Trust the process, they said.
This time will be different, they said.
I'm not ready to say Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane aren't advancing the cause, but they've fielded a team that's performing as woefully as any of the franchise's previous incarnations.
Forget the .500 record. Buffalo over the past three games has been poor not only for the playoff-drought era, but by the lowest standards set forth at any point since Ralph Wilson produced the club in 1960.
The Los Angeles Chargers mutilated whatever remained of the Bills' carcass Sunday. The New Orleans Saints mangled the Bills last week, and the New York Jets dropped them a week before that.
Rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions before halftime, floodgating the Chargers to 37 first-half points, a club record. The carnage resumed after halftime until the Bills departed StubHub Center with a 54-24 defeat.
As bad as the Bills have looked under coaches Rex Ryan, Doug Marrone, Chan Gailey and Dick Jauron – let's even go back to how awful they were under Hank Bullough, John Rauch, Kay Stephenson and Buster Ramsey – you could make a case that what we've seen since Halloween is as awful as ever.
Buffalo's past three opponents have scored 135 points, more than any previous three-game stretch. The last time scores were this ugly was 1976, when the defense surrendered 130 points in three weeks.
The Saints laughed throughout a 47-10 victory last Sunday even though the Bills were home and had extra time to rest and prep. Ten days earlier, the Jets posted a surprisingly easy 34-21 win at the Meadowlands.
Going back to the end of the Jets loss, the Bills' defense failed to force a punt on 22 straight possessions.
I don't know if that's a record, but it should make a Bills fan retch.
New Orleans became the 10th opponent in Buffalo history not to punt over an entire game. Los Angeles didn't punt Sunday until less than five minutes remained in the third quarter. The score was 40-10.
Over the past three games, Buffalo's run defense has surrendered 638 yards on 124 carries. The 5.1-yard average would rank dead last in the NFL this year over a full season.
The Bills never had allowed at least 47 points in consecutive games. They'd yielded as many as 40 points in consecutive games only twice in their history.
The back-to-back margins are equally disturbing.
Buffalo had lost multiple games by at least 30 points in seven of their 57 previous seasons, but McDermott's and Beane's crew has done so two straight games, something that had happened only in 1984.
Peterman needed only two quarters and 14 passes to throw his five interceptions. That tied Buffalo's record for interceptions by a first-year player and came one short of Joe Ferguson's record regardless of inexperience.
You could make the case Peterman's performance was the NFL's worst in nearly 70 years.
To find someone who threw at least five interceptions without a touchdown on fewer than 20 pass attempts, you'd need to go back to Green Bay Packers backup Tom O'Malley in 1950.
Nobody else has done it, not even from the leather-helmet era.
O'Malley wore No. 76, was born during Calvin Coolidge's presidency and played before facemasks were invented. O'Malley completed four of his 15 attempts for 31 yards and zero touchdowns with six interceptions in a 45-7 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Peterman completed six of his 14 passes for 66 yards with interceptions on his third, fifth, eighth, ninth and 14th attempts.
Maybe the Bills truly are getting worse to get better, and that feels like the lone bit of potential comfort at the moment.
The alternative is frightening.
Once the Bills got to 5-2, you wanted to imagine Beane's decision to trade away starters such as Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby and Marcell Dareus fit into his master plan of adjusting the roster's disposition, that the moves weren't made merely to weaken this year's roster for the sake of accumulating draft picks.
Maybe it's also safer to believe finishing near the front of the draft order is so much a part of The Process that McDermott pulled Tyrod Taylor from the starting lineup to sabotage an unexpectedly successful campaign.
Because to accept the contrary would mean accepting the possibility McDermott and Beane are as susceptible to misreading the NFL's week-to-week whims – the thrills and the letdowns – as us laymen are.
Did McDermott truly think Peterman gave Buffalo the best chance to win Sunday in Los Angeles, one of the few appealing games on a schedule that's getting increasingly strenuous?
Did the Bills miscalculate the abilities of their defense?
Are the playoffs being cast aside to develop the future?
Might this type of misguided thinking impact what the Bills do at quarterback for 2018?
If so, then crumpled is the confidence that McDermott and Beane would be different from those who came before them.
If so, then it's starting to feel the guidance at work isn't so much different than what we've experienced all along.
Story topics: Brandon Beane/ Buster Ramsey/ Chan Gailey/ Dick Jauron/ Jank Bullough/ Joe Ferguson/ John Rauch/ Key Stephenson/ Marcell Dareus/ Nathan Peterman/ Ralph Wilson/ Rex Ryan/ Ronald Darby/ Sammy Watkins/ Sean McDermott/ Tyrod Taylor