There’s no need to worry because Mario Williams may pretend to be a linebacker before he sets out to shame blockers and frighten quarterbacks. Teams are not required to change defensive coordinators annually, and the Bills hope to break the unofficial trend by keeping the same leader and scheme for at least a few seasons. Either way, fans can take comfort knowing these relentless players have performed well in multiple ways. A throwback to 2013 may not meet the definition of old school, which just means we don’t have to go back far for evidence this sort-of new plan works.
Precedent says to not worry because Dennis Thurman is this year’s hire. Spinal Tap has had longer-tenured drummers than recent Bills defensive coordinators. Yet it’s a relief to know his schemes have already worked with this team. We fretted that the defense would falter under Jim Schwartz after Mike Pettine boarded the sinking ship to Cleveland. Fans were understandably apprehensive about altering a successful philosophy. But defenders didn’t care whether they were cloaked or straightforward about their intentions: they merely wanted to crack bones.
This shouldn’t be too bad of a transition. The defense proved they could try something different and get similarly fine results. Players must remember their positioning from way back in 2013. Ideally, they kept their notes. The jobs remain similar even if the way they stand differs slightly.
Reverting back to a hybrid approach isn’t a sign of indecisiveness. Instead, this new regime offers a reminder that there are many effective ways to use good players. Besides, there’s little point in worrying about base formations in an era where the nickel defense is increasingly the norm. There’s no reason to feel shortchanged when they align in their allegedly standard manner. Opponents will simply be slightly more confused about who’s out to crunch them.
The men tasked with inhibiting scoring haven’t been the ones stopping playoff drives. Gaining enough ground to at least break even has been a challenge for a team that hapsn’t found the right balance. Too many of last season’s games weren’t versus other teams but rather intramural contests where one side had to make enough stops to overcome a small quantity of scores.
While the defense has been good in different formations, the offense has shown what happens when coaches use players improperly. Most frustratingly, the Bills decided to have their offensive linemen prancing about with excessive pulling, which in turn made it hard to emphasize the run. Trouble started before the snaps.
Using players properly is like studying for a test. Preparation makes the exam itself easy. By contrast, it looked like the offensive staff spent last semester presuming that the five minutes between classes was plenty of time to skim the textbook. The Bills are trying to abandon the habit of cramming for calculus before the history midterm.
Making friends is not the goal. With that in mind, adding a nasty football player like Richie Incognito is a good start. We shouldn’t care if his on-field attitude is reflected in his personality, regardless of the team’s backtracking. When it comes pushing around foes, rudeness is a qualification. Saying mean things in a locker room is a qualification for a lineman, not a drawback. The value of a hostile spirit extends to even the most amateur and mediocre of athletes. I played rugby in college, rather poorly, and typical practices featured casual insults that would make Jim Norton blush. Let’s say the standard language was salty. But the willingness to use such a boorish tone is how you know you’re getting along. Saying awful things as a matter of team bonding should be viewed as a demonstration of comfort with teammates, even though conversations would look horrifying if transcribed.
The Bills are thankfully getting ornery. Rex Ryan doesn’t care about the opinions of anyone affiliated with other teams. Any scowling should be taken as a sign that what’s happened for 15 seasons is unacceptable. Implementation is the tricky part. But this defense has already shown they can rearrange and still excel. Simultaneously, we’ve dealt with an offense trying to win car shows when they should’ve been plowing driveways. For both aspects, this season presents a chance to change, even if one side is changing back.