The Bills stand at their bye week with three wins. Two convincing victories against two other lost NFL franchises (Kansas City and Cleveland), and an overtime gift of a win the Bills tried in every conceivable way to lose. Good thing Jairus Byrd showed up.
On the other side of the ledger, there's four losses, all ugly in their own right. Three losses were embarrassing blowouts that set new standards of how bad one NFL team could suck, and one loss at home going into the bye against the Tennessee Titans that featured incredibly wimpy coaching, inept defensive game-planning and an opposite-of-clutch interception special tossed by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
As a franchise, the Bills continue to wander the desert on fumes of moisture; the playoffs remain a mirage.
The Bills don't just need a trading deadline wish list, they need to find a magic lamp to rub and get three wishes.
Real Wish List
Fitzpatrick is probably the league's best backup quarterback. The kind of guy who could come off any bench and win you three games before losing the next four in an avalanche of interceptions and inexplicably wild passes.
The problem for the Bills is the Fitzpatrick is both their starting and backup quarterback. The guy who is currently the "backup," Tyler Thigpen, is the same guy the Bills refused to give time to when Fitzpatrick and his cracked ribs played himself out of the playoff picture in 2011. Thing is, only reason Thigpen is on the roster is because the Bills tried to replace him!
Yes, that's right. The Bills decided they wanted to improve on Thigpen so they signed Vince Young and even awarded him the No. 2 job heading in their third preseason game against Pittsburgh. But then, VY Jelly threw a few brutal interceptions to the sidelines and they cut him, instantly guaranteeing a job for the man who was probably going to get cut had Vince Young not gone full on bad Fitzpatrick on those sideline passes.
The Bills, needing another bizarre twist in the fiasco to save face, traded for Tarvaris Jackson. Otherwise known as the guy who won't ever play because they can't give him enough reps in practice to even get him on the field on Sunday. Otherwise known as a foreseeable situation that the Bills didn't foresee.
Bottom line, the Bills still need a bona fide franchise quarterback. Of course, it's extremely rare for quarterbacks, or any player, really, to change teams midseason in the NFL. Though I'll gladly list a few names whose teams may be growing weary of their services who would provide an instant upgrade over Fitzpatrick: Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Jason Campbell. And if Doug Flutie can still scamper around, throw him on the list too.
In a move that might be more revealing about the true health of the franchise's affairs, the Bills woke up one morning two weeks into the season and dumped their franchise punter, Brian Moorman. Not every franchise is lucky enough to have a franchise punter, but when a team can get their hands on one, they best never let him go.
Their reasoning was that Brian Moorman's 36-year-old leg was starting to cramp up, and that the phenom prospect franchise punter Shawn Powell, who they had in training camp, was about to be signed by another team if the Bills didn't act fast. So the result is a punter who's connected on miserable short punts in key moments of the game two weeks running.
The team, as discussed above, inexplicably has a useless quarterback on their roster. Including please-don't-ever-throw-it-again QB Brad Smith, the Bills carry four QBs and two kickers. You'd think having Moorman on the team would be more valuable than Tarvaris Jackson or John Potter, or hell, even Shawn Powell, would be, right?
I've never had to deal with the Bills being terrible and their punter being terrible.
We're getting dangerously close to the end of the Kelvin Sheppard experiment at middle linebacker and one step closer to a position that has eluded the linebacking brain trust at One Bills' Drive. Arthur Moats, Kirk Morrison, Chris White, Tank Carder, Bryan Scott; Nix and Co. have trotted just too many no-names out there. Only Nick Barnett and Nigel Bradham survive as keepers, and Bradham only makes the list because he's Sheppard minus one year of experience, and hence, with upside.
Of course one could make a respectable argument that Dave Wannstedt's ineptitude as defensive coordinator could make a perennial Pro Bowl threat look average, because it has.
Still, what I've seen from Sheppard at times that is most concerning are his instincts. Linebacker is perhaps the game's most instinctual and cerebral position. You need to think clearly, and you need to react quickly. We haven't see whether Sheppard is capable of either.
Never thought I'd miss Keith Ellison. Maybe he's available?
(Here's where I say the Bills could really use a valid deep-threat complement to the immaculate hands and routes of Stevie Johnson, but that would really depend on having a quarterback capable of throwing beyond 15 yards, wouldn't it?)
Genie Wish List
I wish the Bills had one. Even other dysfunctional franchises in the sports world figure out a way to win every now and then.
Who do you blame most for the Bills' troubles in 2012?
The Bills' situation at the game's most important position so expertly described above just ends up being an oversized “I'm with stupid” t-shirt the whole team wears at all press conferences. Throw the punter situation into the equation, too, just for kicks.
A Real Coaching Staff
Let me say this. I like Chan Gailey. I think he's still got chops as an offensive coordinator. I would have never said the same about Dick Jauron on the defensive side of the ball. But I would say that as head coaches, the record suggest Jauron is Gailey's superior, which is a scary reality.
The Bills need a coach.
You know, a coach who can do math and figure out that going for a two-point conversion with a five-point lead makes more sense that settling for an easy six-point lead.
You know, a coach who knows the math on a 4th-and-1 play from inside his own 30.
You know, a coach who doesn't call risky pass plays with the lead in the fourth quarter.
You know, a coach who has a solid two-minute drill.
You know, a defensive coach that can find a way for Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams to play as a cohesive unit, disguise their packages and go all crazy like other teams' defenses do (the Ryans, the Harbaughs, Wade Phillips, etc.).
You know, a coach or coordinator that hasn't been fired and passed over by multiple other teams?
Can we even trade coaches?
Ultimately, the Bills' fate rests upon the fate of a 94-year-old man, who, it appears is in failing health. I want to respect the desires and wishes of Ralph Wilson, but it's hard to ignore that he's placed his team in an impossibly bad situation.
There's no succession plan; there's no resolution on the taxpayer-owned stadium that apparently needs extensive taxpayer-funded renovations so it can house only seven home games a year so the Bills can grab some real money in a real market.
Respectfully, as long as Wilson persists on borrowed time, so does his team. A team with no future has no present. Which is why it's so hard to watch Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bills' present head: he's the embodiment of the team's progress. You want to like him, but you know deep down, he isn't going anywhere.