NFL – Bills’ Season Review – Part 1

01 Jan

The first segment of my annual Buffalo Bills’ postseason review deals with the front office and coaching staff. The team underwent a total transition in these areas following the 2012 season, which ended in a second consecutive 6-10 record under Chan Gailey. Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. turned over operations of the franchise to Russ Brandon, who in turn hired Doug Marrone away from Syracuse to be the team’s new head coach. After overseeing the college draft, GM Buddy Nix stepped aside and his understudy, Doug Whaley, was promoted into the position. Whoever was responsible for the 2013 draft deserves, at least initially, kudos for coming up with some very promising players. Most of their picks made contributions as the season went on, and although overall the play of the rookies was inconsistent, the expectation should be that they’ll progress as they gain experience and be productive members of the club moving into the future. Five free agents who were signed by the team – kicker Dan Carpenter, Manny Lawson, Alan Branch, Doug Legursky and Stefan Charles – played significant roles in 2013, as did a pair of players acquired in trades – QB Thad Lewis and LB Jerry Hughes. Getting Hughes in exchange for Kelvin Sheppard was a steal. Overall, the front office succeeded in upgrading the roster, even though the team’s final record was exactly the same as Gailey’s last 2 years.

That brings us to the coaching staff. Marrone deserves credit for assembling a competent staff, most notably his hiring of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett drew a lot of criticism from fans for his play-calling, but I didn’t have a problem with it, other than the fact that the team maybe ran too many off-tackle runs on early downs. That was probably a product of the team not having much stability at the quarterback position. Hackett had to tailor game plans for three different signal-callers during the season, none of which had much game experience. One weak spot on this team was its’ special teams. Having excellent bomb squads has always been a hallmark of the Buffalo franchise, and this year’s units were dismal. Poor kickoff and punt coverage played major roles in a couple of losses. Danny Crossman, the special teams coach, had a pretty mediocre resume when he was hired, and his units lived up (or down) to that resume. With six NFL coaches and their staffs having been fired since the season ended, it would be a good idea if Marrone looked to find a better option to coach the special teams in 2014. As for Marrone himself, the general consensus is that even though the Bills struggled to another 6-10 finish, that the season had a different “feel”. That’s partly true, but in my opinion, that “feeling” began to fade as the year went on. The Bills eventually regressed to their usual losing ways. Some of the rookies who started out impressively seemed to hit that rookie wall, and their play wasn’t the same. The coaches preached about the need to develop consistency. Well, they were certainly consistent when it came to committing silly penalties at the worst times, and giving up big plays at crunch time when games were on the line, especially on the road. Consider that on the season’s final Sunday, the Bills jumped offsides on a field goal attempt to hand their opponent a touchdown instead, and committed personal fouls on the same play to rack up 30 yards in penalty yardage, on one play. The fact that they had to suspend Marcell Dareus for 2 consecutive games for habitual tardiness is troubling also. Through 17 weeks, a head coach should have had enough time to get a handle on his team. Marrone has already stated that the team needs to focus on structure and discipline, and he has always seemed determined to fix the problems the team has, always talked about “working harder” to get better.  If he is going to separate himself from his predecessors, who also talked about working harder to fix things, he will have to follow his mantra that he had posted on a sign in the team’s practice facility: “Don’t confuse effort with results.”

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  1. louise

    January 2, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Great review! Agree with assessment of Crossman ansd special teams. We have been spoiled over the years with outstanding special treams play under Bruce Dehaven and especially Bobby April. It is really obvious when the special teams need help.