As a life long Bills fan, I have had to suffer through four empty trips to the Super Bowl facing Bill Parcells’s Giants, Joe Gibbs‘s Redskins and getting blown out by Jimmy Johnson‘s Cowboys (Twice!) Parcells and Gibbs are in the Hall of Fame. I am certain that Johnson would have made if he would have continued coaching the Cowboys. ESPN even made a documentary about the Super Bowl losses. The Music City Miracle playoff game in 2000 playoffs against the Tennessee Titans was a gut wrencher. Since that game, the Bills have only had a winning record twice. From 1988-1999 the Bills made the playoffs in ten of those years, made it to the conference championship game five times and were one of the more consistent franchises in the ninety’s.
For the past ten years, the Buffalo Bills have been an organizational mess. Since 2007 the Bills have had seven different Head Coaches including Chan Gailey, Dick Jauron and Perry Farwell; each coach has yet to have a winning season. Changing coaching in the NFL is not a plug and play type situation that you would see in the NBA or MLB. A new head coach in the NFL means changing an entire offensive and defensive system, scouting, and how to manage the draft. The Bills have repeatedly switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense since 2007. Switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 or vice versa takes few years to bring in coaches to teach the system and a General Manager who can acquire the right players for each system. Consistently wins in the NFL; having the same GM/Head Coach, same system, and same way managing the draft produces winners. The Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks are all successful because of consistency. Also during that span, ten different quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Bills. Even the most novice football fan knows that having constant turnover at both the head coach and quarterback positions is not a recipe for success. Heck, even the New York Jets have been to multiple AFC Championship games since 2007.
The Bills have not quite figured out the draft either. In 2009 the Bills drafted CJ Spiller with the 9th overall pick ahead of Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Demaryius Thomas. Drafting busts ahead of great players happens every year but drafting a running back 9th overall? 2010 started downward trend in giving running backs 300 carries; only in 2012 did more than two running backs have more than 300 carries. In 2014 the Bills traded two first round picks and fourth round pick to move up from nine to four to select Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins instead of Odell Beckham, Aaron Donald, CJ Mosey or Zach Martin. Watkins is not even on the Bills roster anymore. In 2016 the Bills again traded up to select linebacker thumping 3-4 Middle Linebacker Reggie Ragland of Alabama. Ragland cost the Bills two fourth round picks and second round pick. The fourth round has netted starters such as Devonta Freeman, Geno Atkins, Dak Prescott, David Johnson. After switching (again) to 4-3 style defense Ragland is in competition for second string (ouch)
I could be completely biased since the Bills are my favorite team, but the hiring of new Head Coach Sean McDermott is a sign in the right direction. Finally, the Bills have one voice in the franchise, and a new way to manage the draft. As I have outlined previously the Bills have been trading up in the draft wasting valuable draft picks. In the 2017 draft, the Bills traded down from ten to twenty-seven acquiring another third round pick and the Chiefs 2018 first round pick. I know it is preseason but Corner Tre-Davious White looks like a starter for years to come. In addition to that trade, the Bills traded Sammy Watkins for a second round pick in 2018 draft and acquired another third round pick from the Eagles in a separate trade. The Bills now have two first round selections, two second round selections and two third round selections in the 2018 draft. In addition to the picks acquired by trade, the Bills will more then likely have two Compensatory picks for the loss of Stephan Gilmore and Robert Woods for the 2018 draft.
As a long suffering Bills fan accumulating picks for future drafts is painful short term but hopefully fruitful long term.