Every year around this time, the hopeful optimistic fan base known as Bills Mafia welcomes the start of the season with a glass half full approach. Whether it comes from new coaching hires such as Rex Ryan, new free agent signings such as Mario Williams, Tyrell Owens, or optimism from draft picks such as JP Losman, EJ Manuel, or Sammy Watkins.
Bills fans have a knack for casting doubt aside and approaching September with the hope that this is the year, this is the coach, this is the quarterback that will finally turn things around.This year actually does feel different. Hope and optimism is starting to turn into expectation.
Even some of the national media is starting to jump on the “Buffwagon” although there are still plenty of critics. Year three of the “McBeane” regime is time to start silencing those critics. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott came to Buffalo with a clear and calculated plan.
One of their key phrases was “Compete now while building for the future” which led to a surpise playoff berth and an end to a 17 year playoff drought. Even though they had some major help from Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bills surprised the football world, maybe even themselves.
Regimes of the past may have clung to that hope and scrapped their plans for the future but Beane and McDermott stayed true to their plan and cleared the deck in 2018 with a major dose of roster shuffling and clearing of over priced contracts. Operating without the black cloud of a playoff drought over their heads, the Bills could execute the “building for the future” phase of their plan.
2018 was a tough but necessary season to get through. While being limited on funds to spend in free agency, the Bills chose to bring in some defensive players because they knew that side of the ball was closer to being a serviceable unit. Last season was also an opportunity to get some key playing time for the future of the franchise such as Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds. They were also able to discover some other young players such as Robert Foster, Taron Johnson, and Levi Wallace.
It was up for debate on whether or not Josh Allen got the starting job too early but getting him valuable playing time in a developmental season turned out to be the right choice. There was a big scare when Allen suffered an elbow injury in a game against the Houston Texans but being able to refocus and learn from the sideline for a few weeks turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Giving Allen almost a full season to take his lumps and learn was better for his development versus a few meaningless games towards the end of the season.
Now in year two, with a full off season program of being the starting quarterback and the focus being solely on him, it’s time to take a step forward and focus on fixing the deficiencies from year one. The jury is still out on how Allen fares as an NFL quarterback, most of the pre-draft bias is still against him but he is starting to turn some opinions around.
People are recognizing the competitor Allen is and how he will do whatever it takes to win. He already has the unanimous respect of his teammates and is turning into the leader that a franchise quarterback needs to be.
Even though it’s only the OTA phase of the off-season, Allen is looking much sharper than last year at this time. That’s all we can ask for out of a young quarterback that was highly questioned at the time he was drafted. Most of the criticism of Allen comes from the stat and analytics world, but the one thing that doesn’t lie is the film.
I’m no expert in film so I refer to the team over at Cover1.net who has more film than Kodak in their prime. Founder Erik Turner has broken down endless clips of Allen and how he improved throughout the season, along with every signing, and draft pick the Bills have made. Which is impressive considering how many additions the Bills made this off-season.
After clearing out over $50 million in dead cap, Brandon Beane went to work this off-season overhauling the offensive line, wide receiver room, and adding and re-signing several other key players to compete at positions of need. That allowed the Bills to align best player available and need in the draft, which led to selecting Ed Oliver and Cody Ford in the first two rounds.
Now in year three of the Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott era, there are expectations. Some of those expectations include another playoff appearance. Armed with a revamped roster and a somewhat favorable schedule, it’s time for the Bills to step back into the world of NFL relevance.
Editor’s babble: Huzzah. People are finally starting to see the potential we saw from Josh Allen at the University of Wyoming. I begged people to give him a chance because he did not have great coaching along the way. Hopefully this will be his breakout season and silence the critics. Thanks to Erik Smeal for his contributions to our blog. You can find Erik on Twitter @Buffwagon819.