Good week for the Mailbag. Unrest at One Bills Drive has a way of stuffing the old mailbox. Evidently, a lot of fans are feeling a sudden unease about Doug Whaley’s handling of the roster and his relationship with head coach Rex Ryan.
There were far too many submissions to include them all this week, so I’ll apologize in advance. Remember, send your questions and comments via my Twitter (@TBNSully) or my company email account (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Keep it lively and keep it reasonably civil! On to this week’s mail:
email@example.com asks: The Bills have made a number of questionable moves so far this season (trading Matt Cassel, releasing Fred Jackson, not firing Aaron Kromer). Did Pegula make a serious error in not hiring a “Football Tsar?”
Sully: It’s a fair question, and nice use of “tsar”! Last year, I pushed for the Bills to bring in a veteran personnel man to oversee the team. (I went for the “czar” spelling). The football department was in disarray and they needed a respected outsider to evaluate the football department.
Bringing in Rex Ryan as coach restored some respectability and gave them a fresh set of eyes. Rex was a czar in coach’s clothing. But I still think it would have been wise to hire a team vice president to run the football operation and manage the often contentious relationship between the general manager and head coach.
Russ Brandon is team president. But his duties are now divided between the Bills and Sabres, and the plan was for him to be less involved in football matters. Terry Pegula said Ryan and GM Whaley would both report directly to him. That creates a void between those two men and the owner.
When he became coach, Ryan said the team would be “one ego.” No agendas. But the Jackson release and the Cassel trade were signs of Whaley acting on his own agenda. Whaley and Doug Marrone had a fractured relationship last season. The Bills must do everything possible to make sure a similar rift doesn’t occur.
The coach/GM relationship is always fragile in pro sports. This one is showing cracks, the sort a czar might help to mend.
Nick Alberalla asks: The Bills have said that Whaley controls the 53-man roster and Rex decides who plays. Is the Cassel trade Whaley’s way of ensuring that his guy is the number 2?
Sully: As I wrote in Thursday’s column, it certainly seemed like Whaley’s way of wedging his guy into the backup QB role. It’s understandable. Whaley drafted EJ Manuel and doubled down on him with the Sammy Watkins trade.
He wants to prove that his investment in Manuel was worthwhile.
What I can’t buy is that Ryan and the offensive coaches felt moving Cassel was in the team’s best interest. They clearly had determined that Manuel was their third-best quarterback and they trusted Cassel more in a crisis. We’re supposed to believe they had an epiphany and feel Manuel is an equally good backup?
This makes two coaching staffs that didn’t have faith in Manuel’s ability. The issue last year was Doug Marrone not letting him start. Now it’s about whether EJ is good enough to be No. 2. That hardly seems like progress.
awanger3000 asks: After the abysmal first half of Pats game, do you think Tyrod can develop quickly enough to take the Bills to the postseason?
Sully: Overall, Taylor’s play has been encouraging through two games. But you’re right to be alarmed about his play in the first half against New England, when he seemed skittish in the pocket, slow to identify his reads, and unable to recognize open receivers on several occasions.
Taylor’s early stats (75.5 percent completion, 8.92 per attempt, 103.9 QB rating) are a bit misleading. He loaded up in garbage time against the Pats. In the first three quarters of that game, his longest completion was 11 yards.
It’s early. The kid has started two regular-season games in the NFL. Taylor needs to perform much better in the pocket than he did against New England. If he doesn’t avoid turnovers and sacks, it won’t be long before the Manuel supporters are howling for a chance at quarterback.
No one expected Taylor to carry the Bills to the playoffs. The idea was to win with defense, a strong running game, and an average QB who could make big plays and avoid big mistakes. We’ll see what happens in the weeks ahead.
@frankpro asks: Do you think we should be concerned about Rex Ryan as a HC? Is he the best “Monday thru Saturday” coach in NFL?
Sully: Come on, Frank. Ryan loses one game to Bill Belichick and you’re ready to write him off? Yes, he had a losing record in six years with the Jets. But he’s one of the most respected defensive minds in the sport and a powerful personality who knows how to motivate players and a fan base.
Ryan has been criticized for poor game management, but his main undoing in New York was inferior quarterback play. He was expected to improve a strong defense in Buffalo. I wouldn’t judge him off one bad day against New England.
My main criticism of Ryan last week was his conservative defensive approach. He tried to get a pass rush against Tom Brady with four guys, instead of using his signature multiple blitzes. He should be himself and coach to his strength.
@JayDandyLand asks:When are u going to do another golf column? Your fans want to know.
Sully: It’s a constant amazement how much people care about my golf game. My wife hears it all the time, too. The series I wrote 15 years ago (yes, it’s been that long) was the most popular thing I ever did at the News.
If you have to know, I’m still improving at age 60. I’m scoring in the mid-90s to high 80s. I’m still looking for my first 85. I would be there already if I hadn’t gagged under pressure. I’ll file a report when it happens.