The email submissions were at an all-time high this week. That’s a good thing. I don’t want to insult my vast Twitter following, but the people who take the time to send an email tend to be more civil, thoughtful and refreshingly literate.
Naturally, most of the mail is about the Bills, ranging from bitter sarcasm to grim, weary bewilderment to outright hostility toward Rex Ryan and the entire operation.
I can’t blame people. The current joke is that the Bills’ playoff drought will soon be old enough to drive. I’m wondering if it might some day become old enough to drink legally. Enough. Let’s get to the mail. The Mailbag will run next week, so keep those tweets and emails coming.
Craig Maz asks: Given the disaster this year’s defense has been and the talk that the scheme isn’t a fit yet and certain players are not picking up on it, why wasn’t a coach selected that would’ve ensured Schwartz still as the D coordinator?
Sully: Good question. They might have been better off with an offensive-minded head coach who would have kept Schwartz and left a successful defensive system intact. I liked Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who was high on their list and might have been the pick if they hadn’t fallen for Rex.
The Pegulas didn’t want to lose Schwartz, but there was no way he was sticking around to work for Ryan. They went for the big name who created a lot of national buzz and helped them sell more season tickets than in any season in franchise history.
I’m not sure Jackson would have done any better with the offense than Greg Roman, who was also up for head coaching jobs last year. It’s also hard to say who he would have wanted at quarterback. Doug Whaley might have been more empowered under a different head coach and given EJ Manuel a clearer path to the starting job. That’s an unsettling thought.
There’s no guarantee the defense would have been as good if Schwartz had stayed. Some decline was inevitable, especially with the injuries. But it’s hard to imagine the defense dipping to this extent without Rex coming on and forcing his system on the players.
The simple answer is that the Pegulas were dazzled by the Rex Ryan persona. At this point, you have to wonder if they might be feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse. By the way, Schwartz is working as a consultant to the NFL’s officiating department this season. I’m sure he’s had a laugh or two at Rex Ryan’s expense.
James Griffin@yahoo asks: Do you think the Bills should tank the last three games to get a better draft position? Should Ryan be fired since we didn’t make the playoffs this year?!
Sully: I’d reject this as lunacy, but it was good for the hockey team, right? Seriously, they’re not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, so they’ll play to win. And they’ll do all they can to win out and make another lost season look like some kind of moral triumph, same as they under Doug Marrone a year ago.
There’s no way Ryan gets fired. Pegula doesn’t like to fire people and believes in giving them a decent chance. I don’t imagine he’d enjoy eating most of that five-year, $27.5 million contract, either.
But if Ryan doesn’t make the playoffs next year, he could be in jeopardy. That would make Rex one of only four men since the NFL-AFL merger to be a head coach for six consecutive calendar years without making the playoffs. That’s a lot of losing.
Richard Kusmierski asks: Is Tyrod adverse to throwing short crossing passes over the middle? It seems to me that he is a very good long ball thrower outside the numbers or to the post, but very rarely does he throw short crossing patterns over the middle. Are the coaches holding him back?
Sully: First of all, the word is “averse,” not adverse. It certainly seems like Taylor doesn’t want to throw over the middle. I do think the coaches prefer having him work to the sides, where he has clearer sightlines. He’s short, so it’s tough getting the football over the giants on the defensive line.
Taylor has thrown only five interceptions, so the safe approach has its virtues. But a franchise quarterback needs to make all the throws. He needs to work the middle and get the ball to his playmakers in the middle area. That’s one reason Sammy Watkins hasn’t been more involved at times. They don’t send him on many of those slants over the middle.
I suspect that Taylor’s fear of turnovers makes him reluctant to make those throws. He went entire halves this season without using the middle once. But part of being a franchise QB is being bold and confident, and not living in fear of mistakes.
@mickeybrock asks: What qbs are available through draft or free agency? Tyrod is not the answer.
Sully: I’m not sold on Taylor, either, but he’s done well in his first year as a starter and management seems content to send him out next year as the guy. But they have to strengthen the position through free agency or the draft.
As Tyler Dunne pointed out Thursday, the Bills have drafted four quarterbacks since Jim Kelly retired. In that span, the Packers drafted 10, despite having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Your chances of finding that franchise guy aren’t good if you don’t try.
According to Mel Kiper, Paxton Lynch of Memphis and Jared Goff of Cal are the top two QBs in an average draft class. He says both should go in the top 10. Other possible first-rounders include Carson Wentz of North Dakota State, Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. I won’t fake knowledge on any of them.
As for NFL free agents, Washington’s Kirk Cousins is in the final year of his deal. You can check him out this Sunday. There’s a chance Colin Kaepernick or Drew Brees will be out on the market. And hold on, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a free agent!
Brian Frank asks: How does this year’s Golden State team compare to the great Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams?
Sully: Love the NBA question. Sorry to come off as the old dude, but you can’t compare modern teams to the great teams of the past. The Warriors are a fabulous team and are better on defense than people realize. But they wouldn’t hold up against the great Celtics and Lakers teams of the pre-salary cap era.
The Warriors’ big men would be abused by Bird, McHale and Parish, or the Lakers with Jabbar. They beat the Cavs in the Finals playing small ball, but those teams could beat you playing any style you like. I’m not even sure the Warriors are better than this year’s Spurs.