The Bills are rebuilding.
Take a deep breath and say it with me. “The Bills are rebuilding.”
After an eleven year playoff drought, we as fans don’t want to admit to it but the truth is staring us in the face. Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey are putting a new foundation in place, and that’s going to take time.
The Donahoe regime was a failure, we all know that. Unfortunately, the way Ralph Wilson handled his operation in the aftermath of firing Donahoe was in and of itself a failure as well. Donahoe’s replacement, Marv Levy, though a fan favorite and someone to whom the team and its fans are forever indebted to for his ability to lead the team to an unprecedented run of Super Bowl appearances in the early 90’s, was never cut out to be an NFL general manager. The drafts and free agent signings held under his leadership illustrate that, save for Kyle Williams’ selection in the sixth round in 2006 and the addition of Fred Jackson to the practice squad that same year. Following Marv’s unexpectedly short two-year tenure, Russ Brandon held down the fort until December 31, 2009 when Buddy Nix was hired to fill the role. Nix is the first “real” general manager the team has had, arguably, since Donahoe served as the team president from 2001-2005.
Nix brings to the job a long career of coaching, scouting, and front office experience. He also brings a strong belief in building through the draft and not pursuing flashy (and expensive) free agent avenues. In today’s NFL this comes off as anachronistic and drives fans crazy.
But I say, let’s allow him to work his plan. One would assume he has waited his entire life for this opportunity and thus has had his entire life to think about how he would handle an NFL GM job, were it granted to him. And sorry, but anytime your general manager ascribes to the “build through the draft” philosophy, it’s not going to be a quick turnaround. But as long as it works, who cares? I’m ok with enduring another tough season or two as long as a specific plan is being carried out. (Yeah, I said it.)
In Gailey, Nix has an offensive mind unlike most in the NFL. I’m sure Nix has confidence that Gailey can “make do” for a year or two while the defensive unit is assembled into what his vision is for it. Once that has been taken care of, I believe we’ll begin to see the offensive side of the ball get the attention it requires (specifically, Pro Bowl caliber offensive linemen).
Unfortunately, this plan may not necessarily include fan favorites that were brought into the organization by previous regimes, (ie: Marshawn Lynch, Paul Posluszny, Lee Evans, and perhaps even Fred Jackson). But here’s the harsh reality: Nix and Gailey are building the team they want to build and those players whom we’ve grown accustomed to may not work into it. I know, it sucks. But honestly, I’d give up 100 Lee Evanses if it meant the Bills were playing a game in mid-January. Perhaps you recall when Nix stated during last year’s draft that the roster was in such rough shape that they should be allowed to pick more than one player at a time? That alone illustrates his belief that the team is several years off from where it needs to be. So why not get some kind of compensation now, even if it’s 4th rounders? What good are over-the-hill holdovers going to do you once your team is finally ready to make its push, besides crowd out the talent you’ve deliberately assembled?
We need to keep reminding ourselves that the blood from the 2000-2009 seasons isn’t on Nix’s hands. You can’t judge the front office’s actions based on happenings that occurred here while he was on a completely different coast. Let’s allow his “build through the draft” plan to unfold. If executed correctly, you have to believe it’s better than the “throw a dart at the wall” plan we’ve been enduring for the past decade.
We’ve been long-suffering for eleven years, but someone’s finally put together a roadmap for what they believe will get the Bills back into the playoffs, and perhaps beyond. Will it work? Only time will tell. But let’s relax and see where it takes us.