to turn the ship around. Until the talent evaluation changes the Bills will continue to tread water in a murky sea of ineptitude – Ralph – someone – throw us a buoy!


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