Another Bills season has gone without playoffs and yet another season has ended with an impending search for a new head coach. We’ve all heard this song 17 times over yet there’s no sign that anything will be different this time around.
Yet there’s no sign that the Pegulas are willing to burn down the front office and start fresh.
The only thing different this time around that more questions are being asked of the decision makers at One Bills Drive, not just the failures of the coach. Doug Whaley, Russ Brandon and the Pegulas have come under fire from fans and media alike and while it doesn’t appear as if any serious changes will come, at least the larger issues are being addressed.
I didn’t have high expectations for this season, I didn’t see the Bills as the playoff team some were selling them as, and I certainly didn’t think they had the answers to overcome their shortcomings. Somehow they still managed to fail to meet my expectations. It’s an amazing feat that the Bills can find new and interesting ways to disappoint, but with nearly two decades of practice I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
A lot of the common Bills postmortem beats have already been covered. Column inches have been devoted to Rex Ryan’s failings and the larger questions over the motives of Whaley, Brandon and company. What’s so frustrating about this impending coaching search is that I already know that it won’t make a lick of difference. Doug Whaley remains the general manager and, more importantly, Russ Brandon continues to hold whatever ambiguous football/non-football position that he does. With those two still in positions of power, I have no faith that there will be any change for the better. They’re hardly the only problem, but they’ve played a big role in getting the Bills to where they are.
None of this will get much better until the Bills find a quarterback. That’s been clear for some time now. So even if Terry and Kim Pegula went scorched earth on the front office, failing to find a quarterback won’t solve all of Buffalo’s ills.
Even with an answer at QB, I’m left without any confidence in the Bills front office. Perhaps they’ll pick a quarterback in the first round this season and he’ll be transcendent, leading the Bills to the playoffs and back to relevance. But it seems more likely that Whaley and Brandon will steer the coaching search in a direction that will get them at least two more years of employment under the Pegulas.
It’s amazing that the pair haven’t just survived the disastrous downward spiral that this season has taken but that they appear to have more power than ever before. Brandon has become something of an expert in this department as he went from an expected firing to president of both of the Bills and Sabres.
The wise speak only of what they know, Gríma son of Gálmód. A witless worm have you become. Therefore be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving-man till the lightning falls.
I’ve likened his employment to the hold Wormtongue had over Theoden in Lord of the Rings. This is something I’ve harped on dating back to Ralph Wilson’s tenure as Brandon seemed to be the silver-tongued “expert” calling the shots at One Bills Drive despite failing to help the franchise progress.
He’s managed to keep a job of significant power for over a decade-and-a-half with the Bills despite the team’s annual march to mediocrity. Some say he only markets the team and doesn’t make football decisions. Yet he fills a prominent seat next to Whaley in Buffalo’s war room at each draft. Who other than Brandon was hovering over Whaley’s shoulder as he worked on the ill-advised trade for Sammy Watkins?
That’s hardly the end of Brandon’s apparent role when it comes to the football side of things. Lest we forget, he served as general manager. Something Tim Graham noted has been removed from official Bills materials such as the media guide. He was the one who convinced the Pegulas to make sure Rex Ryan became their next coach. So, for all the defense he gets as simply being a “business guy” his fingerprints are all over vital football decisions.
I can’t help but think Brandon’s influence and involvement in the football department is motivated more from an “inventory” perspective and less from a football perspective. Was Rex Ryan really the best choice to lead the Bills or was he the easiest one to market to potential ticket buyers? Was it prudent to trade up for Sammy Watkins given the draft class and the needs of the teams between the fourth and eighth picks or would trading up and making a splash appeal more to the fans?
Drawing these assumptions are far more conspiratorial than fact-based deductions – such as the idea that Brandon is probably but most likely is the person leaking info to reporters like Adam Schefter – but what actions has Brandon taken to receive the benefit of the doubt? You can draw conclusions like that on nearly every recent decision the team has made.
After 17 years of ineptitude, I can’t see a tire fire like the one surrounding Ryan’s firing and Anthony Lynn’s promotion without thinking Brandon was the one who lit it.
This is an organization that isn’t just the definition of mediocre on the field, but they invite scorn and criticism off it nearly every year. Two head coaches (TWO!) have chosen to walk away from the team rather than finish out their contracts due, in part, to how they felt things were being run. Look no further than the man who has remained at the top for all these years as to why these ridiculous developments manage to happen year after year.
Brandon’s hardly the only one deserving of blame, he’s just managed to avoid it for a longer stretch than anyone else. Doug Whaley deserves as much, if not more scorn than Rex Ryan received. I’ve been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as he hasn’t had full control over the decisions being made.
Whaley inherited Doug Marrone and all accounts indicate Ryan was hired by those above him. Further reports that Ryan had a large say in roster decisions which may have again limited Whaley’s power. Still, the team’s top-heavy roster has pushed the organization into cap jail, which will force them to walk a tightrope in order to field a competitive roster next season.
Somehow, Whaley managed to take on more power heading into the offseason, a feat I only thought Brandon could accomplish.
So here we are no closer to ending the playoff drought and arguably further behind the Sabres in terms of progressing back to relevance.
The Bills won’t be a playoff team next year. There is no apparent answer for who will be playing quarterback, certainly not any names that could be perceived as a lateral move, let alone any player who would be perceived as an upgrade.
With no clear sign of improvement on the horizon, why not do it right and put new people in power? The Bills have been running in circles for long enough that finding a new path is the only logical option.
At least under new leadership there’d be some indication that ownership is seeking true improvement. Until then I suspect the Bills will remain rudderless.
See, Théoden, here is a snake! To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and it did you service in its fashion.