It finally appears as though our worst fears have been realized. Again.
The dreaded Half Tank.
I’m not sure why anyone using any definition of tank would want such a thing. A half tank of gas gets you only halfway. Half a military or fish tank is worthless. "Shark Tank" is overrated. Tank tops are awesome, but only on less than one-tenth of the population.
Granted, not every team that loses a lot of games is "tanking," which usually equates to losing on purpose to gain a top draft pick.
But for Bills football fans, the Half Tank has kept the team in limbo the last four years and, for more than half of the drought, finishing anywhere from 9-7 to 7-9.
The Half Tank gets you half of nothing. You don’t get a shot at the playoffs, a prime pick, a surge in optimism from the frustrated fan base, or serious interest from top free agents.
All you do get is the enthusiasm of a tie after sudden death overtime.
At first, there was one likely scenario, that this was a rebuilding year. We’d bite the bullet this season as new systems and coaches were installed. I don’t know about you, but I have at least four cracked teeth from biting so many bullets – there are about two full magazines in my mouth.
And then the new guys gutted half the team. Some fans scoffed at losing the sheer talent and potential of Sammy Watkins, but most were fine, if not thrilled, with it. We weren't going to sign him next year and we got a high draft pick in return.
But then the Bills turned on us and started winning.
The Bills will have to piece together a sound performance in the run-stopping and coverage departments to limit the second-year pro's production.
They got our blood boiling and hopes up. Maybe this was different. Maybe coach Sean McDermott was a true genius. The Bills were a fun team, 5-2, taking the ball and our hearts away at an alarming rate we knew couldn't be sustained – and then we were shocked and appalled when it wasn't sustained.
Just when we thought, hey, these guys are scary good, they half-tanked again. The worst three-game stretch in recent – if not team – history. The entire Murphy extended clan showed up to prove the law. Followed by a little spark, an upset special in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.
The victory over the Chiefs — which we knew deep down was fool’s gold — splashed just enough gas on our internal flames to make some believe there was a chance against the dreaded Patriots.
But of course, the Patriots' small herd of GOATs — which include a Billy, Belichick, and a nanny, Brady – were too much and too tough to handle.
And then the Gronkasaurus happened.
What infuriated fans was the lack of necessity for it. You already beat us; you don't have to drill us in the back when we are down. Rob Gronkowski went from big goof to ugly goon, and he paid little price (the league handed down a one-game suspension).
The Pats didn't have Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee available to beat us, and they didn't need Stephon Gilmore, so they had Eric Lee (formerly of the Bills practice squad) do the dishonors. How a guy like that goes from our non-active scrap pile to their playmaking starting lineup requires a special counsel to investigate.
Uncle Rico Dennison called another atrocious game, outside of a couple of wrinkles that worked, so he abandoned them, including Joe Webb in the wildcat.
Tyrod Taylor again had another terrible outing and again got no help. It's not as though WR and TE were running wild in the New England countryside and he couldn’t find them. Matthews, Jones, Thompson and Clay got less separation than the Olsen twins.
The Half Tank is embodied by Taylor, who was just good enough that we couldn't get rid of him, and not good enough that we could win with him. He had half the fans bamboozled and the other half booing. He simply has not elevated his team, and his coaches won't let him even if he could.
This season, the Half Tank reared its ugly head on the defensive line, too, featuring hot and cold hothead Jerry Hughes. Hit-and-miss man-child Marcell Dareus, who wouldn’t shut up, so he was shipped out. Boom or bust Shaq Lawson. And heroic future Wall of Famer Kyle Williams running on, unfortunately, half a tank.
Barring some unthinkable win streak, the season is all but done, and it likely will be for good in two or three weeks. By the time we play the Patriots again in Foxborough, Mass., the only thing in doubt is whether the Bills will retaliate against Gronk.
I'm not even sure it's possible to rough up or knock some sense into someone so thick-skulled.
Again we don't win, no playoffs and no high pick – right back where we started. Two seasons in a row, thinking we had a chance to be good, Rex Ryan went basically eight and eight while Rob Ryan ate and ate.
So now all that's left to root for is the college QB you have your heart set on, whether he be named Rosen, Darnold, Mayfield, Rudolph or Jackson. The Half Tank makes it twice as hard to acquire your savior du jour.
And alas, to make things worse, in honor of the all-time great bumper sticker, "Go Bills and Take the Sabres With You …"
The Full Tank hasn't seemed to work for our beloved hockey team.