The brakes on Ralph Wilson's tour de force are still screeching. Thursday night, his highest hopes were crushed. His coaching search, condensed.
Wilson expects to lure a Hall of Fame-worthy coach? Good luck. Lifeless performances on national television aren't exactly a good sell. In getting physically shellacked by the New York Jets, Buffalo may have kissed away its chance at Mike Shahanan, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Knute Rockne, Al Pacino or whichever other fantasy coach Wilson is chasing.
Dream on. Forget it. Get ready for Plan B, and Plan C and Plan D.
All of Buffalo's problems were magnified. And it wasn't pretty. Whoever takes over as head coach next season is inheriting black holes at quarterback, the offensive line and throughout the defense. The Bills are screaming for wholesale changes.
Too many issues at too many positions. No G.M./coach combo can fix this team in one offseason. There isn't enough money and there isn't enough time. By default, Buffalo needs to start over with a coach willing to rebuild, willing to endure growing pains.
An upset win at home over the Dolphins teased. Maybe some pieces were in place, maybe there were some seeds for a new coach to plant. Then came Toronto. Yet another uninspiring loss reaffirmed the obvious. The Bills roster is dulled down by an overall lack of talent — the product of incompetence in the front office.
Exhbit A, the team's confusing conglomeration of quarterbacks. This year confirmed that Trent Edwards is not a starter. At least not right now. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had his moments (see: Jacksonville, Miami games). But he's another Gus Frerotte. A start here. A start there. Bouncing from team to team. Good, never great. And Brian Brohm? A pet project at best.
Exhibit B, the team's strange disregard for a left tackle. The Bills dumped one the best in the NFL to Philadelphia, cut his replacement five days before the season opener and have been perfectly content shuffling no-names into the position. Or in Laymen's terms, the Bills jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. Twelve games, 36 sacks. Third-most in the NFL.
Exhibit C, the defense. In general. One keynote signing can't save this unit. Aaron Maybin might as well still be holding out. The injury-ravaged group of linebackers has been a weekly punching bag in the run game. Thus, a better-than-you-think secondary hasn't had a chance to shine.
The team still believes. And that's a good thing. They're still fighting. You won't see the Bills lay down over the next four games.
"I know we definitely stood (out) as an offensive line," said Jonathan Scott, the latest left tackle. "As a unit we just kept our poise and I'm hoping that we can come together and bounce back."
This after allowing nine sacks and 21 quarterback hits in two games. Come again?
Talk to the Bills players and you see the fight, the resolve. They can't control a decade's worth of mismanagement. Given the circumstances, it's remarkable that this team has produced four wins and several other close calls. They're running on fumes, squeezing out every drip of talent they can under Perry Fewell.
But to realistically realign into a contender, Buffalo's new G.M. must reconstruct the roster. Enough blind optimism. Every year, the organization is rebooted by a weird, new sense of hype. The Big Bad Voodoo Daddy christening Drew Bledsoe as the second coming in 2002. J.P. Losman pumping his fist in new throwback uniforms at the "Celebration of Champions" — Jim Kelly at his hip — a few years later. Bizarre draft picks (Willis McGahee), signings (Terrell Owens) and submissions (Jason Peters).
A deliberate G.M. coupled with a bright offensive mind at head coach is the answer.
Just don't hold your breath. The Bills will have company in January. Wade is ready fade in Dallas. Lovie Smith is getting, well, no lovie in the Windy City. Gary Kubiak and Jack Del Rio are tightroping down the stretch. And several teams are bound to fire coaches with Verne Lundquist-carelessness. January is Knee-Jerk Season.
So cross off the Shanahans. Buffalo's ugly loss to the Jets put problems on center stage.
Here, "rebuilding" is an understatement. The team must gut out chunks of its roster — much like Tampa Bay did last offseason. Sad, yes. A hit to the box office, of course. But the Bills need to clear out dead weight and replenish youth, replenish with talent.
Hard to say what the starting point will be for a new G.M. These projects typically begin with a new quarterback or left tackle. What's not hard to say? It won't be a high-profile name that does so.
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