Here are my three Buffalo Bills thoughts as they begin to prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins -- the first of three separating them from what virtually is certain to be yet another non-playoff season:
1. I keep hearing the question and I keep shaking my head. Is Rex Ryan on the hot seat? No. His seat isn't even lukewarm. Ryan will not be going anywhere after only the first year of a five-year contract. Team owners Terry and Kim Pegula will give him ample slack for: one, not having all of the proper parts in place to run his defensive scheme the way he wants to run it; two, dealing with numerous injuries; three, having essentially a rookie quarterback in first-year starter Tyrod Taylor. Sure, Ryan didn't do himself or the franchise any favors with bold predictions and promises about fielding a top-ranked defense and breaking the Bills' 15-year playoff drought. But he did manage to help sell tickets and that was a large reason for the heavy financial investment the Pegulas made in him. Now, they will give him at least another season to fully implement his program, something players such as Marcell Dareus and Manny Lawson said would take more than a season. Yup, the offseason talking points have already been established.
2. I keep hearing that "someone needs to be a fall guy" for the likely extension of the Bills' consecutive non-playoff seasons to 16 and that someone is general manager Doug Whaley. Again, my head is shaking. The Pegulas are finishing their first full season as owners of the team. They're not carrying the burden of all that has gone wrong before they took over the team. And it isn't entirely fair to say that Whaley needs to pay a price, either. There's no question he has had his share of player-personnel misses, but he has had some pretty good hits, especially from this year's draft. My expectation is that he will, at the very least, get to see through another year of drafting and overseeing the free-agent process. Ryan does not want to take on a larger role, nor is choosing players something he should be entrusted to do. And I don't think the Pegulas have any desire to go through a GM search or have any specific candidate in mind. Ryan wanted Taylor, and Whaley got him. Ryan also charged Whaley and the rest of the player-personnel department with adding more speed on offense, and they accommodated him. Now, they will likely collaborate to find better fits for Ryan's defense, especially at linebacker. If the Bills miss the playoffs next year, then all bets could be off for Whaley ... and, perhaps, Ryan.
3. The fans are angry. The players? They're disappointed, but I didn't get the sense they're furious about the way the season has turned out while in the locker room on Tuesday. They are pretty well resigned to their fate and ready to get through these final three games and get on with next year. As with the ownership, the coach, and the GM, the vast majority of players are not feeling the weight of many seasons without a postseason on their backs because they haven't had to endure it for the amount of time the fans have.