Share this article

print logo

Tim Graham: Blame runs deep – It's time to fumigate the football department

Right on schedule, weeks before Christmas, the Buffalo Bills' season is over.

Now it's time for the finger pointing and politicking at One Bills Drive.

Western New York's most tiresome winter pastime is upon us, and this episode could be more blustery than normal.

Reports fluttered Sunday like the snowflakes around New Era Field, where the Pittsburgh Steelers left cleat marks on the organization's forehead

Doug Whaley making a power play ... Rex Ryan fired as early as Monday ... Anthony Lynn perhaps the interim ... time to bench Tyrod Taylor ... a desire for Cardale Jones to get a chance ...

The timing for a cosmetic coaching change would be perfect, with the slovenly Cleveland Browns and New York Jets two of the three remaining opponents. The other game is here against the suddenly starting-quarterbackless Miami Dolphins.

The Bills probably will look pretty good the rest of the way, further validating a forceful statement and resetting the PR-o-meter from "Complete Dejection" to "Can't Wait Until Next Year."

For that reason, the Bills might as well move on from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, too, and get a head start on the Cardale Jones era.

See, fans? We feel your misery! We did something about it! And, look, the results have been immediate! Here come the double rainbows and leaping gnomes!

Don't buy that story line. You're not that gullible. Bills fans have lived and learned and grown and groaned over the 17 years since their team last made the playoffs.

Time for Terry and Kim Pegula to fumigate the entire football department.

Detoxify, disinfect and decolonize it. Then hose down the empty offices with Febreze.

I'd sooner advocate for full continuity than for addressing the problem halfway.

Ryan isn't the only one to blame, and he goes back merely two years.

They're all culpable.

Russ Brandon, the team's managing partner and president, has been with the Bills 20 years and has been involved in football decisions the past nine years. Since he became general manager in 2008, although his official bio in the Bills' media guide suspiciously omits any reference to him being GM, the Bills' record is 58-83.

Whaley is in his fourth year as GM but became an influential voice in 2010, when he was hired as Buddy Nix's successor. Buffalo is 45-63 since Whaley left the Steelers to join the front office.

Whaley was supposed to bring the Steelers' respected management methods to One Bills Drive.

The Bills have been jammed against the salary cap, something usually reserved for clubs that possess a franchise quarterback and maybe a Lombardi Trophy. The Bills have neither.

Whaley has made some nifty acquisitions here and there, but consider on Sunday the Bills had eight starters on the field drafted or signed as rookie free agents since 2014.

The Steelers had seven such starters on defense alone and an eighth, cornerback Ross Cockrell, who Whaley drafted in 2014 but cut a year later. The Steelers had two more offensive starters.

You cannot make a strong case Whaley's draft choices have been impacted more by injuries. One of his picks, 2016 second-round linebacker Reggie Ragland, is on injured reserve. The Steelers have three on injured reserve or suspended who were taken in the fourth round or earlier since 2014.

Enough has been written about Whaley's decision to use an extra first-round draft pick on receiver Sammy Watkins in 2014, when transcendent University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack still was on the board in addition to a few quality receivers who would've cost a single first-round pick.

That move set back Buffalo's efforts to find its franchise quarterback. Whaley banked on EJ Manuel, then was forced to sign Kyle Orton off the street a few months later once it became clear Manuel couldn't cut it.

Whaley this year doubled down on Taylor and, as it probably turns out, turned 2017 into a development season by drafting project Cardale Jones instead of a quarterback who could play sooner. Taylor has fallen out of favor, putting Buffalo in a position where it will be forced to decline the option that would pay him $27.5 million next year and guarantee another $3.25 million in 2018.

So neither Whaley nor his staff – many Bills scouts date back to Nix, so they were retained or hired by Whaley – apparently can identify what a franchise quarterback looks like.

Bills tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, drafted 44th overall in 2014, plays only when somebody is hurt. Cornerback Ronald Darby, 50th overall last year, has been benched.

Whaley in this year's first round took shoulder-damaged edge rusher Shaq Lawson because the GM believed the Bills were good enough to make the playoffs anyway.

The Bills have beaten one opponent with a winning record. They defeated the New England Patriots' third-string quarterback in Week Four.

Brandon supposedly stopped having input on "football decisions" after the Pegulas bought the Bills. There are, however, myriad references to the contrary.

Terry Pegula himself said Brandon advised during the Ryan interview process: "Don't let him out of the building."

A Sports Illustrated feature story on how Ryan became Buffalo's coach revealed Brandon gave Ryan tips on how to schmooze Terry Pegula, texting Ryan the owner "loves red wine."

In a interview with Whaley at the end of last season, the GM said, "Throughout the year, we have a Monday morning call with myself, the Pegulas, Russ Brandon and Rex, and we'll go over everything that went into the game-planning before during and after and any results that came after the game, especially injury-wise."

Brandon handles the Bills' budget. The team's chief contract negotiator, Senior Vice President of Football Administration Jim Overdorf, reports to him.

Brandon and Overdorf, not Whaley, meet with agents about player contracts every year at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

No one was held accountable for the opt-out contract clause that allowed Doug Marrone to walk away with a $4 million gift after the 2014 season.

No one was held accountable when the Bills, going against the NFL norm, handed defensive tackle Marcell Dareus a monster extension, allowing him to violate the NFL's drug policy again and still keep the guarantees over the length of the contract.

Then there's the perplexing case of tight end Charles Clay, who the Bills pursued with a fat contract but can't get involved with the offense.

Two years of Manuel? The Bills had seen enough.

Two seasons of Taylor? Apparently the Bills have seen enough.

Marrone had seen enough of the entire organization after two years to maybe throw away his head-coaching career. Orton had seen enough after one year and retired rather than take the $5.4 million Buffalo owed him.

Two years of Ryan? Some minds at One Bills Drive already have seen enough.

Yet we're supposed to believe the jury's still out for Brandon after two decades and Whaley after seven years with the club, four as GM.

Whaley's and/or Brandon's fingerprints have been on every key football decision over the past few years.

Their most important moves – at coach and quarterback – haven't merely been failures. They were obvious, cut-the-cord failures, whether initiated by the team, the coach or the quarterback in question.

Ryan hasn't shown much in his 29 games, and if the Bills want to catapult him back into unemployment, then they won't get an argument from me.

But if the guy who can't cut it in two seasons has to go, then so do the bosses who've been failing years and years longer.

Story topics: / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment