Where Do the Bills Go From Here?
Yesterday, the Bills, as they normally do, collapsed in the 4th quarter and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 18-15. Game 1 of the Perry Fewell tenure is past, and it is likely this tenure will not extend beyond this season. But what is the problem with the Bills?
The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999. Only the Lions can match their futility. Since then, the Bills have had only one winning season, 2004, and have a record of 63-90 overall. They have gone through 4 coaches, Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, and Dick Jauron. Switching coaches has not helped. What all has gone wrong? First let’s consider the teams first round draft picks:
2000 – Erik Flowers, DE
2001 – Nate Clements, CB
2002 – Mike Williams, OT
2003 – Willis McGahee, RB
2004 – Lee Evans, WR & JP Losman, QB
2006 – Donte Whitner, S & John McCargo, DT
2007 – Marshawn Lynch, RB
2008 – Leodis McKelvin
2009 – Aaron Maybin, DE & Eric Wood, OG
Who has panned out? Both running backs have been good but unspectacular, though McGahee missed a year to injuries, and Lynch has off-field issues. Clements was a good cornerback, and the Bills quickly lost him to San Francisco. Evans has been the Bills best receiver. The last 3 are a little young to say for certain, though McKelvin is missing this season due to injuries, and Maybin can’t get on the field. None of these picks are home runs. The best is probably Evans, a good but not great player, and never one of the 10 best receivers in the NFL. So the draft has not help. What else has failed?
Who have been the Bills leading passers?
2000 – Rob Johnson
2001 – Alex Van Pelt
2002-2004 – Drew Bledsoe
2005 – Kelly Holcomb
2006 – JP Losman
2007-2009 – Trent Edwards
The best is Bledsoe by far, and the Bills got him ten seasons into his career. Their one first round draft pick at QB now plays for Las Vegas in the UFL. This is the heart of the Bills problem. They have ranked in the top 20 in the NFL in points just twice since 1999 (11th in 2002 and 7th in 2004).
Can the Bills improve? Of course. As the record of futility highlights, it takes effort to stay this bad for this long. The Bills and Lions are both likely to improve soon. Sheer luck should break the Bills way at some point. But to have any long-term success, it is more important to develop a real quarterback for the first time since Doug Flutie led them to the playoffs in 1998 and 1999. A new coach is important, but it is only one step. The Bills have tried new coaches; it is time to pick up a real QB.