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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: Bills fans let loose

Jerry Sullivan

As you might expect, the mailbox has been blowing up over the last week or so. These aren’t love letters to the Bills. Fans are up in arms after the opening two losses. Even people who felt Greg Roman was a nitwit were stunned when the Pegulas whacked him after two games.

It’s an unholy mess over at One Bills Drive, and it should get worse before it gets better. I uttered those words a decade ago, when I predicted the playoff drought would reach double digits. Now I’m thinking the drought has a good chance to reach drinking age.

I put the Mailbag on hold when Roman was fired last Friday. So the mail has really piled up. I’ll get to as many as I can and try to keep my answers relatively brief.

@amici61 asks: Haven’t we seen enough? This is Wrecks. How much longer do we have to wait!

@The Bush84 asks: Over/under on how many games Rex lasts?

Sully: I made those two an entry. The sentiment is similar and it’s shared by many other fans who are tired of Ryan and want to move on.

Nine is a good over-under. That puts them to the bye, always a convenient time to fire coaches. But I’d go over if I had to bet it. I don’t see Kim and Terry Pegula firing Rex during the year unless things get really ugly − like 1-8 ugly. Even then, they might find excuses to keep him and avoid paying him the balance of his $27.5 million not to work.

Pegula did issue an ultimatum to Ryan and Doug Whaley late last season: Get it right. The first two weeks were a step back. Letting Ryan Fitzpatrick light them up in the home opener was an even worse embarrassment that the no-show in Washington last year, which precipitated Pegula’s admonition to his coach and GM.

The problem is, who would become head coach if they fired Ryan during the season? By firing Roman, they removed the only natural successor to the head job. It makes you wonder if that was exactly the reason Ryan went along with it.

@jubillsfan asks: Why do I continue to buy tickets and merchandise for this joke of a franchise? I get nothing but heartache from this relationship.

Sully: I wouldn’t pay a dime to watch them. I believe fans perpetuate the problem by continuing to buy the hope and allow incompetent people to remain in power with the team. But I don’t tell people how to spend their money and leisure time.

By now, I suspect that following the Bills is more a pastime than a relationship for many fans. Disgusted and unwilling to have their hearts broken, they maintain an emotional distance. But they still enjoy the game days and parties and being part of the NFL.

Daniel Sanford asks: Are we witnessing a train wreck at OBD or a rebirth?

Sully: A rebirth? I assume you’re kidding. This team is going off the rails fast, and I can see them bottoming out soon. The Bills will be a 4-12 team in the very near future, maybe this year, especially if Tyrod Taylor doesn’t turn it up in a hurry.

They’re closer to a rebuilding than a rebirth. They have many pricey players who have never won anything and might not be here much longer. This team lacks depth and the sort of rising young players who provide financial roster balance and win in the short term.

Robert Kreppel asks: You constantly hear that the Bills led the league in rushing last year. That suggests a powerful O line. Doesn’t Tyrod Taylor’s scrambling skew these results? Where did they stand minus Taylor’s rushing yardage?

Sully: It’s true that Taylor’s scrambling padded the rushing stats in 2015. But they weren’t alone. Carolina was second because Cam Newton led all QBs in rushing. Seattle was third in rushing. Russell Wilson was third among quarterbacks in run yards. Take away Taylor and the Bills still would have been ahead of those two teams.

So Doug Roman did lead a formidable running game a year ago, and the offensive line was a big reason. They were average or worse in pass protection, but a good run-blocking unit, especially with Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn on the left side.

Teams have stacked the run box in the first two games, daring Taylor to beat them with the pass. They really miss last year’s Karlos Williams, who rushed for 517 yards and averaged 5.6 a carry, tied for first among running NFL backs with 80 carries. Through two weeks, the Bills’ backup running backs have a total of minus-4 yards.

John Polucci asks: Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has looked impressive as a rookie. There is no doubt that Philly offensive coordinator Frank Reich is a big part of his success. Why not Frank Reich in Buffalo?

Sully: I can’t blame folks for looking ahead to the next head coach. Yes, if Ryan gets his pink slip, Reich would be a strong candidate. He had success as an offensive coordinator in San Diego from 2014-15 and has done wonders with Wentz in Philadelphia.

Reich interviewed for the job before Ryan got it in early 2015 and desperately wanted it. He was gracious, calling Rex a “perfect hire,” but Reich might be more suited for the job. At 54, he’s ready for the leap. After a self-promoter like Rex, it would be a refreshing change to have a more intellectual and emotionally centered guy leading the Bills.

He knows offense and has worked with a lot of great quarterbacks, which is something the Bills need as they search for a true franchise guy. Reich deserves a chance to show he can preside over an entire operation. He genuinely loves Buffalo and doesn’t have to get his photo taken at the Big Tree to prove he gets the culture here.

@Thomas_JasonM asks: Is this Bills team really more talented than past iterations? A few bright spots but middle of roster is bottom quartile of NFL.

Sully: Iteration. Quartile. My man! Clearly, you’re wise enough to know that the talent on the current Bills roster is overestimated and the team lacks depth.

That happens when you overpay for players (Marcell Dareus, LeSean McCoy, Cordy Glenn, Charles Clay), forfeit a first-rounder for Sammy Watkins and whiff on draft picks. You have the appearance of a stacked roster. But the Bills are counting on a lot of marginal players, especially on defense, and don’t have enough “value” players in their first contracts.

Whaley can use the Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland injuries as an excuse, but there’s no guarantee they would have been solid starters as rookies. Whaley needed them to produce right away because he allowed the defensive front seven to erode while chasing offense.

Doug Pagano asks: With such a feeble offensive effort vs. the Ravens, do you agree with Rex’s decision to not have the offensive starters play a half together in the third preseason game, and sit them for most of the preseason?

Sully: Tyrod Taylor seems to think so. Asked that question, he called it a “coaches’ decision,” as close as you’ll get to criticism from Taylor. He surely would have liked more time in game situations in his first camp as the No. 1.

Ryan was too fearful of injury and cavalier about the offense’s ability to hit the ground running when the real games started. They had no rhythm in the opener. It was a bad coaching decision, one that contributed to Roman losing his job.

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