By Anthony Stampone
Sunday morning’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was extremely hard but at times fun to watch and comprehend in many different aspects of the game. Turnovers, bad passes, great passes, dropped passes, stupid/costly penalties, play calling, line play, and on and on, played a role in my discontent and/or my excitement as the game went on today. However, the end result was a disappointing 34-31 loss to one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
Prior to the game there was some legitimate concern for the Bills as it pertains to having enough firepower to beat even a weak Jaguars team due to a significance of who on the team was injured and how many injuries there were. While no coach in his right mind will ever blatantly come out and say that injuries are a reason for concern going into a game or why you lose a game, it was a fair concern considering the Bills circumstances. With that being said, the game still has to be played and the Bills proved they did have enough talent and skill to be competitive in this game.
Regardless the end result wasn’t what the Bills needed it to be and sent our fan base into a world of pissed off I have not witnessed in quite some time. Fans attacking fans, making ambiguous and disingenuous statements, calling for the coach to be fired, making completely irrational and baseless assertions regarding the teams’ performance or lack thereof and much more than I can careless to have read. The remainder of this article is going to read almost like a Q&A article is written except rather than put up a question and then list the response, I am going to copy some of the posts and comments I have read and use legitimate logic, reason, and breakdown to explain why some if not most of our discontent following this game is completely off base and we need to take a step back and be realistic rather than irrational.
“Rex Ryan needs to be fired for that 4th down play call”
Before I break down this asinine statement let me just add that most of the time this statement was posted it usually ended with some kind of expletive(s) regarding Rex’s mental state. With that said let’s list some facts regarding this statement that invalidate it. First and foremost, I think it is important for everyone to know that Rex Ryan does not call the offensive plays for the Bills, Greg Roman does and is given full autonomy to do what he feels is right at all times. This is something that Rex has done with his coordinators since he has become a head coach and is often the reason his coordinators enjoy working for Rex, he lets them do their job without restrictions. With that said this statement is not only invalidated, it’s not proven to be nothing but a false spouting of rhetoric from disgruntled fan(s) that probably just do not like Ryan (be honest with yourself if this is you, it’s ok). Additionally, anyone’s point of view on whether or not they liked the play call is ambiguous, the problem still comes down to one very important part that I truly believe many fans are overlooking; execution. There are many times during a game that we as fans have no clue what the play call is and as long as the result is something that we like we say nothing about the call, whether it was ideal or not for the situation. This play should be no different, because again as I said it really comes down to execution. If EJ throws that ball with more velocity and recognizes the open receiver sooner it’s a first down and we are cheering, but since it was incomplete and was basically an isolation the play works or we’re done type play call, to many people feel it was a bad play call. Looking at the play call it was a great call, the receiver was wide open and again had EJ made the throw better it was a 1st down.
“Fire Dennis Thurman, bring back Jim Schwartz!”
First of all, this statement is flat out baffling to me as we have not even given Thurman half a season let alone a full season to show what he can do as a DC. We also need to keep in mind whose defense this really is; let’s not kid ourselves, this is Rex’s defense and it is much better than people are giving it credit for. Over the last few seasons we as Bills fans have been spoiled with outlandish sack numbers from an incredibly talented defensive line. Consider these points before you call for someone’s job; do you think that teams forgot how good this defensive line is and haven’t learned to adapt to their fierce rush and game plan against it (hint: The Patriots, Giants, and Bengals all did this to basically make our star studded front four basically irrelevant)? Also, with all the sacks last season under Schwartz and the year before under Pettine, how did the team fair, did we make the playoffs or are we still looking for our first playoff appearance in this millennium? The defense is still very good if not outstanding if you look at more than just stats (Stats like all numbers are subjective and can be manipulated to favor the person(s) using them to make their point of view look good), that is why I personally do not use any other site besides footballoutsiders.com DVOA rankings. These rankings are the most thorough, complex, and situationally accurate out there right now. With that said even though you may think the defense is “pathetic”, “putrid”, or whatever adjective you would like to use to fill in the blank, the fact remains this defense is still ranked in the top 3rd in the NFL with more than half our season still left to play. And by the way, how good was the defense last season against Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady? There is more I will say about the defense but I will save that for later.
“EJ Manuel was a warrior, he brought us back, McCoy and the refs cost us the game, and people are just biased against him”
Every time I see a pro EJ post after the last two games I have watched I don’t know if I should burst out laughing, ask the person if they need help understanding football, or throw up. EJ, in all honesty and being objective about watching his play this game as much as possible, flat out cost the Bills this game. It is the cold hard truth. For everything positive he did, he did three things wrong. All game EJ was what we have come to know him to be, inconsistent. Yes, EJ made some great throws, two great examples are his touchdown passes to Robert Woods and Marcus Easley, however there are even more examples of his poor passing. EJ’s back corner pass to pass to Chris Gragg was terrible. It was thrown to the wrong shoulder and was way over thrown. EJ missed a wide open LeSean McCoy in the flat with a lot of green out in front of him. Let’s not also forget how EJ almost allowed the Jags to close the game out much earlier than they did by throwing the ball straight to Jags LB Telvin Smith. Luckily for the Bills and EJ, Smith dropped one of the easiest INT chances I have saw in quite some time and the Bills got a field goal out of the drive. These are just examples of some of his poor play over the course of the game. The amount of wide open receivers and tight ends Manuel overlooked or never looked at are countless, it would take me hours of watching All-22 video to see how many open targets he didn’t even look at or throw too. So we covered some good, some bad, now the ugly. In NFL record fashion, Manuel is completely and sole responsible for two back-to-back defensive touchdowns by the Jags. Yes, on EJ’s fumble you could make an argument that the line may not have held up well in protection, but it’s also not the lines job to make EJ takes care of the ball and not leave it out for easy pickings for a defense to knock out, pick up and score with. Following these two terrible plays EJ came right back on the field and gave the ball right back to the Jaguars throwing another terrible interception right to the Jags to set them up on a short field which lead to another Jags touchdown. On these three plays alone, EJ’s “awesome skills” lead to 20 Jaguar points and a 27-3 lead before halftime. Yes, McCoy fumble just shy of a touchdown that cost us points. There is no excuse for that, McCoy is a veteran and needs to do a better job of protecting the ball especially in the red zone.
“The refs have it out for the Bills, it’s a conspiracy”
Allow me to let you in on a little secret, officiating around the league is terrible! Do I agree the Bills have had some absolutely terrible calls against them this year, including a horrible pass interference call against Robey that would have put the Jags in a 4th and very long situation; yes I 100% agree and that call may very well have cost the Bills the game in the end. Here is the problem, the Bills have done this to themselves. In the beginning of the season the Bills were rightfully being penalized for nothing short of plain stupidity, and like anything else in life once you have a reputation for doing something you are not going to get the benefit of the doubt in situations that sometimes aren’t even close let alone when they are. Now I am not attempting to justify the bad call, all I am saying is I understand why the refs are so flag happy against the Bills. There is no conspiracy, between the Bills reputation and the fact that officiating in this league has been bad for quite some time is the reason for the flags, not a disingenuously assumed prejudice against this organization.
“Greg Roman sucks, fire him, he doesn’t know how to call plays or run an offense”
When I saw this comment multiple times I couldn’t do anything but shake my head. For those of you who may not be well acquainted with Roman’s history as a OC in the NFL, he lead the 49ers offense to back to back to back NFC title games, and is deservedly credited with saving Alex Smith’s career and making Colin Kaepernick an NFL overnight sensation before he fell apart last season and continues to be even worse this year. So, that is his past, now a look at the present. Roman has a 6th round career back-up QB that he has turned into his starting QB but is out due to injury, and a young back-up that is a 1st round-bust-capable-at-best to manage a game for you and he has gotten the most out of both of these QBs. Has there been a time or two this season when Roman has called plays that made you scratch your head or depending on your self-control, scream at your TV uncontrollably (guilty!)? Yes! A good example of this was last weeks’ game against the against the Bengals where after a fantastic first drive of the game in which the Bills marched the ball straight down the Bengals throat and scored a touchdown largely due to McCoy and the running game, he proceed to call three total run plays the next three or four possessions. So like any coordinator in the NFL he is prone to make mistakes and call bad plays. However, we as Bills fans need to back up and remember where our minds were after a blowout win in Miami and we were all afraid and preparing for the possibility that we would lose Roman to a HC job at the end of this year. He is still the same guy in a very difficult situation, he is missing five, that is right you read that correctly FIVE of his starters on offense including the most important player on the field, his QB (QB, RG, RT, WO1, WO2). I do not care what you do for a living, but if you work in a “team” based job and five members of your team are missing at one time for some reason or another, and replaced by people who really don’t belong in those positions to begin with due to their skill and knowledge levels, you aren’t going to perform as well at your job either. Still, even with that said, Roman was able to get EJ to right the ship later in the game and get the Bills ahead and into the hands of the defense to close out what started as a blowout loss for a potential win. Now, please tell me using facts and valid proof how incompetent Roman is at his job.
“Doug Whaley is a terrible GM, he needs to be fired”
Just like the Rex Ryan “fire him” comment, some form of profane name-calling and ludicrous explanation as to why the Bills should let Whaley walk often followed up this comment. While I am not against asking for people who are unable to perform their job duties to be removed from their position, I first like to know what qualifies the person as incapable of doing the job to begin with. I think what makes these types of statements easy for people to say is that these guys (Doug and Rex are examples), make millions of dollars and if they don’t do exactly what we like, we couldn’t care less if they lose their jobs since it’s not us losing our job. Anyway, back to the football talk. I would like to know why people feel Whaley is a bad GM. I know that he has made some, well questionable choices, but nothing I would ever say that has been to the detriment of the organization in a long term view. Yes, he traded up to get Sammy Watkins using the Bills first round pick for this past draft. While that was a very expensive price to pay, I applaud him for doing what he felt was right, getting a stud WO (before you scream he can’t stay healthy, that’s not the point nor was it an issue of Watkins in college so there was no way Whaley would have known that was going to happen when drafting Watkins), for his young QB they felt was ready to take the next step but needed more weapons. For years we begged, whined, and complained we wanted a GM with a backbone to pull off moves like this! Now we have one, and you want him gone? Sammy Watkins is far from a bust and when he has been healthy has proven he has the skills to be a dominant and explosive WO in this league. Don’t like that trade, OK I can understand that; I don’t agree with you, but I understand.
The only other move that really jumps out to me that seems to get a lot of people upset and I’ll admit when it first happen I wasn’t happy about it was trading Matt Cassel. While I may not have loved the move, I understood it, and I even bought into the coaches and the GM telling us they were keeping Manuel because he was younger and offered more upside (which I still believe is true). But unlike most I didn’t get to emotional about the move because even though I know that Cassel can come in and “manage” a game or two, if he needed to start long term due to an injury, he wasn’t good enough to win that many games to keep us competitive as an organization, and not to mention he is not an exciting player. Now that everyone has had the chance to see how well Cassel play against the Giants and how bad he looked (3 INTs and any pass longer than 10 yards looked like he was throwing rainbows) I doubt people are as angry as they were when the Bills game first ended (which just proves my point about how erratic some of this fan base really is). Besides those two moves, what major mistakes (if you even call these moves major mistakes) has he made? The man has been a savvy drafter, made some impressive trades, and has kept the talent we have here, here for a change. A lot of people like to blame Whaley for drafting Manuel, which if you can recall properly was actually Buddy Nix last draft as GM and said he wanted to leave the Bills by making a splash (I am paraphrasing) before he left his job, so no matter how much Whaley publically says that was his draft, I still believe that was Nix’s call not Whaley’s. Additionally, look at Whaley’s drafts, he has been a quite genius at finding starting caliber talent up and down the whole draft. Don’t think so, here are a few of his picks that have hit and most of them started in their first year: Cordy Glenn, Kiko Alonso, Preston Brown, John Miller, Seantrel Henderson, Karlos Williams, Robert Woods, Ronald Darby, and picked up Nickell Robey in free agency. Not a single one of these draft picks where selected in the first round and all of them are starters on our team and have been for at least a season prior to this one. That is some impressive drafting in just three years on the job! One last point, please do not forget that Whaley traded what was the equivalent to use as a bag of footballs and got Jerry Hughes and his 20+ sacks over the last 2 and almost a half season. There are many other moves he made that has made this team the most talented it has been in over a decade or longer but I believe I have made the point that the man is a not a good but a great GM.
Last but not least:
“This defense is terrible, how do you give up 34 points against the worst offense in the NFL”
Yes, I actually came across this comment more than once, so there is actually more than one person in Bills Nation that actually thinks that the Bills defense gave up all 34 points to the Jags. This statement, the more I read it made we want to punch a baby. Ignorance is not excuse for stupidity. If you have no clue whatsoever about you’re about to post or say publically, keep it to yourself, or fact check yourself first. We live in a world of immediate gratification and unlimited information at our finger tips within seconds, it’s not hard to look something up to make sure it is fact before clicking send, post, tweet, or whatever social media you are choosing to spout this garbage out. Please allow me to break the scoring down for you so you can more accurately assess the game and the defense. The Jags did score 34 total points. However, 14 of those points came as a direct result of turnovers by EJ Manuel. When I say this I do not yet mean EJ threw an interception or fumbled and then the Jags offense came onto the field and cashed in on the turnover. No, EJ threw an interception and it was returned by the Jags defense for a touchdown and then EJ fumbled and the Jags defense picked the ball up for a touchdown on that same play. What that means is EJ and the offense were directly responsible for 14 points. With that said that means the defense gave up 20 points. That for one is not terrible, and also 6 more of those 20 points were a result of the Jags having a short field thanks again to EJ throwing an interception on the Bills side of the field, and the Jags capitalized. Yes, it would have been great if the defense could have stepped up in that situation and held the Jags to three or zero points but they didn’t and that is on them. These facts do show however that without EJ’s “give me” points, the Jags only scored 20 points, the Bills scored 31, who wins in that situation? Hmmm, I think 31-20 means the Bills do. Taking it a step further lets break down the stats. The Jaguars passed for 182, which by any measure in the NFL is terrible in today’s NFL unless you rushed for some crazy amount (250 yards?), but that isn’t what happened. Also, keep in mind in the two games before the Bills, Bortles threw for over 300+ yards and 3 TDs in consecutive games, he didn’t come close to that production against the Bills. The Jaguars rushed for a total of 120 yards on 33 carries for an average of 3.64 YPC which is very good as a defense. The Jaguars did score two passing touchdowns which is an issue if you want to call yourself a great defense and they also rushed for another, which further hurts your case, but that isn’t terrible, actually it is still above average in the league. The Bills also had an interception that they returned for a touchdown, on a play where the Bills pass rush force Bortles to throw off his back foot which lead to the easy interception and touchdown by Corey Graham.
If there is on issue the Bills had all game that seemed to be a major problem and a cause for concern, it was stopping TJ Yeldon. Yeldon rushed for 115 of the Jags rushing yards on 20 carries for an average of 5.75 YPC and a touchdown. Much of Yeldon’s success was due to the Bills inability to tackle. The Bills did have a problems tackling on Sunday which lead to Yeldon’s 28 yard touchdown run (which is the longest run the Bills have given up all season). Yeldon was able to break multiple tackles and break lose for multiple good gains and first downs over the course of the game. The Bills also missed at least two if not more sack opportunities during this game due to poor tackling. So, yes they had some issues but they are FAR from the problem here in Buffalo, and yes they are still a great unit (STOP OBSESSING ABOUT SACKS!!!!!!!!!). They may not be putting up insane sack numbers but they are doing an above average job of keeping opponents in check and keeping the Bills in most games this year by, causing turnovers, bad throws, running backs from running wild, and pressuring other teams to change their game plans to the point that they look lost. This is still a great defense, it’s just great in a different way.
With all of that sad I would like to summarize by saying simply this, do not let your emotions push the buttons on your computer or your cell phone. Stop, think, take a deep breath, maybe even research what you THINK is right to make sure it is before you post it. I know we are allllllllll frustrated and sick and tired of losing! But before you go spitting out nonsensical statements and acclaimed facts that are not actually correct, think, research, or simply calm yourself down before you react because on top of being mad we lost you are also going to get aggravated by other fans that do actually know that they are talking about are going to come along and set what you said straight an it’s just going to make you even more frustrated.