The great thing about the NFL is that any team can make the playoffs; any team except the Buffalo Bills that is. There is only one team in the NFL right now that hasn’t seen the playoffs since the turn of the millennium. A team that once took part in four straight Super bowls can’t even make it to a Wild card game today.
I’m a 28 year old loyal fan who has dreamed of going to a game in Buffalo since I was a child. But my entire adult life has been filled with teams that just aren’t worth the trip. I’ve bothered to own four jerseys in my 20′s; Willis McGahee, Drew Bledsoe, Eric Moulds and most recently Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 5th one is on its way with Mario WIlliams, of course. But seriously, my entire adult life has been filled with painful year after painful year of football watching.
Bandwagon fans ask me all the time why I even like the Bills. You know the fans that own twelve jerseys from 10 different players from 7 different teams. Who would like a team that can’t make the playoffs in 12 straight years? It’s not like I just woke up one day and said I liked the way they lose every year. Everything started when my years were in single digits. From 1988 to 1999, during my childhood, the Bills were a winning team. In the years 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 they made it to the Superbowl. That’s four straight years of reaching the biggest game in football. Six of those years they won their division and in ten of those twelve years they made the playoffs. For a decade the Buffalo Bills were the most feared team in the entire AFC, now they’re the laughing stock of the NFL.
It’s clear that the 12 years of my childhood dwarf the 12 years of my jaded adult life as a Bills fan. But a rule of ethics in sports is to remain loyal when it comes to team sports. Can’t I just get a winning season that gets us to the playoffs already?
Since the year 2000, the Bills have had two .500 seasons and only one winning season at 9-7. They’ve become the blueprint of what not-to-do in the league. You don’t bench the quarterback who gets you to the playoffs, as they did Doug Flutie back in 1999. I wouldn’t be shocked if Doug Flutie hired someone to do black magic on the Buffalo Bills after they cut him, despite making it to the playoffs with a respectable 11-5 record.
Think about it, the Tennessee Titans went on to almost win the Superbowl after the Music City Miracle, you never know what could have happened if they let Flutie,who took them to the playoffs, start. Imagine being a quarterback who clinches the playoffs with one more game to spare, and because your backup looks good in a game you didn’t have to win, they bench you in the playoff game. I would be plotting something if that happened to me. Witch doctors and those folks who work with voodoo dolls would be on speed dial… I’m just saying.
How do we save this sinking ship? The first thing Ralph Wilson has to do is publicly apologize to Doug Flutie for one of the most ridiculous and pathetic quarterback switches in NFL history. Does anyone know where Rob Johnson is nowadays?
But in all seriousness, we’re talking about twelve years. I’ve never had a beer and watched a winning Bills team. That is just unacceptable in sports. Then to make matters worse, we’ve been teased twice with 4-0 starts only to end the season under .500. The last three seasons ended with double digit losses and the last four seasons the Bills were last in the AFC East division, which included the horrible Dolphins.
The Bills deciding to lock in Ryan Fitzpatrick with a stellar contract just like they did with Rob Johnson, is a clear pattern of behavior. I’m not saying I don’t believe in my quarterbacks, but how about we reward someone for getting us out of this awful playoff drought and not because they had four good games.
The talk about the Bills leaving Buffalo in the last couple of years has honestly worried me as a loyal fan. While I don’t live in Buffalo, not even close, it just wouldn’t be the same. Especially if the team name were to completely change. Los Angeles or Toronto Bills just doesn’t sound right; plus how fitting would a buffalo logo be in another city? It would be hard to imagine football without my team around. A big piece of my childhood and the dreams of a championship I’ve carried with it would be taken from me and many Bills fans, not only in Buffalo, but around the country.
Many would say that dwelling on the past doesn’t fix anything. While that’s true, it’s difficult to not talk about. A problem has to be addressed before it can be fixed. Take a look at this last decade. After their quarterback stud Rob Johnson was a fail,they acquired Drew Bledsoe from the New England Patriots. While the red flags were there, like Patriots being willing to trade in their own division, we needed to take a risk and get ourselves a good quarterback. Drew Bledsoe still had an arm and brought plenty of experience with him. He was obviously coming off a major injury with a collapsed lung, but he was considered good to play before the Patriots went to the playoffs. He even played in the AFC title game where he lead them to a victory over a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team.
Drew Bledsoe was never a mobile quarterback though, so he needed a good line to block for him. Given the fact that he had a rocket for an arm, he would need a good amount of consistent blocking to get the ball down field to his receivers. The Bills never got Drew Bledsoe any protection, the man was sacked 140 times in three seasons. As someone who watched these games it was painful to watch a pocket quarterback have his entire line fall apart play after play. In his best days in New England, it was common to see Bledsoe get sacked a lot due to his lack of mobility. In his six best years with New England, Bledsoe only endured 121 sacks.
A pocket quarterback getting sacked is expected. But when you trade for one and you’re giving up a first round draft pick in the process ,you would think a good line to protect him would be useful. Bledsoe was good enough to give us our only winning season in twelve years when they went 9-7 in 2004, when they outscored their opponents by 111 points, more than they had since their Superbowl days. Seven years after Drew Bledsoe left the Buffalo Bills, the team has only gotten worse.
Holcomb, Losman and Edwards are forgotten quarterbacks that didn’t amount to anything. Fitzpatrick has had good early runs but then begins to drop his performance early in the season. Yet the Bills were in a rush to sign him to a big contract? While I understand the franchise wanting to be patient with a potential quarterback, it’s hard to image their reasoning to sign him to a 59 million dollar six year contract before the season was even over. After the extension, the interceptions became ridiculous and the losing streak began. Is the contract an outrage? Compared to what the Bills have done in the last 12-years? Not really, but it also wasn’t the time to offer anything.
Hopefully things turn around and I can finally drink a beer at a legal age, while enjoying a winning Buffalo Bills team. There is some promise if the team can have another strong start this season. The team was outscored by triple digits last season so the addition of Mario Williams is a major plus. Hopefully they start winning soon, before the Bills join the Newark Tornadoes and Toledo Maroons in the list of defunct franchises.
So here’s to the end of the drought and to a successful future.