The Buffalo Bills lost a historically frustrating game Sunday in the first round of the playoffs that left the team’s fans bewildered and aggravated, and yet already looking forward to next year.
But was it the end of the season, or the beginning of something great?
There is no need to rehash all of the issues with the loss, coaching, players, officiating, or even the Bills’ fans behavior before and after the game. Almost all of that has already been dissected.
But these days, there is no end of the season for serious fans any more than the players and coaches.
The 2017 Buffalo Bills year was like no other in memory, and sometimes felt like you were on a roller-coaster ride alongside the girl or guy of your dreams, but without the bar that held you guys inside and safe – either soaring or free-falling.
You didn’t know if you should scream bloody murder or shout out in joy, if this was total tease or pure fun, or if the guys running the ride were sane or sadist.
They did, after all, have inexplicable obsessions with Mike Tolbert and Vladimir Ducasse.
Fans endured major trades out of the blue, needed maps to stars homes in completely different cities, and suffered through an insane and controversial benching that led to one of the worst halves in NFL history.
We watched a euphoric three-game win streak that sky-rocketed the team to the top of the division and some power ratings, followed by an equally shocking but catastrophic three-game embarrassment where we couldn’t beat the Orchard Park Quakers high school team.
Few would have thought, let alone predicted, that this was the route to the end of The Drought – but it was – and that alone makes it a most memorable season.
Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have now made the playoffs every year of their Bills tenure, and “trust the process” is now indelibly etched into the lexicon of Bills fans as much as “Talking Proud” (and hopefully erases it).
The true heroism of the McDermott/Beane combo platter, however, is in the degree of genuine hope versus generic hype that they have instilled into the fan base; by accomplishment versus manufacturing. The team doesn’t need to craft hope for the 2018 season out of whole jersey and promotional campaigns; it should evolve organically out of an enjoyable winning season and the sweet taste of the playoffs in their first year.
And they accomplished it with a band of misfits, has-beens, never-wases and whodathunkits, along with Shady McCoy, Kyle Williams and a few other notable leftovers.
We can all pick nits with numerous isolated decisions made by coach McDermott and GM Beane, but it’s hard to argue with the signing of the two new safeties, the trade down that netted Tre'Davious White and a No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, or the ending of The Drought.
Granted, the team needs help at virtually every unit on offense, defense and special teams, and some coaching changes are surely warranted.
There is likely to be a substantial roster overhaul for the second-straight season, due to the team being old, holding a bunch of high picks, money to spend in free agency, and the brain trust’s obvious willingness to get rid of good players fans have grown fond of.
But however you viewed the HC and GM’s moves from the time they took command to the time they righted the ship, they have accomplished enough to believe they know what they are doing. Or at least give them the benefit of the drought, er, doubt.
Genuine hope, not hype, springs eternal.
Trust the progress.