Tonawanda News

January 5, 2013

DUVALL: More of the same from sad sack Bills

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News —

As I write this, the NFL playoffs have just kicked off. For the 13th year in a row, they won't include the Buffalo Bills, a team striving for — and attaining — new levels of irrelevance in professional sports.

In the wake of the team's latest failure, owner Ralph Wilson Jr. announced he was ceding full control of the organization to CEO Russ Brandon. It is only the second time in the team's history that Wilson won't call the shots. The other was when Tom Donahoe was given the same title from 2001-05. 

Here's hoping Brandon's tenure goes better than that.

The team's other big move? Firing inept head coach Chan Gailey. 

Gailey's dismissal likely means a new starting quarterback to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick. I've always liked Fitz — in fact, he's my favorite of the long line of mediocre replacements since Jim Kelly retired — but he simply isn't talented enough to be a full-time starting quarterback in the NFL.

On one hand, I'm extremely excited to think I won't have to watch Fitzpatrick overthrow open wide receivers and wonder when they're going to hand the ball to dynamic runner C.J. Spiller.

On the other hand, I have precisely zero faith they'll hire someone with any better judgment.

The reality is simple. The Bills have not had a competent head coach or quarterback since Marv and Jimbo were running the show, now nearly 20 years ago. 

Speaking of 20 years ago, we marked the anniversary of the Comeback Game Thursday. Frank Reich's heroics against the Oilers made for great fun to recall. Here's a sad fact: The entire franchise, from the nonagenarian owner down to the peanut vendors, needs to pull off a comeback that would dwarf Reich's unbelievable effort if this team is ever to be taken seriously again.

Much has been made about Brandon's assertion that he'll install a "Moneyball" type of statistical analysis to rely on numbers rather than gut feeling when making decisions about how to bring the Bills back from pro sports oblivion.

If that's the case, he should fire general manager Buddy Nix immediately. At 72, Nix is an old dog and Brandon wants to use some new tricks. Unless Brandon is content to overrule Nix on major decisions such as hiring Gailey's replacement, bringing in a new quarterback and retooling a defense that is long on contracts but painfully short on results, what's the point? Does anyone really think Buddy Nix is going to analyze spreadsheets with reams of data? Something tells me the self-professed "never the smartest guy in the room" isn't going to fit in with a new vogue nerd-led analytics department at One Bills Drive.

For what it's worth, Nix's judgment should be called into question as much as Gailey's was. He hired Gailey, signed Fitzpatrick and backed a coaching staff that blundered its way to a paltry 16 victories over three seasons. (Perhaps my favorite stat to highlight Gailey's tenure: He was a stunning 1-19 against teams with a winning record over three seasons. They almost literally never won a game that mattered.)

So here we sit as Bills fans, watching other teams and cities have fun and play meaningful games, wondering if this most recent reboot will yield anything better than the last one.

I'd love to say it will. Thirteen years of dysfunction doesn't offer me any reason to believe it.

Mark my words: We'll be sitting here three years from now, looking back on another inept coaching tenure that's come to an end, again searching for a passer who inspires players and fans — and heaven forbid throws a few touchdowns.

I've always tried to be an optimistic Bills fan but we've reached a point where futility is the only reasonable thing to expect.

Here's hoping they surprise me. I'm not holding my breath.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com.