After making the rounds on the weekly media day at One Bills Drive, here's my best answer on why the Bills decided to cut veteran Brian Moorman:
Bruce DeHaven, the special teams coach, wanted Moorman to kick more directional punts, instead of the long, booming punts for which Moorman was well-known. Moorman resisted. He and DeHaven had never been on the same page since DeHaven returned to Buffalo two years ago. One person close to the situation described the relationship as "oil and water."
Last week, the Bills ordered Moorman to kick away from the Browns' Joshua Cribbs. Moorman did a decent job of that. He punted away from Cribbs on five of six kicks for a 34.8 net average. Cribbs returned three punts for 43 yards. Moorman had a 66-yard punt in the third quarter, after the Browns had pulled to within 17-14. Cribbs ran it back 27 yards -- still a 39-yard net.
The Bills, who had been looking to upgrade the position for some time, finally pulled the trigger on Monday. They cited production. Moorman is currently 30th in the NFL in net punting at 32.7 yards. Of course, a 68-yard TD return by the Jets' Jeremy Kerley in the opener hurts that figure. Moorman did get off a poor punt on the Kerley return.
The timing of Moorman's release is odd, and a bit risky. There's no guarantee that Shawn Powell, a rookie, will be as good as Moorman. Powell has never kicked in a regular-season NFL game -- or, more to the point, in Buffalo's often windy or wintry conditions. Moorman was also the holder on place-kicks. That's also a potential issue, especially in the short term.
Moorman and Rian Lindell were a tandem for a decade. The chemistry among the snapper, holder and kicker can be a fragile thing. Lindell tried to put the best face on it Wednesday, but it was clear that he wasn't sure how quickly the new combination would come together.
The Patriots come to town. A mistake in special teams could make the difference. So the pressure is on to get things right in a hurry. It's on Powell, but also on DeHaven and coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix, who are gambling that you can make a major change three games into the season and get away with it.