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Rick Dennison's first season as offensive coordinator hasn't gone according to plan

Rick Dennison worked Sunday’s game for the Buffalo Bills from the coaches’ booth upstairs.

At some point in the second quarter, the offensive coordinator’s view “got really blurry” because of the snow, he said Monday.

That opening was all the comedians on Twitter needed. “What’s his excuse for the other 12 games,” was the first response received when relaying Dennison’s comments.

That reaction fits in with the general feeling on social media that has been shared about Dennison’s performance. It’s hard to find anyone who has anything complimentary to say about the job the offensive coordinator has done.

That second-guessing started Sunday on the first drive of the game, when he called for backup quarterback Joe Webb to throw out of the Wildcat formation on a fourth-and-3 play from Indianapolis Colts’ 38-yard line in what would be a 13-7 overtime victory at New Era Field.

“We kind of set it up, didn’t quite get exactly the look we were looking for,” Dennison explained. “He got out there, didn’t make a great throw, we didn’t make the play. Didn’t execute it as well as we did in practice the three, four times we executed it.”

Whether it’s been a lack of execution or play calling that has fluctuated from painfully conservative to strangely aggressive, Dennison’s first season with the Bills has been tumultuous. Some recent examples:

• Against the Chiefs in Week 12, the offense got the ball at its own 46-yard line, needing a first down to ice the victory. Three straight run plays resulted in a loss of 2 yards and the Bills punted the ball away with the score 16-10. Kansas City drove down to the Bills' 36-yard line on the ensuing drive before rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White put the game away with an interception.

• Against the Patriots in Week 13, Dennison called for a fade pattern on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, asking rookie receiver Zay Jones to beat New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore – and rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman to make the throw.

• On Sunday, the wildcat pass by Webb wasn’t the only curious decision by the offense. Dennison and McDermott also got uncharacteristically aggressive after the Colts’ tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, asking Webb to throw twice from the Bills’ 25-yard line with just over a minute left. The second of those passes was intercepted, setting Indianapolis up for a chance at a game-winning field goal that Adam Vinatieri missed wide left.

“We tried to be aggressive and win the game,” Dennison said. “I was trying to get Charles one-on-one with the safety crossing the field, get him isolated, and Joe was a little late with the ball.”

Buffalo ranks 25th in yards per game (298.2) and 23rd in points (18.5). Coach Sean McDermott gave Dennison a vote of confidence last week, saying “I remain confident in Rick.”

McDermott, though, was straight to the point after the loss to New England.

“You have to be able to move the ball and score points,” he said. “That’s what we haven’t done well enough to this point.”

The Bills managed just 13 points Sunday against the Colts, although Dennison deserves a pass given the Siberian conditions.

“I’ve been in about three or four of those – snow, rain, something like that. You always take something from the game,” he said Monday. “Obviously, the experience of adjusting on the move – we had to make some adjustments as we went, not only just cutting plays down, but selection of plays as far as concepts.”

Dennison's future with the Bills will be a hot topic after the season. He was not McDermott's first choice for the job, and there are likely to be candidates that could intrigue the head coach. Mike McCoy, who was thought to be on McDermott's short list, was fired earlier this season by the Denver Broncos, while the Colts could clean house after a nightmare season. That would put Rob Chudzinski, who coached with McDermott in Carolina, on the open market.

McDermott has to have full confidence in whoever his offensive coordinator is, because that person will likely be developing a young quarterback, be it Nathan Peterman or a player added in the draft.

"It’s never one guy. It’s never one person. It’s never one play," McDermott said. "We just have to continue to grow."

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