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Death and Taxes?
Try Being a Bills Fan
by Tony Bogyo
December 13, 2016

They say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes – as a Bills fan I’d like to dispute that. If there’s a topic on which Bills fans are versed its historical repetition – seeing the same thing over and over again. With a playoff drought that’s going to hit 17 years when the season finally ends, historical repetition has reached levels of certainty – we can be certain of more than just death and taxes. Here are the things of which I am also certain.

  1. It’s December and the Bills aren’t going anywhere. At week 14 of the NFL season, the Bills have had no more than seven wins through 13 games in their playoff drought. This season marks the 5th time the Bills had six wins at this point in the season – 5 times they’ve had seven wins, and the other seven seasons they sat at five wins or less. Of course I don’t need to tell Bills fans about this – they’ve lived through it. The annual hope for the playoffs now turns to hope for the draft and may seems like ages away (and the Bills will pick in their usual 11-15 spot). If there’s a bright side it is that you don’t care quite as much about the last meaningless games – it can give you some extra time to do yard work or prepare for the holiday season – you can maximize the short daylight hours of December and watch the game on DVR later (when you can fast forward through the parts that make you want to throw up).

  2. Seriously – it’s over. The Bills have not yet been mathematically eliminated and coaches and some fans will cling to that. Coaches will say stupid things like they are playing to win because the team still has a chance. Holier than thou fans will lecture pessimists like me that I’m not a true fan because I say the season is over. The graphics departments at the various networks will still include the Bills in their “In the Hunt” charts, but let’s be serious – that would need to be a serious hunt (as in going duck hunting in northern New York and bagging a tiger). Hey, I’d love it if the Bills had a realistic shot of making the playoffs, but they don’t – the best they can do is 9-7 and with the AFC losses they’ve had they would need some serious help (I believe the official equation involves at least one contending team going down in a plane crash). As much as we all hate it – again – the season is over.

  3. Time to think quarterback. I like Tyrod Taylor and I desperately want him to be the quarterback we all hoped he would be – I root for him to be that guy every week. But after 13 weeks of season 2, it’s become obvious that Tyrod is not the quarterback we all hoped for and more time isn’t going to make it happen. Tyrod’s athletic and exciting- he’s probably the best quarterback to lead the Bills since Flutie, but his flaws have limited his ceiling and right now I think he’s at his ceiling – we’re not going to get more. Tyrod’s main problem seems to be his field vision and his ability to throw a man open. He takes the snap, makes some quick reads and if someone is not immediately open he starts moving his feet. Sometimes he makes plays with his feet, sometimes he does not. The problem is, he misses open receivers and doesn’t make the throws anticipating the receiver’s action – things good quarterbacks do. Unfortunately, I think this is a limitation of Taylor’s ability rather than something that can be coached or learned. Teams have learned how to successfully defend the Bills – stack the box and make Tyrod throw – don’t give him any quick short passes and don’t let him break containment. The Steelers did a fantastic job of shutting down Tyrod on Sunday – sure he threw 2 touchdown passes, but he was never go to lead the Bills to a tying or game winning drive. So what happens next? Is Tyrod the quarterback next year because there are no better options? Is Cardale Jones ready to be a contender? What about Tony Romo? As usual, the Bills seem to have a need at quarterback again and no real options to fill that need.

  4. Time to think coach. December would hardly feel like December if Bills fans weren’t starting to think about getting rid of a head coach and finding another. Rex Ryan has always been a polarizing figure – some loved Terry Pegula’s selection, other hated it but lack of measurable progress in the organization after two seasons has Rex on the hot seat. Ryan came in and proclaimed himself “all-in” – it was going to be Buffalo or bust. Say what you will about Ryan – he’s outspoken, bombastic, a character – there’s nobody like him. Like Tyrod, I really wanted Ryan to be the coach to turn it around – to come in and make a huge impact upon a go-nowhere organization, but it hasn’t happened. Before Ryan and his twin brother the Bills had a top defense – two years later with a limited amount of personnel change (and some of it good – see Lorenzo Alexander) and the Bills defense is terrible. The Bills gave up 29 unanswered points a week ago in Oakland and got completed stampeded by Pittsburgh on Sunday – half those guys are probably still cleaning Le’Veon Bell’s cleat marks off their jerseys today. The Bills seem to have too much talent to be that bad at stopping anyone, and there always seems to be a measure of confusion whether its guys running onto the field late or miscommunicating during the game – that’s a damning indictment of a coaching staff 14 weeks into a season. I want it to work – I don’t hate Rex, but something just isn’t working. Like quarterback, there are no good options – stay the course sounds like the wrong thing to do, but so does tearing it down and starting over – we’ve done that a bunch a times with no luck. This is a classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation and honestly I have no preference for one direction over another. I suppose I lean towards hoping the existing staff can figure out a way to get the most out of the existing players rather than bringing in a new guy who needs to spend time acquiring the players he wants to run his schemes, but I won’t be heartbroken if a coaching change is made.

  5. Fans will be fans. This is the point in the season where you see the same old classic fan responses. There’s the guy who goes on a rant saying he’s done with the team – no more. He’s not buying any more Bills merch and he’s getting rid of DirecTV subscription. If only it were that easy – I’d have been gone long ago, as would many others. The truth is that your team is like heroin – you don’t just get up and walk away (unless you’re a casual fan – but I assume since you’re reading this column on a site called you’re probably a pretty committed fan). Other fans like me will grumble our usual grumbles – one of the privileges of getting older and grayer is that people allow you to be negative and complain about things – it’s kind of expected, actually. I’m not old enough to yell at kids to get off my lawn yet, but I can grumble about the Bills with the best of ‘em. You’ll also find a small group of fans, usually younger, who really and truly believe a miracle will happen and not only will the Bills make the playoffs, they’ll go on to win the Super Bowl. These people also tend to believe in Santa Claus with the same fervor of Buddy the Elf, and I suspect some of them will ultimately end up in clock towers with hunting rifles unless they learn the annual soul-crushing routine the rest of us know all too well.

  6. So, when does the new year start? With nothing to look forward to on the field, it’s time to start looking at all the players that could help turn the Bills around and make next year THE year. On message boards you’ll see lists of free agents at every position for next year, ranked by how talented the poster believes the player is. You’ll hear arguments over which college players the Bills should draft in rounds 1-7. Sadly, the same things will happen in the offseason as always happen in the offseason – big name free agents will sign with other teams without the Bills being in the conversation (not always a bad thing). The Bills may sign some guys you’ve not really heard about because Buffalo isn’t exactly at the top of everyone’s list (missing the playoffs for 17 years tends to dull some of the luster of the team). The Bills will draft somewhere between 11-15 and get a player who is starting NFL caliber, but chances are will not be a difference maker like they are hoping for. In the second round they’ll get a steal by taking a questionable player with first round measurable – this guy is destined to see very little actual playing time due to injuries/suspensions/lack of desire to play football.

And there you have it – the things you can count on with certainty as a Bills fan – a rather depressing list but tell me this hasn’t been the last 17 years of being a fan. I keep telling myself that when the Bills finally DO put it all together and win it all it’s going to be incredibly sweet – I just hope climate change/alien invasion/zombie apocalypse/rise of the Apes doesn’t happen first – it sure would be a bummer to miss it.

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