Let me start by giving the Bills credit because heaven forbid someone would criticize them and hurt their feelings. The Bills do a great job of keeping people engaged, even when holding disorganized team activities in May. You can usually count on them making the wrong decision.
In that regard, they have been remarkably dependable during the 21st century. In fact, no other team in the NFL can boast the same consistency when it comes to missing the playoffs, not to mention the point. When only one team fails that much, in a cyclical league with a salary cap and revenue sharing, it’s an accomplishment.
Their latest gaffe came Tuesday when they released their new media policy for 2016. It started out with minor formalities about credentials and parking. The Bills essentially wanted to make sure people covering the team had proper identification and didn’t grab a space in restricted areas, such as in front of a fire hydrant.
As for the reporting …
The Bills do not want you to know who is playing with the first, second or third team because, apparently, it’s none of your business. However, it’s been their business to take your money, time and energy while you’ve supported a losing product that has been lousy or downright laughable during a 105-151 run over 16 seasons.
Other practices strictly prohibited from being reported include in part, “who is rushing the passer, dropped passes, interceptions and QB completion percentage, etc.”
To me, et cetera means anything that pertains to football. In short, the football team doesn’t want you to know how the football players play football.
Can you blame them?
If it’s anything like last season, the Bills will have no issue with anyone reporting who was rushing the passer. Rex Ryan & Co. turned an elite defense that led the league in sacks into one that produced the fewest sacks in franchise history. We know who should have been rushing the passer, Mario Williams. As was accurately reported, he had five sacks last year while often dropping into coverage.
As it stands now, fans attending public practices can tweet about EJ Manuel playing with the second team and Aaron Williams picking off his passes in training camp, but the same information cannot come from the very media members who are paid to be there.
Is this the National Football League or the People’s Republic of China?
The new policy was issued by the Bills’ public relations department, but I would bet my house that the restrictions came from a higher branch of the hierarchy. It sounds like orders were handed down from Doug Whaley or Ryan, one or both of whom could lose jobs if the Bills fail again this season.
But that’s just speculation on my part, of course, which is another no-no.
One item in the policy included media members speaking to players and coaches during practice, which is obvious, but also staff. I suppose that means Bills Managing Partner and President Russ Brandon can shake my hand, as he did before we chatted for about 15 minutes during rookie camp, but I can’t shake his.
The Bills didn’t mention whether the media was restricted from reporting their promotions or providing updates about tickets sales. I would imagine that would be encouraged along with stories about their work in the community and warm-and-fuzzy yarns about players who haven’t been arrested.
If the Bills had their way, it’s a matter of time before the media is strictly prohibited from reporting losses. As per the new media policy, the Bills finished 16-0 last season and won the Super Bowl before Rex humbly accepted his award for Coach the Year. As far as you’re concerned, nothing else happened.
OK, so the Bills don’t want other teams in the league finding out what they’re doing in practice. Is that the deal? Sometimes, it wasn’t clear to the Bills what the Bills were doing in practice. They were the most undisciplined team in the NFL last season. It tells me they diligently practiced personal fouls, catching punts inside the 5 and wasting timeouts.
Maybe with the new policy, they can surprise the opposition when the regular season rolls around. And that way, they can stop finishing second last or last in the division, as they have 14 times in their 16-year run of futility. They can pull a sneak attack and start Tyrod Taylor at quarterback and LeSean McCoy at running back.
Boy, that’ll catch them off guard.
The Bills can’t honestly believe their rivals are trying to gain an advantage from information gathered at their workouts. We’re talking about the Bills, not the Patriots. It’s not as if Buffalo holds some secret to success. They have a blueprint for what not to do. Stealing information from them is like cheating off the dumbest kid in class.
Goodness gracious, people, check the results.
Ultimately, the Bills control the tone of the reporting based on their performance. If they turn things around, they will see more positive stories and get less grief. It’s all they can do after losing so much credibility. Rex put his foot in his mouth so many times last season that his teeth needed sandals.
Personally, I found him to be entertaining. Professionally, he makes my job easy. Frankly, I can’t thank the Bills enough for hiring him.
Just so you know, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the new media policy really isn’t an insult to the media. It’s certainly not an insult to me. It’s not as if the Bills affect my personal life or the health of my children. It’s humorous, actually. My policy is ignoring most of what they say and watching what they do, anyway.
But it should be an insult to you. The media is a conduit to the public. You deserve to know which players are lined up with the first team, how quarterbacks are playing and what receivers are dropping passes before investing your time and money in them. If the Bills are tired of negative reporting, well, win more games.
Last year, media coverage as a whole was half positive and half negative. In 2014, there were nine positive stories for every seven negative. The previous year, there were six positive for every 10 negative. In 2010, it was only four positive for every 12 negative. See where this is going?
That’s how it works.
No matter what their media policy states, it’s not going to change.