Still struggling, aren’t you?
Trying to conjure some reason to attend — or even watch — the Buffalo Bills’ season finale must be excruciating. All season…wait. All decade, this team has jerked you around like a mean streak of “24” cliffhangers. Only, this isn’t nearly as entertaining as Jack Bauer head-locking a terrorist.For many, this week’s promotion of Buddy Nix to general manager was affirmation that the misery will continue.
As Nix proclaimed, “I’m not a genius.” Well, that’s what most Bills fans have been praying for — a genius to wave a magic wand and stop the madness. Nix deserves a shot. His pedigree, affiliations and work in San Diego all warrant a fair shake.
But for now, there isn’t much optimism beaming from Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mercifully, a decade of disarray closes today. Zero playoff appearances. One winning season. And the team heads into 2010 in a complete free-fall. Yes, Nix has his work cut out for him. He inherits a mess that has been 10 years in the making.
Here’s a quick look back at a decade of memories most fans are trying to suppress.
1. Crushing New England, 31-0, in the 2003 season opener. Seemed so hopeful back then, right? Drew Bledsoe ripped his old team for 230 yards and a touchdown. Sam Adams rumbled himself into Sports Illustrated fame. And the Bills finished 6-10. Ugh.
2. Bombs-away in Houston. J.P. Losman could do no wrong back then. He was the cocky, rocket-armed quarterback of the future. Against the Texans in 2006, Losman airmailed two 83-yard touchdowns to Lee Evans. He finished with 340 yards on three touchdowns, including a game-winner to Peerless Price with 13 ticks left. He was bold. He was young. He was cut a couple years later. Losman is now fighting for his NFL life.
3. Sweet, sweet revenge. One year after getting its
heart ripped out by the Tennessee Titans a few months prior, the Bills won 16-13 in the ’00 season-opener. Rob Johnson was still hip. Wade Phillips was still the head coach. And Pat Williams wasn’t thrown to the curb yet. Ahh, the good ‘ol days.
1. “Beat the Bills with the Backups” was the rally cry of Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the ’04 regular-season finale. Buffalo needed to win and have either the New York Jets or Denver Broncos lose to make the playoffs. And it couldn’t beat the Replacement Steelers, which were resting up the playoffs. The key play was Drew Bledsoe failing to recognize a blitz in the fourth quarter, subsequently getting sacked and fumbling the ball away. Backup, and future Defensive Player of the Year, James Harrison scooped it up for the touchdown. A great defense was wasted by a popgun passing game that 9-7 season.
2. Dallas shocks Buffalo in the Bills’ return to Monday Night Football. Despite forcing six turnovers and returning two for touchdowns, the Bills found a way to lose. The theme of the decade. With 20 seconds left, Buffalo allowed a touchdown. With 18 seconds left, Dallas recovered an onsides kick. Somehow, Jauron’s ‘D’ allows an easy-does-it pass near the sideline. And as time expired, Nick Folk booted a 53-yard field goal to win. The hangover from that game still lingers.
3. New England shocks Buffalo this season. Same story. Buffalo dominates the game overall, mounting a 24-13 lead late in the fourth quarter. A pair of Tom Brady touchdown passes bookend an inexplicable fumble by Leodis McKelvin. Game over.
Best Draft Picks
1. Terrence McGee (2004, fourth round) --- This kick-return project quickly developed into a shutdown corner. McGee is a gritty player that is most responsible for Buffalo’s third-ranked pass defense this season. Routinely taking on No. 1 wideouts amid a string of nagging injuries is no easy task. McGee is a keeper.
2. Aaron Schobel (2001, second round) --- Consummate pro. As the muck around him only worsened all decade, Schobel’s game keeps reaching new heights. His latest comeback from foot surgery has been noble. Nobody could have expected a fourth double-digit sack season from Schobel. Hopefully Nix talks him out of retirement.
3. Travis Henry (2001, second round) --- Laugh it up. Slap your knee. Get it out of your system. Done? OK. Before Henry was a national punch line and the focus of this must-see, pinch-yourself
ESPN documentary, Henry was the spiky pinball in Buffalo’s backfield. No Bills back ran with his purpose and punch this decade. In 2002, Henry rushed for 1,438 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hope was high. Unfortunately a blur of off-field incidents cut this promising career short. Eleven children from ten women? Unreal.
Worst Draft Picks
1. Mike Williams (2002, first round)--- The first sign that a highly drafted offensive tackle is going to be a bust? When coaches move him to guard. That happened early for the overweight, blundering Williams. Remarkably, he is still playing in the NFL. After a three-year hiatus, Williams is back with the Washington Redskins. If that counts.
2. J.P. Losman (2004, first round)--- Buffalo trades back into the first round to nab Losman in the draft of Manning/Rivers/Roethlisberger. Ouch. What really stings is that Pittsburgh nabbed Big Ben two picks before Buffalo earlier in the round. Double Ouch. Like Williams, Losman is back in the NFL. With the Oakland Raiders. If that counts.
3. John McCargo (2006, first round)--- Again, Buffalo trades back into the first round and it backfires big time. McCargo was billed as a catlike-quick defensive tackle that’d fit perfect in Dick Jauron’s Tampa 2 scheme. So much for that. McCargo is still around, barely. Expect him to be one of the first players gone this offseason.
Kevin Everett's Comeback. It captivated the nation. How this man is able to walk again is remarkable.
Click here to go back in time.
Each Toronto game. The two regular-season games north of the border have been jokes. While the Toronto Series has generated revenue, it doesn't exactly aid the rampant paranoia at home. These two games --- both of which were lame, uninspired losses in lame, uninspired atmospheres --- sum of the '00s Buffalo teams best. Underwhelming.
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