Changing the culture in Buffalo
November 23, 2011 1 Comment
I mentioned in my blog about the Bills downward spiral the other day that a change of culture was badly needed in Buffalo. Today I will dig a bit deeper into that. Now most people will say one thing will change the culture – new ownership. But is it that easy? Or that hard depending on how you look at it? Sure there are plenty of success stories in sports relating to the change of ownership such as the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers, and Buffalo’s own Sabres. On the flip side there is always a Frank McCourt or a Fred Wilpon situation looming with such rich and powerful entities. Being in a holding pattern waiting for new ownership, as the Bills seemingly are right now, obviously isn’t a good thing but fans need to realize that there is a “be careful what you wish for” scenario that can come with a new ownership group.
Keeping with what is on the field right now there are a few things that I have seen from this team in the past few weeks that I have not liked. Well, maybe more than a few but some are more glaring than others. Obviously the most important one is changing the culture of losing in Buffalo. That one does not necessarily happen with new ownership either. You have to win to be not used to losing. I saw it right in the faces of the Bills players this past Sunday as they sulked on the sidelines. You would think between the overachievers and the younger big school players that the tide might be changing but it’s reared it’s ugly head back these past few games. The “it’s who were are so we might as well stop fooling ourselves and everyone else” attitude. It needs to go away. You would think that some of the players that have been here for a long time would be hungry to win. Maybe that’s why they’ve stuck here for so long though, it’s not programmed in them to be winners.
The Bills almost exclusively brought in players from winning programs this past season, a change from the usual small school draft mentality they’ve had. Marcell Dareus was a no-brainer to be picked where he was but his Alabama pedigree should help as he becomes the corner stone of the defense. He was one of the few players who actually looked upset at the team’s play on the sideline. Kelvin Sheppard, a 3rd round pick from LSU, never slowed down even as the game got out of hand. 2nd round pick out of Texas Aaron Williams is a high energy player and a popular teammate and will start his first NFL game this Sunday against the Jets even though he just came back from 6 game absence after being carted off the field in the Patriots game. These three are guys you can build your defense around but there are too many holes around them and not enough veteran leadership to mentor them. Williams and Dareus’ best prospects for mentors, Terrence McGee and Kyle Williams, have been in and out of the lineup this year and are now both on IR. Other good leaders like Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay have been injured as well. The team is also light on outside linebackers and defensive ends. The 2010 draft seems like a wasted draft in hindsight but it was sandwiched by some pretty good drafts in 2009 and 2011 (Aaron Maybin not withstanding). The Bills needs consistency drafting good, NFL ready players.
The other thing, which ties in a bit to the above, is coaching. Obviously the problem I have talked about is that there is no identity for the defense. Sometimes they blitz, sometimes they try to bring pressure with three or four guys. They go man on man, then maybe they’ll play a little zone. There is just no flow to the defense. Is it the personnel or the coaching? A little of both perhaps, maybe even a lot of both. We’ve seen some of these players make plays but not with consistency. Is that a talent failure or a coaching failure? Seems like a coaching one to me.
Offensively the coaching seems to get a pass because Gailey is the head coach and the players seem to love him. Let’s look at the play-calling. Gailey doesn’t utilize Fred Jackson enough early in the game. He seems resigned to the fact that teams will not respect the passing game and load it against the run. Try to run it up the middle and look for a break. Use screens and draws more…and then when you establish them use other plays to contradict it. The offense needs more play action and roll-outs. It has become incredibly plain and simple since they have started to struggle. Also, the most overlooked guy in the room, Curtis Modkins, has some explaining to do. Fred Jackson is successful because Fred Jackson is a good, smart, polished football player. I don’t give Modkins as much credit for Jackson as I do for the failures of C.J. Spiller. Spiller runs too stiff and upright. He dances too much. Somebody needs to get a hold of him and tell him that it’s not that easy to tackle someone who is running fast and tell him to put his head down and finish off runs. I’m not so sure that’s what Gailey and Modkins want him to do though. That will be tough when December comes in Buffalo and Spiller is the feature back to due injury to Fred Jackson. Also they need to find a better system than having Andy Levitre be the back-up at every single offensive line position. He was one of, if not the best left guards in the league throughout the first half of the season and won’t take a snap there for the rest of the year. You need to put your best players where they play best.
Sadly I’m not sure that Chan Gailey is the guy for this job. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. With a franchise that has its whole future hanging on the balance of the health of one 93 year old man ownership can change at any time and there is no guarantee that Gailey will be the guy that new ownership wants anyway. And around and around the wheel we go. The fan base is getting antsy and hope was the last thing they needed and it’s what they got at the beginning of the year only to have the same old nightmares come back up. Here’s hoping to success and stability to the Bills in the near future. Ten plus years is a long, long time for a fan base to wait for it.