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Why what’s happening at One Bills Drive seems so familiar

Boy, if they didn’t know any better, Buffalo fans would have thought they woke up Saturday in a time machine that took them back three years. The foul language over the past few days regarding the Bills sounds strikingly similar to what people were saying about the Sabres back in 2013-14.

Let’s roll out a few choice words that should send shivers up your spine: dysfunctional, clueless, embarrassing. Or how about stringing together sentences, more effective when separated by commas than periods: The team is a joke, the coach should be fired, it starts at the top, clean house.

The same things were said when Kim and Terry Pegula started driving the Sabres into the ground within a few years of buying the franchise. They fired the wrong guy in Lindy Ruff and kept his superior in Darcy Regier. The next thing you knew, Ron Rolston was starting his triumphant NHL coaching career.

For heaven’s sake, is that where the Bills are headed? It sure looks like they’re going in that general direction after losing their first two games. They could easily be 0-4 in two weeks. Examine the schedule, and it’s not absurd to think they could spiral into the bye week with a 1-8 record or worse.

It shouldn’t be long before another word, tank, works its way back into the local vernacular and ignites another tumultuous season. I’m sure there are enough people out there who have identified the next generational football player. Here’s hoping they realize it takes more than a Heisman Trophy winner to build a playoff team.

Look, you’re not going to catch me defending offensive coordinator Greg Roman. He was no genius, but the Bills fired the wrong guy after their 0-2 start. Rex Ryan should have been canned before Roman, or joined him at the curb.

Ryan said he made the decision, and perhaps he did, but who knows? I don’t believe anything that comes out of that blowhard’s mouth. But in the event that he was telling the truth, the decision to fire Roman and pay him $4 million needed to be cleared by ownership.

Let’s not forget that Ryan also made the decision to hire Roman in the first place. But let’s also remember who hired Ryan. He talked the Pegulas into giving him $27.5 million over five years. He convinced them that he had all the answers when they clearly didn’t ask the right questions.

Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon shouldn’t be taken off the hook, either. They had input when Ryan was hired. Whaley contributed to spending lavishly on players, much the way Regier did when he was handed an open checkbook. The names change, but the results are the same.

Bills fans should brace for the football equivalent of Ville Leino. It could very well be Tyrod Taylor.

I’m not sure why Bills fans are surprised by what has transpired over the past 18 games under Ryan. It wasn’t as if he arrived with some great record. He was 18-30 over his final three seasons with the Jets. But that didn’t stop people from piling into his Bills pickup truck and getting taken for a nice ride.

What you’ve witnessed with the Bills is little more than history repeating itself, which happens when people don’t learn from their mistakes. The Pegulas are the common denominator. When they bought the Bills, fans were warned the euphoria would dissipate, that eventually everyone would get back to business.

Yes, I know what they did for Buffalo. I also know what they did with the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. The danger in them buying the Bills was that they were capable of messing up two Buffalo franchises rather than one. And that’s precisely what you’re seeing with the Bills headed for the cliff.

Do you really want to relive the Sabres’ experience?

The Sabres are on their way back to contending for the playoffs after Tim Murray worked his magic. He stripped the team to its bare bones before upgrading the roster and making a jump in the standings. Lowering the standards and exceeding the bar has come to define progress in Buffalo.

This is nothing against Murray, who has done an admirable job under the circumstances. That’s why Pat LaFontaine hired him in the first place. Just so we’re straight: LaFontaine wasn’t good enough for the Pegulas, but the NHL welcomed him back with open arms, and the Pope invited him to the Vatican.

The Pegulas know how to sell tickets. They understand the day-to-day business operations of running a professional sports franchise. If they have proven anything, it’s that they don’t have the slightest idea how to build a winning team. How could they know given their background?

Clearly, they need help at the top from outside the organization. They aren’t sure where to turn because they don’t know where to begin. They can’t trust advice from inside the organization from people who are either trying to get promoted or protect their jobs. The chore is hiring someone to hire everyone else.

Over the past five years, they have wasted tens of millions of dollars after making poor decisions on players, coaches and other personnel. In the early days with the Sabres, they figured money would solve most problems. It led to more bad decisions, players getting overpaid and more losing.

The Bills are a dysfunctional franchise because they have under-qualified people in charge, The coach should be fired, but problems start at the top. It’s time for them to clean house.

Sound familiar?


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