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Former Bills coaches still figure prominently in team's playoff hopes

When you think about the Buffalo Bills' interminable playoff drought, you can't help but remember some of the coaches who have been a part of it.

Ironically, three who took turns contributing to 17 seasons of Bills futility are guiding teams that are in a position to significantly impact their former club's chances of finally reaching the postseason Sunday.

Provided, of course, the Bills do their part and beat the Miami Dolphins.

That outcome, combined with Mike Mularkey's Tennessee Titans losing to Doug Marrone's Jacksonville Jaguars and Anthony Lynn's Los Angeles Chargers losing to the Oakland Raiders will accomplish what none of the coaches could while they worked for the Bills.

Of course, a Baltimore Ravens loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, coupled with a Bills victory, would give Buffalo a little less complicated route to the playoffs, minus the irony.

The most interesting potential plot twist involves Marrone.

The coach who is still reviled by a fair amount of Bills fans for quitting on the team after only his second season, 2014, and getting to pocket $4 million to boot has a perfect excuse to potentially add to his unsavory legacy by helping to sabotage their postseason hopes. That's because the Jaguars, as AFC South champions, are locked into the third seed in the playoffs and, therefore, have no motivation to beat the Titans.

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Marrone is on record as saying the Jaguars won't rest their starters. He told reporters Tuesday the Jaguars "are 100 percent all-in on winning this football game. Make no mistake about it … we are talking about how we are going to play to win and do everything we possibly can to win this game, period."

The mission for Mularkey and the Titans is clear. They need a victory to have a chance to continue playing after New Year's Eve and, perhaps, to help save Mularkey's job.

"These guys realize what's on the line right now," Mularkey told reporters. "Nobody has to tell anybody that this is our last chance. We've had a number of opportunities we've missed, we still have another one. There's a reason we have another one, because we've won enough games to be in this position.

"(The players) realize what they have to do without putting any more pressure on themselves."

Mularkey is familiar with this sort of pressure. His two years at the Bills' helm, 2004 and 2005, are mostly defined by the team's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers' third-stringers in the '04 season-finale when a win would have put 9-7 Buffalo in the playoffs. He resigned after a 5-11 finish in '05.

"I would expect a full game plan, just like a game they have to win," Mularkey said of the Jaguars. "I think coming off a loss (44-33 against San Francisco last Sunday), I'm sure they don't want to go into the playoffs with another one. I would expect we're going to get the best from them knowing Doug Marrone and (executive vice president of football operations) Tom (Coughlin).

"I wouldn't think anything less than that."

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Lynn joined the Bills in 2015 as assistant head coach/running backs. He was promoted to offensive coordinator after the first two games of the 2016 season, and was promoted to interim head coach for the final game.

Lynn's Chargers could become only the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a 0-4 start, but they need a lot of help. Besides beating the Raiders, they need a Titans loss or tie with the Jaguars and a Ravens win or tie with the Bengals or a Bills loss or tie with the Dolphins.

The Chargers would also get in if they tie the Raiders and the Titans lose and the Bills lose or tie.

Given that all of the games in question are scheduled to begin at the same time, there undoubtedly will be plenty of temptation for members of each team to look up at out-of-town scores.

Lynn, however, told reporters that the Chargers plan to limit the frequency of updates on the StubHub Center scoreboard.

"All of the playoff scenarios really don’t matter if we don’t take care of our business," Lynn said. "There's no reason for us to know what the other teams are doing. Our hands are going to be full."

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