I can't imagine it came as any great comfort for Bills fans to hear that Marcell Dareus had guaranteed victory over the winless Browns today at New Era Field.
Dareus showed his usual stunning lack of self-awareness. We're supposed to take the guy seriously after everything he's done to harm his team's playoff chances? The guy went through the motions against Pittsburgh and now he's ready to rise up to avoid the embarrassment of losing to an 0-13 team?
This isn't exactly Joe Namath guaranteeing a win in Super Bowl III. It would have been more useful if Dareus had guaranteed that he would stop smoking marijuana after his third violation, or that he would actually work out diligently during his four-game NFL drug suspension at the start of the season.
Sadly, Dareus has become a symbol of this misbegotten Bills franchise -- full of bluster and promise but ultimately flawed and aimless, overpriced but without any discernible plan for getting things right in the long run.
You know what? They shouldn't be scared of being the first team to lose to the Browns, of being "that team". The same goes for the few Bills fans who are emotionally invested in this game. With tickets supposedly going for $6 on the secondary market, I suspect that most people don't give a damn one way or the other.
When you're staring at a 17th straight season without playoffs, with your head coach, quarterback and general manager on the hot seat and your owners stumbling around in the dark, you can't afford to look down on anybody.
Bills lovers shouldn't feel sorry for the Browns, they should envy them. Maybe Cleveland doesn't have a win, but at least they have a plan, which is more than I can say for the geniuses down at One Bills Drive these days.
I would trade the Bills for the Browns straight-up, and that includes the front office, the general manager, coaches and scouts. Throw in some actual cheerleaders, too.
Go ahead and laugh. I said the same thing about the Raiders when they were 2-12 and knocked off the Bills in 2014, and the Titans when they were coming off 2-14 a year ago. Look at them now. Tampa Bay was 2-14 two years ago. Now they're in first place, just like Tennessee. Maybe bottoming out isn't such a bad idea.
Yes, the Browns are very bad, and three losses away from joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. But they've accepted their fate and engaged in a total franchise teardown -- not unlike what the Sabres did a couple of years ago.
The Browns aren't spinning their wheels and selling false hope, as the Bills have done with numbing regularity over the years. They've resigned themselves to hitting bottom and suffering through a long, painful rebuild.
Last year, they had 14 picks in the draft, the most of any team in years. Next year, they'll have 10 picks in the first five rounds, two each in the first and second rounds. They have 19 rookies on their roster. The Bills have five. There will be growing pains, but they're not kidding themselves.
Joe Thomas, their star left tackle, has lost 107 games in his 10-year career. He has fond memories of the 8-0 win over the Bills in the snow in his rookie year of 2007. After all, it might be the high point. The Browns haven't been over .500 since.
But on a conference call with the Buffalo media last Wednesday, he was engaging and refreshingly upbeat. Imagine that, the best interview of the season was with a guy who hadn't won a game. He talked about how proud he was of being a Clevelander and how much he believed in the Browns' plan.
"I definitely think this team and organization's headed in the right direction," Thomas said. "Of course, they took the path of a very deep rebuild, which is their prerogative. And in the short term, there's a lot of pain. But I think what they are doing is setting this team and this organization up for some long-term success."
"I think we're playing hard," he said. "We might not be playing well enough to win, but the team's fighting. I think we're improving and we're getting better at a time when a lot of other teams might be cashing it in by now."
Rex Ryan insists that his team played hard against the Steelers. His job is on the line. What else would you expect him to say? But his defense didn't seem physically engaged, which is an indictment of the presumed genius who coaches them.
Bills fans might feel a pang of regret when they see the winless head coach on the other sideline today. Hue Jackson was at or near the top of the list when the Bills were looking to replace Doug Marrone after the 2014 season -- before Kim and Terry Pegula got blown away by Rex Ryan's bluster.
I felt Jackson met all the criteria to be Buffalo's head coach, starting with the fact that he was an offensive coach who had done good things in his time with the Raiders and Bengals. Jackson wanted the job badly and later said he felt he had done well in his interview with the Pegulas.
Jackson was led to believe that the Bills wanted to keep Jim Schwartz to coach the defense, which had been fourth in the league that season, He said he "absolutely" intended to keep Schwartz as the defensive coordinator.
It's hard to say what might have happened if Ryan had a better offer and the Bills had hired Jackson instead. But it's natural to wonder if the defense would have remained elite with Schwartz and gotten the Bills into the playoffs.
Who knows? The Bills might not be in the mess they're in today, with Ryan on the verge of being fired after two years on the job, quarterback Tyrod Taylor on thin ice and and ownership back where they were two years ago, wondering who they can find to lift their franchise out of its chronic dysfunction.
The Bills are a heavy favorite today. It's a game they shouldn't lose if the players actually care. But spare us the guarantees. In the long run, it doesn't matter. What matters is whether the Browns become the latest in a line of hapless NFL teams that eventually got it together and surpassed the Bills.
Don't feel sorry for Cleveland. Keep in mind that the scoreboard doesn't always tell you which team is falling behind.