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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: A Whaley departure less likely now

Brutal week for the mail. People are up in arms about the Bills. They’ve had it with Rex Ryan and the equally bumbling NFL officials. They’re even angry with the media for supposedly being too soft on Rex and not asking for him to be drawn and quartered down One Bills Drive.

As I always say, things tend to get the ugliest when the home team is losing. It’s amazing how many fans out there are screaming for Ryan to be fired. Come on, even Dick Jauron got three-plus years, and after awhile it seemed like he was embalmed in those press conferences.

The way I see it, Rex is great for the Mailbag, win or lose. The New York media told me it wouldn’t be boring. Of course, they also knew Buffalo was getting a career .500 coach.

Let’s tear open the mail:

@jfcsoup asks: Whaley/Rex power struggle in offseason?

Sully: Well, it doesn’t figure to be a hugfest between Ryan and GM Doug Whaley in the offseason, especially if they don’t make the playoffs. Rex can’t be happy with Whaley’s handling of the quarterback situation, and Whaley can’t be pleased with the way Rex’s vaunted defense performed.

Neither is in a strong position to pull off a power play at this point. Rex is a weakened figure after the debacle in Kansas City. Whaley was on shaky ground at the end of last season; he still has his EJ Manuel infatuation and the ill-advised Sammy Watkins trade hanging over his head.

There was a feeling earlier in the year that Whaley would lose his job if the Bills missed the playoffs again. I’m not so sure now. You could make the case that Ryan has done a worse job this season, which would make it difficult for Terry Pegula to get rid of his GM and keep Ryan.

Pegula isn’t about to can Ryan one year after giving him a guaranteed five-year contract worth $5.5 million a season. He’s known for being slow to make major personnel decisions (see: Regier, Darcy). He’ll use the injury excuse and give Ryan more time to prove himself in the years ahead.

Ryan still has the most power in the football department. At the very least, I can see him pushing Whaley to get rid of some underperforming players (Mario Williams, for one) and find players who are more suited to play his brand of defense.

So there will be some struggling for power, but they’ll try to keep it in-house. They’ll continue to put forward the “One Ego” show of unity they’ve been selling since Rex was hired.

Jack Gray asks: If you had a team, which guys in which order would you want for your quarterback? Osweiler, Bortles, Winston, Mariota, Carr, Bridgewater, Cousins, Taylor.

Sully: Love the question, Jack. As you know, I don’t believe in Tyrod Taylor as a franchise quarterback, despite his impressive quarterback rating through his first nine NFL starts.

I’ve made the point that several losing NFL teams should feel better about their future than the Bills, because they appear to have the franchise QB on board. That includes most of the players you mentioned above, all of whom I would rate over Taylor.

My list: 1. Jameis Winston (Bucs). Best overall passer of the bunch. 2. Marcus Mariota (Titans). Terrific athlete who has come along fast as a rookie. 3. Derek Carr (Raiders). Blossoming in second year with 24 TD passes, six picks. 4. Blake Bortles (Jaguars). Also making great strides in second season. Makes throws downfield.

5. Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings). Doing nice job as game manager. 6. Kirk Cousins (Washington). Having breakthrough in fourth season, but hasn’t won on the road. 7. Taylor (Bills). Stats don’t tell the whole story. 8. Brock Osweiler (Broncos). It’s too early.

Tom Lewis asks: Hey Jerry, what happened to the story of all the tight ends in training camp being so critical to Greg Roman’s offense? The tight end is looking like Claude Rains.

Sully: Good question. Nice “Invisible Man” reference. Charles Clay leads the Bills with 46 catches, but he hasn’t been nearly enough of a playmaker to justify a deal that gave him more guaranteed money ($24.5 million) than any other tight end in the league.

Clay hasn’t been invisible, but he’s been an inconsistent part of the passing game. His 46 catches rank 12th among the league’s tight ends. He has just one catch of 20 or more yards since the Giants game. He has two touchdown receptions. Clay is set to count $13.5 million against the salary cap next season.

Four tight ends in the AFC (Delanie Walker, Travis Kelce, Gary Barnidge, Tyler Eifert) are having big seasons. So all that up-front cash isn’t going to get Clay to the Pro Bowl. It’s odd that a team with so many three-and-out possessions can’t get the ball to its tight end on third down.

It would help, of course, if Tyrod Taylor showed more of an inclination to throw the ball over the middle of the field.

Chris Gragg has eight catches for 104 yards on the year. Matthew Mulligan is used almost exclusively as a blocker and has one catch for 2 yards.

David Franko asks: Why wasn’t the play on Hogan in the first quarter (at New England) pass interference? The DB had his back to the QB and threw his hands up to distract the receiver. I thought that the DB had to turn to the ball and make a play on it.

Sully: It’s a common misconception that face guarding – hindering an opponent’s vision by facing him without attempting to catch or bat the ball – is a penalty in the NFL. It’s not.

Face guarding is a penalty in the NFL and college games only if there is significant contact with the receiver. Otherwise, it’s not interference, as many fans believe. Face guarding is a penalty at the high school level, regardless of contact.

Brian Vattimo asks: Does Rex have an opt-out clause in his contract similar to Marrone?

Sully: No. Marrone’s $4 million walkaway was negotiated when Ralph Wilson was still alive and there was uncertainty about the franchise’s future ownership. There’s no way Pegula would have agreed to one, and it’s hard to imagine Ryan wanting it.

Philip Brunskill asks: Does anyone have a phone number for Jim Schwartz?

Sully: That question is worthy of a newspaper first for me: LOL.


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