Buffalo Bills: 2015 Post-Mortem

For anyone that follows me regularly, I apologize for being silent for the last several weeks of the season. Unfortunately, the Bills loss to Jacksonville took away any hope I had that this was finally “the year.” I titled this piece a “Post-Mortem” because of what we watched happen on the field this year. If you’ve never been part of a post-mortem, it’s basically a discussion on a situation that went wrong, what was fixed, and a plan so it doesn’t happen in the future.

Last year at this time the fan base rejoiced as a coach (who wasn’t well liked but went 9-7) resigned and, Kim and Terry brought in a big name coach in Rex Ryan. We all knew Ryan’s M.O. prior to his hire – defensive genius lacking good game management skills at the head coaching level, as well as a competent offense. Buffalo seemed like the perfect fit for him: a great defense but an offense with challenges. The latter needed a good offensive coordinator and QB. Then, Greg Roman was hired and based on his history, also seemed like the perfect man for the job. Rex did what Rex does and that’s use his mouth to sell his team and instill confidence in his players. At his press conference he asked “Is this thing on? Because it’s about to be,” implying our playoff drought was over. He said we’d be a bully and we’d ground-and-pound our way to the playoffs. It all sounded good and sounded like it would work with the tools we had on the team.

The Bills made it a priority to bolster the offense. They traded for LeSean McCoy and drafted Karlos Williams. They made the mistake of releasing Fred Jackson as they severely missed his leadership and abilities. They signed Percy Harvin and stole Charles Clay from Miami. They also made a subtle move trading for Tyrod Taylor – a four-year veteran from Baltimore. He was billed as a diamond in the rough, often compared to Michael Vick. I think we can say we found a serviceable QB that can buy us time and win games until we find our next Jim Kelly.

The defense made a complete 180-degree turn from years prior, going from the top five in the league to the bottom five. Injuries, lack of leadership and new scheme were most to blame for the defensive failures. Losing Kyle Williams and Aaron Williams for the year early on was tough to overcome. Though Ronald Darby was a pleasant surprise locking down the field opposite of Gilmore. Darby played so well that he’s in the mix for rookie of the year. Rex’s defenses require shutdown corners and now he’s got them. The loss of Aaron Williams really hurt since he leads and directs that defense.

The offense saw its share of injuries as well. McCoy was nursing a hamstring injury well into the bye week. Karlos Williams was in and out of the lineup. Did I say the release ejof Fred Jackson was one of the worst moves ever? Percy Harvin barely made it seven games before being lost for the season. Sammy Watkins and Tyrod Taylor were injured at various times as well. The Bills traded Matt Cassel to the Cowboys and decided to roll the dice with EJ Manuel who, did appear to improve in the preseason. Unfortunately – or fortunately – EJ probably played his last game as a Bill since he failed to win either of his starts and cost the Bills the game against Jacksonville.

The Bills ended up 8-8. I’m glad Rex is happy he was able to spoil the Jets playoff hopes, but let’s be honest, the Jets got better once he left and the Bills got worse. I’m a Rex Ryan guy. When I hear him talk, I want to run through a wall for that guy, but his shortcomings as a coach were noticeable all year. There were issues with challenges, play calling, defensive communication, game clock management, decisions on critical downs and team discipline. His locker room was divided, and it showed on the field. Players didn’t buy into his system, and it seemed that he was forcing a system on guys instead of installing a system that highlights their strengths. Things seemed to get better over the last few weeks of the season. Hopefully, they can build on that moving forward. As much as coaches say injuries aren’t an excuse, injuries were an excuse. The Bills ended up with 18 players on IR and at one point had injuries to almost every starting skill position on offense. Rex said in his press conference that sometimes injuries dictated what defense they played and that he now has a better understanding of what his players can and can’t do.  You can’t win games with Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and “fill-in-the-blank guy” at receiver. The final issue I had this year that also fell on the coaches was the play calling on 3rd or 4th and short. If you only need to get two or three yards, why are you taking a shot down the field in critical moments of the game? When you have a mobile QB, McCoy and Watkins, you should be able to get a few yards every play.

As bummed as I was about this season, I am looking forward to 2016. We’ll see a different team for sure as Rex will cut and replace Mario Williams and lose Nigel Bradham in free agency. Aaron Williams’ neck injury may mean he’s retiring, though Doug Whaley said his diagnosis was looking positive. Kyle Williams is up there in age and is coming off a serious injury, so will he be as effective if he comes back? There are still concerns on the offensive line and we need another wide receiver opposite Watkins. The Bills will need to add depth behind Tyrod Taylor as well. The Bills are saying they aren’t going to extend Tyrod and let him play out next year to see if he’s a franchise QB or not. It’s a big risk if he plays lights out since most teams in the league need a QB. The Bills will end up drafting near 20th in the draft, but since they have a history of 1st round misses, let’s hope for the best.

Well guys, thanks for reading and sharing in the joy and misery that is Buffalo Bills football for another year. I hope you enjoy the writing style coming more from a beleaguered fan than a professional news writer who’s just constantly a “Debbie downer.” This was a tough year for all of us. It was like asking your long time sweetheart to the prom at the beginning of the year only for her to dump you a week before for the guy she just met at the gas station who then asks to borrow the tux you rented. Here’s to 2016 and FINALLY ENDING the longest playoff drought in professional sports. I mean, even MLB’s Chicago Cubs made the playoffs!!!

By: Jason Sins

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