Topics hit this week in the Bills Mailbag include the likelihood of trading down, what happened to the run defense last week, and of course, Kyle Williams' retirement announcement. Let's get right to it ...
Doug Pagano asks: The Bills have the 31st-ranked scoring offense, averaging only 15 points a game. What are the chances that coach Sean McDermott looks to make a change of offensive coordinator after the season? If so, would you consider Mike McCarthy or any others?
Jay: At the risk of having this picked up by @OldTakesExposed, I’d say there’s a 1 percent chance of that happening. I won’t say no chance, because I’ve been surprised before, but I’d be floored if McDermott fired his offensive coordinator for the second consecutive season. Brian Daboll would be the first to tell you the offense has a ton of work to do, but it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to blow things up on rookie quarterback Josh Allen right now. The growth from Year One to Year Two for an NFL player is significant. The Bills have lacked any sort of continuity for far too long. They need to see it through with the current front office and coaching staff, save special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman, who figures to be in trouble.
Bill Tooke asks: What’s the likelihood the Bills trade down?
Rick McGuire asks: So now with Kyle Williams retiring, does that alter draft plans or do they look to replace from within (Harrison Phillips) or free agency? What if Ed Oliver is available when the Bills pick? Would General Manager Brandon Beane swoop him up now over an offensive tackle or wide receiver?
Jay: So much of that depends on what happens this weekend. If the Bills lose and get some help, they could end up with a top-five pick. If they’re ahead of quarterback-needy teams like the Giants, Jaguars and Buccaneers, it’s possible they could entice one of those teams to move up. In that regard, the announcement by Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert that he’s returning to school for another year wasn’t great news for the Bills. That’s one less player who might have been targeted by a team trading up.
I’m generally in favor of moving down in the draft. That’s particularly true this season, since early projections have a run of defensive linemen going in the top 10. The Bills could use help there, particularly in the wake of Williams’ retirement announcement. Rick’s suggestion of Houston's Ed Oliver would be justifiable, but I see the bigger need being on offense. They have to surround Allen with more talent. If they can move down and pick up, say, a second-round pick in the process, they’d have another opportunity to do that. Of course, whatever happens in free agency will shape the draft needs.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: After the Patriots’ 273-yard rushing performance Sunday, do we need to spend more offseason capital on our run defense personnel or was this simply an anomaly?
Jay: Well, a replacement for Williams was added to Beane’s offseason shopping list Friday. We saw the Bills invest heavily in the run defense last year with the signing of Star Lotulelei. I would not be surprised to see them again dip into the free-agent pool to find a replacement for Williams. Last week notwithstanding, the run defense has been better this year. The Bills head into the season finale ranked 19th against the run, allowing 116.0 yards per game. The debacle against the Patriots sent them tumbling down the rankings, though. The Bills went into Week 16 ranked No. 10 against the run. I do think last week was more of an anomaly than an ominous sign of things to come.
Brendan Sweet asks: Where does Kyle Williams rank in terms of all-time Bills? I’d say top 10. Is he a future Wall of Famer?
Jay: I’d agree that somewhere near the bottom of the top 10 is where he ranks on the all-time list. His five Pro Bowls is tied for ninth most in franchise history, although some of the names he’s tied with – Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure – are clearly ahead of him. Pro Bowls aren’t the only measure of what makes a player great. I put more weight in the Associated Press’ All-Pro teams. Williams was never a first-team All-Pro. Neither were Andre Reed nor Ruben Brown. Kelly was just once. Williams is a no-brainer Wall of Fame candidate in my mind. He’ll definitely have my vote.
Pat Reale asks: Do the Bills draft a running back? How high a pick? I’m thinking no lower than the third round. They need a guy who can come in and play right away.
Jay: Yes, they draft a running back. I’ll go a round lower and say they do it by the fourth round, during which they have two picks – their own and Kansas City’s. I’d have no issue if they elected to take one earlier, though. Even if LeSean McCoy comes back, there is a huge need for his eventual replacement. Getting younger at running back is another item on Beane’s offseason to-do list.
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: With Black Monday approaching, it’s safe to assume Sean McDermott is safe this year. How many head coaches do you see being fired, and more importantly, do you see any of them or their assistants being brought in to join McDermott in 2019? Also, Happy New Year!
Jay: Happy New Year to you as well. This has been a hot topic in the media room at One Bills Drive lately. I’ll predict that six coaches are fired Monday – Denver’s Vance Joseph, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, the New York Jets’ Todd Bowles, Arizona’s Steve Wilks, Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter and Washington’s Jay Gruden. I also predict the Browns move on from interim coach Gregg Williams, as do the Packers with Joe Philbin. That leaves eight openings – a quarter of the league. I don’t see any of those coaches coming to Buffalo because I don’t believe McDermott will make a change with either of his coordinators.
Karen Sniadecki asks: Please pick your personal highlight of this season. Also, the low point, because I’m a Bills fan and must enjoy the misery or I’d have deserted them long ago.
Jay: The easy choice for highlight of the season is the Minnesota game, both for Allen’s hurdle and the upset nature of the victory. The Bills were massive underdogs in that game. As for lowlights, in a 5-10 season, there is plenty to choose from. The first half of the season opener against Baltimore ranks up there. It became very apparent at that time that Nathan Peterman should not be on the field as the Bills’ starting quarterback ever again – although he was because of an injury to Allen later in the year. Narrowed down to one specific low point, and it’s the incomplete pass to Charles Clay in Miami. Even though the playoffs were pretty much out of the picture at that point, completing that pass would have capped a thrilling come-from-behind win for Allen and the offense.
TNFP69 asks: Have the Bills taken a step forward or step backward since the start of the season?
Jay: That depends on how you define those terms. If you subscribe to the Bill Parcells’ line of thinking – “you are what your record says you are” – then they’ve obviously taken a step back. If you’re encouraged by what you’ve seen from Allen, then it’s possible to make a case that they’ve taken a step forward. I’d frame it like this: They’ve taken a step backward, with the intention of taking two steps forward in 2019. The front office knew that eating more than $50 million in dead money this year was going to make it tough to compete, but the path to improvement is easy to see. The No. 1 factor in that is Allen becoming a true franchise quarterback. He hasn’t shown enough – good or bad – to make that determination yet.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay, your podcast partner here. Question, in honor of Williams, Kyle, please rank the following: Kyle Williams, Robin Williams, Williams College (Go Ephs), Sherwin-Williams, Williams Energy Company.
Jay: 1. Robin Williams. A comedic genius. RIP.
2. Kyle Williams. Even though I’m jealous of his golf skills.
3. Williams College. Fun fact: I once watched a Williams-Amherst football game at a bar in Boston with alumni from both teams. I never felt so aristocratic.
4. Williams Energy Company. Full disclosure: I had to Google them to learn what they’re all about. According to its website, “Williams is one of America’s leading energy infrastructure companies, dedicated to developing and empowering its employees.” So there you go.
5. Sherwin-Williams. I’m partial to Benjamin Moore, which is part of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio – just like The Buffalo News. Shout out to Warren Buffett.
Thanks for all the questions this week!