LANDOVER, Md. – Mario Williams missed most of last week with an illness. Considering his public unhappiness with the Buffalo Bills’ defensive scheme and the fact that he might be cut this offseason at his $19.9 million salary cap number, this raised eyebrows outside the building.
Could Williams be checking out? What is the extent of the illness?
Turns out, there were eyebrows raised inside the building, too, as ESPN reported that some at One Bills Drive didn’t believe Williams was actually sick.
After Sunday’s 35-25 loss to the Washington Redskins, the veteran didn’t hold back when told of the anonymous source.
“Are we going to have insurgents around? How old are we around here?” Williams said. “I don’t know. I guess there’s a bunch of younger people I didn’t realize in that building. I don’t see how that happened.
“I don’t go off of no-names. That’s not adults so I’m not worried about that.”
Coach Rex Ryan said there could be “drastic” changes coming this offseason and one logical change would be to release Williams and save about $12.9 million to re-sign other players. Williams hasn’t been a fit in Ryan’s 3-4 defense at all with only 17 tackles and four sacks this season. On Sunday, he was a total non-factor with only one assisted tackle and no hits on Kirk Cousins.
Williams says it’s “obvious” changes are coming, adding, “You just wait and see if your number’s called.”
What really had him fuming this time was the fact that the Bills, under Ryan, try to match personnel with teams throughout a drive. They’re subbing players in and and out. This constant change can lead to over-thinking, to lack of flow.
And to Williams, it doesn’t make sense to “build a bully” by always, play to play, reacting to what the offense is doing.
“My mindset is if you’re an attack defense,” Williams said, “if you’re a bully on the field you don’t let anything else dictate what you do. We’re going to put who we put out there and then we’re going to be able to execute and make plays with the guys out there. I don’t need to wait on you to make a decision.
“We’re trying to switch men. It’s not like we’re trying to switch plays. We’re trying to switch men as they’re coming out of the huddle. That’s happened a few times in 10 years with me. A few times. That’s 10 years. But game in and game out, I don’t know how in the world it keeps happening.”
So … maybe the question really should be, does Williams even want to be in Buffalo next season?
This isn’t the first time he has called out Ryan publicly. Williams was asked this question directly.
“At the end of the day, I want to go wherever we can go and win,” Williams said. “That’s how I see it. And I know we can win here. That’s 100. I know we can win here. Now, me personally, if I don’t fit in the scheme, if it’s just me and it’s obvious it’s just me, then so be it. But if it’s continuity across the board as far as how things are unfolding, then that’s not my decision still.
“But, hey, you can blame me for everything. That’s fine.”
The end is probably near for a player who once inked a $100 million contract in Buffalo. This media session was the polar opposite of his initial news conference at One Bills Drive in 2012. At one point, a Bills official asked Williams to cover up the Adidas logo on his sweatshirt, so it looked like the defensive end had his hand over his heart as he criticized the Bills defense.
Staying in Buffalo would likely require a pay cut and Williams doesn’t sound like a player ready to take that pay cut.
“If this is the turnout of our defense, how does that even sound right?” Williams said. “You can change. People are afraid of change and so forth. I’m all for it because at the end of the day, if it works, so be it. I don’t need to sit here and say, ‘I wish Jerry had 15 sacks, Marcell had 15 sacks, I had 15 sacks across the board.’ If we’re winning, if we’re 10-4 or whatever, hey, hats off. But if it doesn’t work, yeah, there needs to be a different change.
“If one person is singled out as that needs to be done, so be it. That’s not my decision.”
For all the focus on Buffalo’s sagging pass rush, the team’s secondary play has been just as bad, if not worse. Cousins picked on the entire group – from rookie Ronald Darby to Leodis McKelvin to both safeties – in finishing with an arcade-like 153.7 passer rating, the third-highest ever against Buffalo.
Clearly, the Bills miss both Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams, but this was historically bad. Ryan said that the Bills mixed up coverages, putting the blame on execution.
He made a point to note DeSean Jackson’s 77-yard touchdown when safety Corey Graham couldn’t locate the ball and Bacarri Rambo was caught flat-footed.
“You’ve got double coverage for a touchdown,” Ryan said. “Needless to say it broke our back there.”
Adding insult to injury, the Bills might’ve lost their starting running back for the season Sunday. LeSean McCoy left the loss with a knee injury and did not return.
Wide receiver Robert Woods suffered a knee injury, right guard John Miller re-injured his ankle and linebacker Randell Johnson hurt his knee. All left and did not return.
More insult to injury? Ex-Bill Fred Jackson will be in the playoffs for the first time in his NFL career. His Seattle Seahawks beat the Cleveland Browns, 30-13, to make it. Later Sunday, Jackson tweeted “It took 10 years, but yeah, we can talk about playoffs!!!” with the famous video clip of former NFL coach Jim Mora screeching “Playoffs!”