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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Just how safe is the current front office and coaching staff?

My annual reminder that four games into the NFL season does not mean we are at the quarter pole. That's a horse-racing term that means a quarter of the race remains. The more you know.

Now that we've got that out of the way, on to this week's mailbag ...

@BullBearBattle asks: Bigger hot seat: Sean McDermott or Phil Housley?

Jay: Housley. Teams in the NHL change coaches all the time. On top of that, the Sabres have way less of a margin of error. They need to show big-time improvement this season, while it’s generally accepted that the Bills were going to take a step back after making the playoffs last year. If the Sabres get off to a poor start – and the horrid showing in the season opener would suggest that’s a possibility – Housley’s seat will get warm in a hurry.

The pressure will pick up on McDermott if the Bills continue to get blown out, but the earliest I can see him being on the hot seat is next year.

Chris Mazella asks: Based on what we’ve learned about Brandon Beane as a conservative-spending general manager and the upcoming free-agency market in 2019 being slim, will there be a major splash for the Bills? Big-name offensive linemen and wide receivers not named Randall Cobb are few and far between. Thoughts?

@atv3 asks: With so many holes to fill, do you foresee a lot of free-agent activity at One Bills Drive this offseason? Or heavy draft and development? Also, why am I typing this and just missed the walk off in Milwaukee?

Jay: I absolutely expect the Bills to be aggressive in free agency. As mentioned above, the pressure to win will be very real in 2019. This roster has holes all over the place, particularly along the offensive line and wide receiver. No. 2 cornerback is also a concern, as is running back if the team parts ways with LeSean McCoy. Even with a significant amount of draft capital – 10 picks right now – all those holes can’t be filled that way. McDermott reiterated this week that the team’s goal is to draft and develop their own, but that’s not any different than any other team. By taking their medicine this year in regards to dead money on the salary cap, the Bills are positioning themselves to spend big in the offseason. Let’s say they bring in a starting guard, for example. That might not qualify as a “big splash,” but it would fill a need and allow the team to focus on other positions in the draft. As for receiver, a player like Detroit’s Golden Tate might not be a No. 1 option, but he’d be way better than anyone the Bills have tried as their No. 2.

Dizzle Dazzle asks: With the hits Josh Allen is taking, why aren’t the Bills being more proactive in addressing the backup quarterback position?

Jay: If the Bills were interested in that, they would have already made the move. We know how much Sean McDermott thinks of Nathan Peterman. Clearly, the team is comfortable with him going into the game if something were to happen to Josh Allen. I understand why that may make some fans wary, considering Peterman’s track record. Any quarterback signed at this point in the season would need time getting up to speed on the scheme, so even if one was acquired, Peterman would figure to hold the backup role at least in the near future.

@Gna2511 asks: Should we be suspect of the Bills’ ability to judge talent? That has been the curse of this franchise for decades and seems to be continuing.

@InYourEyes4u asks: The 2018 Bills’ offense might be the worst in franchise history. In a passing league, our top two wide receivers’ yards after catch are both less than 2.0. While the offensive line has major issues of its own, the personnel decisions made at wide receiver stick out like a sore thumb. Do we have a Teflon front office at One Bills Drive?

Jay: This is tricky because General Manager Brandon Beane was not on board for either free agency or the draft in 2017. That year, the team did well to land Tre’Davious White in the first round (even though they traded out of the spot Patrick Mahomes was taken, which is a topic for another mailbag) and Dion Dawkins in the second round. Fellow second-round pick Zay Jones, however, has been a bust so far.

The free-agent additions of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have worked out well.

Since Beane took over, the trade for Kelvin Benjamin has backfired in a big way, as did the signing of cornerback Vontae Davis. It’s too soon to make any definitive conclusions about Beane’s first draft class. His success or failure in Buffalo will likely come down to whether Allen can become a franchise quarterback. More on my thoughts about that later in the mailbag.

@geewalk612 asks: Why don’t any of the Bills’ coaches over the years use Charles Clay the way he was intended to be used when they gave him a pretty big long-term contract? He’s rarely used in the passing game and is considered and elite pass-catching tight end?

Jay: I’ll respectfully disagree with that last part. I don’t know that Clay ever was viewed as an “elite” pass catcher. Rather, he was looked at as a well-rounded tight end who could play in all situations. In that sense, he’s come through. Clay is a capable blocker who can confidently be used in the running game. He’s also a reliable receiver, although he’s not dynamic in that regard. He’s been targeted 14 times this season, which is third most on the team. Clay has been at least in the top three in targets every year he’s been here, so I don’t agree he’s rarely used in the passing. I get that fans expect more from him given the contract he signed, though.

Brendan Sweet asks: A quarter of the way into the season, who is the Bills’ MVP? Is it the punter, like Brian Moorman days all over again?

Jay: I’m fundamentally opposed to giving MVP to a punter, so it’s not Corey Bojorquez, even though he’s had a nice start to his career. I’ll go with *thinks long and hard* … Tre’Davious White. He’s taking on the No. 1 receiver for the opposition every week and has been a constant at a position that’s seen turmoil on the other side. I’m tempted to say there is no MVP after a 1-3 start in which the average margin of defeat is more than 25 points.

Rick McGuire asks: In your personal opinion, do you think Josh Allen ever becomes a successful NFL quarterback? I know it’s only his rookie year and his offensive line and receivers are subpar, but watching him throw doesn’t instill any feelings like “the kid is good” or “he’s the one.” Thoughts?

Jay: The correct answer to this is “I don’t know.” We’re a month into his rookie year. If you asked this after the Minnesota game, I’d say Allen looks like the next great NFL quarterback. Coming off the Green Bay loss, I’d say he doesn’t belong in the league. I realize that “I don’t know” is a boring answer, though, and we aim to entertain. If I had to bet my mortgage on it right now, I’d say no. The big reason for that is I believe Allen shouldn’t be playing right now. I think he would have benefitted from a year on the bench, a la Patrick Mahomes. That’s not an option for the Bills, though, because Peterman can’t play, and the team made an ill-advised decision to trade AJ McCarron, in my opinion. I’m worried that the lack of talent around Allen is going to drag him down into bad habits that he can’t shake.

Paul Catalano asks: Let’s say this finish with the worst record and have the No. 1 pick. Is quarterback 100 percent out of the question?

Jay: If it’s not 100, it’s close. At least 90 percent. We have to leave open the possibility of Allen suffering an injury. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, though, it seems highly unlikely the Bills would double down on a quarterback this soon. Now, that’s not to say I necessarily agree with that decision. If there was a player viewed as a lock to be a franchise quarterback, then a team would be crazy to pass on him. However, I’m not sure that player exists in the upcoming draft. In 2019 mock drafts released this week by CBS Sports and Bleacher Report, no quarterback was taken in the first four picks. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is the top quarterback, going No. 5 to the Giants in Bleacher Report’s projection and No. 6 to the Raiders in the one from CBS Sports. Obviously, plenty can change between now and April, and quarterbacks have a tendency to rise in the draft process. If Allen shows no signs of progress this season and Herbert establishes himself as a can’t-miss prospect, wouldn’t the Bills at least have to consider it? I know I would if I was running the team, but my expectation is that they won’t, choosing instead to try and build around Allen.

Eric DuVall asks: Who gets to two wins first, Bills or Sabres?

Vito Andolini asks: Is any Buffalo team ever going to score again?

Max asks: Best way to jump off the Peace Bridge as Buffalo sports fan?

Jay: Oh boy, it’s going to be a long pair of seasons, isn’t it? Let’s run through these: The Bills. Yes. Don’t do it. Thanks for all the questions this week!

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