Connect with us

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bulletin: Ken Dorsey Will Be Fine



The Super Bowl is over, and the offseason is finally upon us in earnest. Since the Buffalo Bills’ season came to a tragic and deflating end in January, all eyes have been on Ken Dorsey. The Bills put up a lowly 10 points against the Cincinnati Bengals and, though they somehow ‘only’ lost by 17, it felt as though the gap was far larger. It was devastating to many, and blame had to be placed somewhere. Everyone got a share, but Ken Dorsey earned plenty of much-deserved criticism.

Now, we’ve just watched a Super Bowl with two powerful and diverse offenses. Both completely different from one another. Both ranked in the top three of the NFL’s scoring metrics, with the Kansas City Chiefs in first and the Philadelphia Eagles in third. It was hard not to gawk at the variety of plays both teams ran, and the creativity behind them to move the ball against tough and well-coached defenses. Compared to these, and the Bills’ offense under Brian Daboll, Ken Dorsey seemed to run an extremely pedestrian unit. How it could be bland with Josh Allen at the helm is a mystery.

The House Isn’t On Fire 

Before we sound the alarms (though many fans already are), there are a few things to consider:

First-Time Play-Caller

Ken Dorsey maintained the successful status quo of a top-tier offense, even if it was a little plain. He took a unit that posted a spectacular 28.4 points per game (PPG) in 2021 and, in his rookie season as a play-caller, kept them at the exact same mark. Yes, the Chiefs were the top scoring offense in 2022, and the Eagles were third, but it was Buffalo who were second. The Buffalo Bills put up 28.4 offensive PPG despite an unsuccessfully re-shuffled offensive line, a UCL injury in Josh Allen’s throwing arm, and many more struggles. Dorsey had some great tools to work with, but it was never going to be an easy task.

To do that in his first year as an offensive coordinator is a remarkable feat. Ken Dorsey got the job because he was already the most popular in-house candidate during the 2022 hiring cycle, and his direct endorsement from Josh Allen helped seal the deal. He’ll keep it for his ability to keep this offense on pace despite their issues. With one more year of influence under his belt, and plenty of film to look at, Ken Dorsey can be expected to be a little more comfortable and a little more creative in 2023.

Experienced Comparisons

The biggest issue with the criticism of Ken Dorsey is that the people he’s being compared to are all head coaches, or head coach candidates. The offense of his predecessor, and those of the other top two offenses in the league last season, are different for a great many reasons. The most important reason is their experience.

It cannot be said enough times. Andy Reid is a generational coaching talent, with the keys to the city and a Hall of Fame career. He’s been calling plays and running his offense since 1999. Nick Sirianni has been a play-caller since 2018, with a variety of QBs and skill position players to work with. Those years in the trenches are invaluable. Brian Daboll has been running things in the pros for just as long, and his time with a headset on has proven crucial. These men are head coaches running offenses because they’ve already proven themselves capable.

Ken Dorsey Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator

Is it honest and reasonable to draw Ken Dorsey as a direct comparison for these coaches? Bills fans may be disappointed in the result of the season, they may even clamour for better, but we must be reasonable about our means of achieving it. Buffalo’s best chance at success is to give the unit to someone they trust and give him time to run it. That’s what they’ve done, and will continue to do.

None of this justifies the Buffalo Bills’ performance in the Divisional Round, but it may explain some of the outrage towards it. Ken Dorsey was always going to have some growing pains, and did remarkably well for someone so inexperienced. Perspective matters, and it maters here as much as anywhere on the team. Dorsey was far from perfect, but success takes time. It’s time that Dorsey has.

Room To Grow For Ken Dorsey

Now, one thing we can all agree on is that there’s plenty of room to grow. Ken Dorsey did well, but he has a lot to learn. What can we expect him to focus on in his second year calling plays?

Variety and Balance

Ken Dorsey got comfortable with a certain type of offense in 2022, and it was one-dimensional to start the season. We lived and died by the passing game and, though we usually lived by it, it needed to be expanded upon. Josh Allen’s UCL injury forced Dorsey out of that system. It had been basic but effective, and he needed to change how he operated to accommodate this problem.

The new focus on the run game paid dividends, but a run-first offense isn’t the path to success in the modern game either. It’s been proven time and time again that the only way to consistently win in the NFL is to pass effectively. Running effectively when you must is a boon, but not enough to fix the 2022 Bills offensive issues.

A ‘Balanced Offense’ can be easily misunderstood as a need for an even split in run and pass plays. That isn’t the case. Balance comes in being able to execute a variety of plays, and using them to keep swinging punches at forced defensive weaknesses.

The Bills regularly failed to execute screen passes this season, a great weapon against the right defensive personnel. They struggled in pass-protection, and Dorsey failed to find acceptable alternatives such as quick slants and extra blocking to keep pressure off the quarterback.

Effectiveness in the short, long, and medium areas of the field is critical, but how you succeed is even more important. Scheming players open isn’t easy, but Dorsey was inadequate in this area for 2022. Worse players were consistently more open than our receivers last year, and talent wasn’t the reason why.


Secondly, the ability and willingness to throw in a winkle when you need to is crucial. It made the 2020 and 2021 Buffalo Bills terrifying to deal with. You cannot say the same about the 2022 offense.

What memorable play can you point to in 2022 for the Buffalo Bills that wasn’t some Herculean individual effort but simply an effective and surprising play-call? There were very few moments that proved Dorsey’s worth as a play-caller, which is why the study of his body of work is so important. He was consistently effective, but never creative.

An Example

Let’s look at this play Andy Reid called in Super Bowl LVII.

Reid lines up a very basic formation, with standard NFL offensive personnel groupings. The WR executes basic pre-snap motion, rushing towards the hashes. The Chiefs had run this a lot this season, with the receiver running behind the QB for an ‘end around’. The defense knows this, and Reid knows they know this. All defensive eyes move to the center, awaiting the snap and assuming the movement from the WR continues.

The WR stops, sets, and they snap immediately, before the defense can realize their error. The coverage has shifted to follow the anticipated movement of the WR, and he’s given an empty zone to walk into for the score.

The play wasn’t complicated, but it was creative, and used information the offense knowingly fed to the defense to force an error. Ken Dorsey’s offense hasn’t had that detailed of a plan all season. Never did they seem to be thinking a few drives ahead. Often, they didn’t seem to think a few plays ahead.

Ken Dorsey may not be under a great offensive mind, and he may never have been, but the game of football is a teacher unto itself. All he has to do is be willing to listen. As an offensive coordinator, it’s his obligation to study these offenses and take what he can from them. It’s an area we can expect him to work on, and hope that he develops in.

Be Patient, Good Things Are Coming

However, the idea that he must be removed for his errors is ludicrous. There is no better path ahead of us.

Ken Dorsey Josh Allen Buffalo Bills
Democrat and Chronicle

There were no greater options for the Buffalo Bills at the time of Brian Daboll’s departure, and there remain none now. Firing him for the sake of change is reckless, and will only serve to hurt Josh Allen’s relationship with this team, as well as the reputation they’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

The lone example of a possible upgrade from Ken Dorsey is the Kansas City Chiefs’ own OC, Eric Bieniemy; that too is unreasonable. Andy Reid is the documented leader and play-caller for that prolific K.C. offense. Take that away from Bieniemy and what are we left with? Another rookie play-caller with success in an offense that is wildly different from our own. Dorsey has more recent experience running an offense than Bieniemy, and he’s hand-picked by our own franchise quarterback. The choice feels obvious.

Ken Dorsey isn’t Andy Reid. He’s not Nick Sirianni either. Dorsey was a rookie play-caller running the offense for the first time in his career. He did admirably, considering the shoes he was left to fill. Those shoes will remain big for as long as we have Josh Allen under center. Can Dorsey grow into them?

Like this piece? Check out the previous Buffalo Bulletin on what to do with Ed Oliver.

The Buffalo Bulletin on Buffalo Fanatics is a weekly editorial by Iestyn Harris. Check back regularly for hot topics, riveting discussion, and, occasionally, some actual insight.

Original Featured Image: Joshua Bessex/Getty Images; Composite By Iestyn Harris