There is little doubt that Bills General Manager Doug Whaley is trying to convince the Pegulas to fire Rex Ryan as the head coach, presumably so they can elevate offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to the top position.
If so, Whaley and his pals in personnel couldn't have asked for a better blueprint than Saturday's home finale against the Dolphins. Ryan's defense laid yet another egg in a 34-31 overtime loss, giving up 489 yards and allowing Jay Ajayi to break a 57-yard run to set up the winning field goal.
Meanwhile, Lynn's offense had its finest game of the season – in sheer yardage, the best regular-season performance in the history of the franchise. The Bills gained 589 yards. That's right, more than the Super Bowl teams with Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, more than the O.J. Simpson teams or Jack Kemp's offenses back in the day.
Tyrod Taylor, making a late, desperate case to have the Bills extend his contract, threw for a career-high 329 yards. Sammy Watkins had seven catches for 154 yards, by far his best game of the season and the second-most yards of his career. He had 168 here last year against the Dolphins.
LeSean McCoy had 24 carries for 128 yards and a 19-yard TD. The Pro Bowler has 1,257 rushing yards on the season, the most by a Bill since Travis Henry had 1,356 in 2003. Henry had 331 carries that year. McCoy has 229 to date.
But it all went for naught on a windy Christmas Eve day at New Era Field. Once again, Ryan's defense failed to hold up its end of the bargain. They missed countless tackles, same as they had in the Steelers loss here two weeks earlier, and allowed four plays of 40-plus yards to a team playing with a battered offensive line and a backup quarterback, Matt Moore.
So that does it. They're 7-8 and mercifully eliminated from playoff contention heading into a meaningless road finale against Ryan's former employer, the equally dysfunctional Jets. It also ensured that Ryan will not make the playoffs or coach an above-.500 team for the sixth consecutive season.
In their last seven losses, the Bills have allowed 236 points, an average of 34 a game. That's the sort of record that gets a presumed defensive genius fired. They say divisional games count double. Well, in three AFC East home games, they've given up an average of 37.3 points and 446 yards.
Ryan continues to defend them, but his argument has as many leaks as his precious defense. His "D" no longer stop teams with top quarterbacks. They couldn't even stop journeymen like Moore or Ryan Fitzpatrick at home.
"I know you can question it all you want," Ryan said. "I've been pretty decent throughout my career. This was a rough night, no question. We've had some rough ones. But I think the league, is, uh, you know, I think offenses are pretty decent these days. They're able to move the football.
"But I'll let my reputation stand for what it is."
I reminded Rex that we weren't talking about his defenses in Baltimore or with the Jets, but the two disappointments he has put out there in Buffalo.
"Yeah, but I'm talking about anytime," he said. "About a body of work that's 20-some years in the making in this league. Whatever happens happens, but I can tell you this. I'll stand on my reputation. Let's just put it that way."
Ryan is right. Offenses are more productive than they used to be. Despite Taylor's shortcomings as a passer, the Bills have 389 points on the season. If they score 11 points next week at the Jets – who gave up 41 to the Pats on Saturday – they'll be the first Bills team to score 400 since the 1998 team in Doug Flutie's big year.
But when the Bills faced fourth and 2 at their own 41 with 4:09 left in OT, Ryan elected to punt. A tie would eliminate him. His offense was on fire. But he defaulted to old football coach mode and kicked it away.
"Any coach in America would have done the same thing," Ryan said.
Well, maybe if we were still in the 1960s. I'm sure there are many progressive football coaches who respect the analytics and saw the folly and timidity of punting there.
Buffalo's offense had 377 yards in the second half and OT, more than the Pats have allowed in any of their last full six games. It was enough to make you think Ryan didn't want to leave Lynn's offense on the field to possibly go over 600 yards, so his defense could make him look good instead.
"It's easy to sit back up there when your livelihood isn't riding on it and say, 'I'd do this and this,'" Ryan said.
Yeah, and it's easy to speculate about his future when reports continue flying about Ryan's tenuous livelihood in Buffalo. He didn't do himself any favors by failing to call timeout before Andrew Franks' game-tying 55-yard field goal, or by having only 10 players on the field for Ajayi's big run in OT. He blamed the 10 men on confusion over whether Stephon Gilmore had been cleared from concussion protocol.
I almost feel guilty, writing about a man's job on Christmas. It's supposed to be a joyous, thankful time. But writing about the Bills these days is a joyless exercise, as it has been for 17 years with a few modest exceptions.
One thing that's fairly certain is the Pegulas wouldn't fire Ryan on Christmas Day. But the questions about his lack of detail and game-day bumbling were on vivid display on the day his team was eliminated from the playoffs.
I understand the notion of continuity, but it would be a mistake to leave Whaley in place as GM and allow him to make Lynn the new head coach. As I said from the day they purchased the team, they need a veteran football man, a fresh set of eyes, to come in and take over a flawed operation. I said the same about Darcy Regier when they bought the Sabres.
At the end of their third season as owners, Whaley is their Regier, the personnel man responsible for a flawed and failed roster. He and Russ Brandon should not be trusted to hire Ryan's replacement.
That doesn't mean Lynn wouldn't make a fine head coach. You never know about an assistant coach until he gets his opportunity. Whaley has likely convinced ownership that Lynn will become a head man elsewhere if they don't fire Ryan and give Lynn the job before he gets away.
These are the same folks who told Terry Pegula not to let Ryan get out of the building when they were courting him for the Bills' head job two years ago.
Now, it seems, Ryan will be leaving the building for good very soon. On Saturday, he and a number of free agents likely played their final game at New Era. Whether it's the right move or not, it all fell quite nicely for Anthony Lynn in the home finale.
Whaley must have felt like spiking the football and rocking around the Christmas tree when it was over.