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Buffalo Bills: Things We Know This Week

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“What Is Defeat? Nothing but Education. Nothing but the first step to getting better.” –Vince Lombardi

I do not believe the Bills came in to the game overconfident. Not the players, coaches, trainers, nor front office. They know how difficult it is to win any game against any team in any stadium. I do believe that the coaches need to execute with decision-making and play-calling, especially early on when an offense is trying to get going.

If no mistake you have made, yet losing you are…. a different game you should play.” –Yoda

Now, many of you are familiar with Negative Stanley. The Yoda quote was displayed on his shirt when I saw him Sunday night. Similar to Silent Bob in some ways, but certainly not all. Stan is never quiet or opinion free. Bob was quiet, a listener. What exactly is it that they have in common? Well, when Bob has that rare moment of being vocal, it seems to usually be good advice. Proactive opinions.

Now Stanley, on the other hand, never shuts up. But every once in a while, he says something that makes the needle on the record player scratch right across the album. The scratch noise gathers the attention of those in his broadcasting range. The silence following the scratch clears out just enough room for his proclamation which is intelligent and proactive. Both Silent Bob and negative Stanley will undeniably “nail it” from time to time.

What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?” –Lloyd Christmas

Not good.” –Mary Swanson

Not good like one in a hundred?” –Lloyd Christmas

“I‘d say more like one in a million.” –Mary Swanson

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” –Lloyd Christmas

The only major difference is Bob listens and chooses his battles or places to intercede. Stanley does not listen very well and distributes so many opinions, that a good one equally that of Bob, is purely due based on pure probability. Maybe Stan steals his actions shamelessly from Dumb and Dumber, sending out the vibe increases your chances of hooking up. Stan throws enough opinions out there that every once in a while he comes across as competent.

“I’ M Gonna Hang By The Bar. Put Out The Vibe.” –Lloyd Christmas

I do believe the fans and much of the media were over confident. Not just locally, but nationally. Several of the CBS pre-game crew picked the Bills to go to the Super Bowl. It’s rare that Buffalo gets that kind of support. This is exciting stuff.

If what you did YESTERDAY seems big, you haven’t done anything TODAY.” –Lou Holtz

The fact that the Bills were 13-3 and lost in the AFC Championship game a season ago does not guarantee a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl title this season.

The Sabres seemed to follow the progressive improvement trend during Hasek’s prime. In 1997, they won their first playoff round in many years advancing. With a change in management and coaching in 1998, they won two playoff rounds finding themselves in conference finals. By 1999, they ended up in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing by the famous “disputed NO GOAL”. (It was in overtime of Game Six and Brett Hull is credited with the Cup winning goal.) The progressive improvement process would have been a bit more dynamic to explain had they won in ‘99 or returned in 2000 to win it all.

I mean, he went from totally geek, to totally chic!” –Patty (Can’t Buy Me Love)

Things went different in the earlier part of this century. The Sabres missed three years of playoffs (2002, 2003, and 2004) after trading Hasek away for a bag of pucks. A bag of pucks that did not desire landing in Western New York. After the canceled lockout season, the pieces came together and Darcy Regier looked like a genius with his fast skating team that dominated the league with its new penalties against clutching and grabbing. Ryan Miller emerged as an elite goalie. A progressive path was not this teams road to success. Right off the cancelled season, they went to the conference finals and had it not been for the injuries on defense, I would suggest they would have won that Stanley Cup in 2006. Instead, the Cup ended up in Nascar country, home of the former Hartford Whalers and current Carolina Hurricanes.

The Sabres returned in new uniforms, better than ever in 2007, winning the Presidents Trophy and also advancing to the conference finals. No progressive trends in the playoffs though. They went from totally geek to totally chic after the lockout, but both elite-level seasons ended in the same conference final loss. A fun run indeed.

The progressive improvement approach for the Almost-A-Dynasty Bills teams did not follow an exact science of improvement. Having to actually play the games and not land where you may appear to be on paper is always a dose of reality. I believe the Bills are not a team that just had one season where all of the stars and planets aligned properly aiding their talent to a 13 win season, a division title, and a Championship game appearance.

Some teams whip up a quick, unsustainable dominant team with a couple key free agent signings, a healthy season, and results around them in the division and conference. I think of a Chargers team that went to the Super Bowl and losing to a Steve Young quarterbacked 49ers team in the ‘90s as an example. One could argue that the Icky Wood’s Bengals team that lost to the Joe Montana quarterbacked 49ers team in the late ‘80s would qualify as that one and done team. Even that Super Bowl-champion Redskins team that beat our Bills with Mark Rypien rose and fell fast and furious, but champions they were.

The Bills won a division in 1988, advancing to the AFC championship game before being defeated by the Cincinnati Bengals. They did not take a step forward the next season as the “How to Build A Dynasty For Dummies” playbook might dictate. The Bickering Bills won 9 games, qualifying for the playoffs, losing on the famous Ronnie Harmon dropped ball against the Bernie Kosar led Cleveland Browns. The team did not take a step back after that. They came out the next year with the K-Gun offense, dominating the league as they returned to the AFC Championship game, except, this time, destroying the Raiders 51-3 heading to the Super Bowl as the favorites (losing to the Giants by Scott Norwood’s 47 yard kick drifting wide right).

The team kept going back, showing resiliency; being the only team in history to go to 4 straight Super Bowls. The completed progression would have been to win Super Bowl XXVI. Or XXVII. Or XXVIII. So 4 straight Super Bowl appearances or conference championships may be historic, but going 0 for 4 overshadows many of the positive accomplishments. I would have demanded a refund for the Dynasty for Dummies book. Or at least an even exchange for how to build an Almost-A-Dynasty for Dummies book. Sign me up for that one.

Winning as a team is better than anything. It’s great to share success.” –Jim Harbaugh

I don’t for one second think this Bills team is regressing. They were not quickly, irresponsibly assembled to win this year and done. Yes, they have a certain window of opportunity based on the ages or contract status of certain players along with the salary cap and the teams surrounding them in the division and conference. I do think that, with the young core and solid coaching, they could succeed or come close in this given window. They could also retool on the fly like many great teams do.

After the Bills’ four Super Bowl teams, they did not blow the team up. They continued drafting well, had the Hall of Fame core intact, and filled in the blanks with signings like Ted Washington, Bryce Paup, Chris Spielman, Jim Jeffcoat, Quinn Early and several others. Bringing in a strong Defensive Coordinator in Wade Phillips was a sound move. Drafting Ruben Brown, John Holecek, Ken Irvin, Jeff Burris, Sam Rogers, Marlo Perry, Eric Moulds, Gabe Northern, and others kept them competitive even after Jim Kelly retired.

After the retirement of Marv Levy and the experimental season of failure with Todd Collins and Billy Joe Hobert, the Doug Flutie quarterbacked teams made the playoffs twice. Hobert was cut mid-week for not studying the playbook, gambling that he would not be called on to play. Next came the famous Flutie/Johnson QB controversy, leading to the historical playoff and competent quarterback drought. A book would not be made because it was so obvious for so long that a franchise quarterback was an absolute MUST. Not a preferable asset. Not dependent on the coach or receivers. It was not even based on the offensive line, since a competent quarterback actually makes the line look better.

The Bills should have drafted a quarterback as early and often as they possibly could until they hit on one. It could not have gone any worse for almost two decades until Josh Allen was drafted at number seven. If Kyle Orton, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor look far superior to the quarterbacks your team is grooming (Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, E.J. Manuel) and Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel become your starters for any reasons, you might be a bad franchise.

“I believe in what my parents taught me. In times like this, you have large ears. You sit, and you listen, and you learn.”Andy Reid

All of the references from the playoff drought seasons hopefully put you in a good place with the Bills team we have now that simply lost to a good Stealers team. Negative Stanley doesn’t listen enough to be impacted by said memories.

“Champions keep playing until they get it right.” –Billie Jean King

Mark Sarnowski, the Founder of the Bills Backers Chapter in Denver, Colorado, has supported his Bills since childhood. He relocated from Cheektowaga to Denver in 1993, taking his Bills ballcap with him. He started the Bills Backers while managing Lodos, wearing a Bills hat in 1998. Each time he met someone who was a Bills fan, he invited them back; eventually taking the organization to the thousands of members and 800 or more active Backers. Lodos is now called Jacksons. Even with COVID-19, using the indoor and exterior, they drew a crowd of 350 plus Bills Backers for the Opener. Mark was very emotional, passionate, frustrated, and (if I had to guess) maybe dabbling in a little bit of Grandpa’s cough medicine. Just a guess. He gave me a quick TAKE of his and several Backers surrounding him:

The Bills fans deserve better. The 350+ Bills Backers who made it a must-to gathering to cheer on the Bills deserve better. The players deserve better. 10-0 lead at halftime? This team is too good to be caught up in this kind of low scoring chess match. The execution on offense was lacking obviously, but the play-calling and decision making was absolutely far more impactful. The players certainly need to make plays. But when an offense is attempting to find its rhythm in game one, the play calling should not handicap the team. It did.

The decisions to kick field goals, punt, or keep the offense on the field need to be much better. Not a guess. Analytics can help. A strong belief in your ability to convert a certain distance. A high risk long pass in to coverage on 4th down makes me wonder: Why not a QB sneak? Josh Allen can fall forward, converting. Why a handoff to a running back on an earlier down and the risky long ball on 4th down? Why kicking for the three points at one point and not on the same exact situation later? I just did not see solid conviction with decisions on 4th down. I did not see many adjustments and confident play-calling overall.

The defense held the Steelers for well over half the game, giving the offense plenty of time to figure out how to get points. They have the weapons to catch the ball and Allen has a cannon for an arm to make almost any throw effortlessly. If McKenzie did not return the opening kick with such authority, the game could have belonged to the Steelers much earlier. I just hate to see one get away against a conference opponent that was so very winnable. This loss can come back and bite us down the road ferociously.

“You fellas been doing a bit of boozin’, have ya? Suckin’ back on grandpa’s old cough medicine?” –State Trooper (Dumb and Dumber)

Please know that Sarnowski likely would pop a couple aspirin and consume large quantities of water. Gain of Function? That small mouth nibbling on some Broadway Market Pierogis or Mighty Taco stashed away in his freezer. He would likely listen to some Depeche Mode mega-mixes loudly. Toss in a Neil Peart drum solo. Finally, some older tunes off of Superstar Car Wash by his cousin Robbie’s band, also from the 716, The Goo Goo Dolls. After these proven remedies, Mark will put this frustrating loss behind him and gather the backers next week when the Bills bounce back and squish the fish. His remedies are science. Come on, it’s science. Trust the science.

Things we know about the Buffalo Bills this week:

-The Bills game highlighted a step in the direction toward normalcy. 69,787 fans packed Highmark Stadium in its first full-capacity game since 2019. Welcome back.

-The Bills lost 23-16 to the Steelers. Enough said.

-The fans are clearly not adjusting expectations based on one game, which was a loss.

I am semi-retired leaving my enjoyable 24 year management career due to multiple health issues. My dad retired from The Buffalo News after 49 years. I have been an avid fan for quite some time. Got that Marv Levy Fight Song In My Head for absolutely no reason.

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