Share this article

print logo

Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: Ryan, Whaley must produce results

Another Bills non-playoff season is in the books and I must admit, I could use a break. When you’ve been through this dreary ride 16 years in a row, it starts to wear on you. Plus, there’s an inevitable fatigue that sets in after four months of listening to Rex Ryan.

I have an ultimatum for all my dutiful pen pals: Keep writing! Just because the Bills are done, that’s no reason to stop filling up the mailbox. There’s NFL playoffs, college and pro basketball, golf, the 29th-place Sabres and the interminable buildup to the NFL draft.

This has become a go-to space, an amusement park of sports talk. If we sustain the momentum, I might one day be able to get money for doing this in retirement. The Mailbag:

@bcredmosquito asks: Seems like somebody in the organization has a vendetta against Whaley. Do you agree, or is this “source” being factual?

Sully: I have zero doubt that the Pegulas issued some sort of win-or-else ultimatum to Whaley and Rex Ryan. Naturally, they’ll deny it and give Whaley an extension. But they’re both in trouble if the Bills don’t improve appreciably next season.

Whaley has been at odds with two straight coaching staffs. He admitted when the Bills drafted EJ Manuel that his job could hinge on EJ’s performance. On the night he traded a first-round pick for Sammy Watkins to help EJ, he admitted he was putting his reputation on the line.

There’s no vendetta, it’s cold reality. Pro football is a hard, unsentimental business, and Whaley knows it. He needs to win now, and the same goes for Ryan, who screwed up a very good defense and has now been a head coach for five consecutive non-playoff seasons.

As usual, the Pegulas want it both ways. They’re middling it in classic Buffalo fashion. They want to put their coach and GM on notice, but they want their fans to swallow the idea that things are looking up and that happy times are just around the corner.

That’s the Kool-Aid they peddled to the public after buying the Sabres. How did that one work out?

Adam Pomietlarz asks: Should the Bills bring back Mike Pettine? He is well known with Rex and with the Bills.

Sully: It’s a popular notion now that Pettine has been shown the door in Cleveland. Correspondent Holgar asked the same question. But I don’t see it happening.

Remember, Pettine ended his decade-long association with Ryan in 2013 because Rex was in hot water with the Jets. Pettine wanted to get ahead of the posse and joined the Bills as Doug Marrone’s defensive coordinator. Ryan survived in New York with one of his 8-8’s.

Why would Pettine want to reunite with Rex in Buffalo when Ryan in a similarly tenuous situation? The guy needs a job, but I doubt he wants to move back into Ryan’s shadow. And if Rex is going to bring in retread defensive gurus, he’s more likely to hire his brother, Rob.

Pettine’s defensive reputation has taken a hit, too. The Browns were 23rd and 27th in total defense in his two years as head coach; they were ninth the year before he arrived. Oh, and Pettine’s wondrous 2013 defense that set a Bills record with 57 sacks? That team allowed 29 more points that this year’s discombobulated bunch. Just sayin’.

@mickeybrocks asks: Sully, please rank the Bills’ quarterbacks of the drought era.

Sully: Great question, but a grim exercise. It’s like listing the nation’s worst auto graveyards, or ranking Donald Trump’s most regrettable campaign utterances.

Still, I love lists. This gave me a reason to peruse the history of quarterbacks during the 16-year playoff drought. Fourteen QBs have started a game during that time, if you don’t count Matt Cassel’s cameo in this year’s opener. I’ll rate the eight who started eight games:

1. Ryan Fitzpatrick; 2. Drew Bledsoe; 3. J.P. Losman; 4. Tyrod Taylor; 5. Trent Edwards; 6. Rob Johnson; 7. Kyle Orton; 8. EJ Manuel.

You can accuse me of being biased on Fitz. It’s no secret I’m fond of the guy. But he deserves the spot on merit. People exaggerate how good Bledsoe was in Buffalo. He basically had four or five very good games, then went into serious decline.

Fitzpatrick started 53 games, the most of any Bills QB in the drought. Bledsoe started 48. Bledsoe had a better record, but he played with much better defenses. Fitz had a slightly higher completion percentage, more yards per game (218 to 211) and far more TD passes – 79 to Bledsoe’s 55. Fitz had 19 more interceptions, but he was a far better runner.

To me, Taylor is a more talented and efficient Losman, but needs another year to prove it. Edwards lost his nerve after suffering a concussion and had only 25 TD passes in 32 starts. Johnson had nine wins as a starter and couldn’t stay healthy. It’s hurting my brain, so I’ll stop now.

Carl Wagner asks: With the likely departures of Mario Williams and Nigel Bradham, plus the possible release of Corey Graham and Kyle Williams, will the Bills have room to go after Denver’s Von Miller or Danny Trevathan? They both play in a multiple, 3-4 base defense, and theoretically would fit well in Ryan’s scheme.

Sully: Nice idea, Carl, but Whaley said at Monday’s season-ending presser that they’ll be sitting out free agency and dedicating their limited cap funds to re-signing their own free agents. They spent $91 million in guarantees last offseason, the most in the NFL. They paid through the nose for 8-8. Now they have to pay the piper.

Miller is one of the top pass rushers in the league. He’ll probably join Marcell Dareus – who was taken one spot after Miller in the 2011 draft – in the $100 million club. You’re dreaming if you think they can afford him.

Trevathan is a solid inside linebacker who had more than 100 tackles for the NFL’s best defense. I’m sure Rex would be intrigued. But those guys tend to get big bucks in free agency, too. The Bills won’t have the resources, especially if they keep Kyle Williams, which appears will be the case.

James Griffin asks: Do you think the Buffalo Braves could have won a championship if they had kept Moses Malone?

Sully: No. Malone was 21 years old when he played two games in Buffalo in 1976-77 before being traded to Houston. The Braves were in bailout mode that season, in which they traded Bob McAdoo. They left for San Diego a year later. Malone might have helped the Braves be an average team if he’d stayed, but the idea of anything more is pure whimsy.