Buffalo wasn't anticipating this when they beefed up their defense during the offseason.
They weren't anticipating 4-7 with a 1-3 record within the AFC East. They weren't anticipating another somewhat-meaningless December where they will need a prayer just to get back into the playoff conversation.
But this is where the Buffalo Bills stand once again. A decade of futility that is now potentially on its 13th season without a playoff berth—the longest such current streak in the NFL and the longest in team history.
It all starts at the top, and right now, the head coach of the team is Chan Gailey.
This is exactly the problem Buffalo has. This is the Bills' most talented team of the last decade, yet they are performing as bad as some lesser-talented teams in today's NFL.
I probably don't have to provide the reasons why Chan Gailey must go, but I will do so anyways because Gailey is a head coach who should've been let go earlier this season and should be fired as soon as humanly possible.
The Buffalo Bills dedicated their offseason to beefing up their defense, and why wouldn't they?
In 2011, the Bills gave up the second-most points in the NFL and were ranked 26th in the NFL in total defense. Since Buffalo's offense was decent (by no means great, but with a good defense, they can win), going after a defensive renovation was a smart decision.
So what are the fruits of the Bills' defensive makeover? In 2012, the Buffalo Bills have given up the second-most points in the NFL and are ranked 26th in the NFL in total defense.
Wait, that's not supposed to be the case. Buffalo revamped their defense. They signed Mario Williams and used three of their five picks in the first four rounds on defensive players. How has nothing changed?
Oh, the head coach hasn't changed.
Sure, the defensive coordinator changed, as Dave Wannstedt was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator to replace George Edwards, but in the end, the buck stops with the head coach.
Think of it this way: if you replace its engine, your car is supposed to perform better, in theory. But if the driver is terrible, it won't make a difference in the long run.
Just a question, but how does C.J. Spiller have only 14 carries against a team that's ranked 21st in the league against the run and has already allowed 1,333 yards rushing (I'm referring to the Indianapolis Colts of course)?
Here's a better question: why would C.J. Spiller have only 14 carries against the league's 21st-ranked defense after he had 22 carries against the league's seventh-ranked defense in the Miami Dolphins?
Here's a non-coincidence: Buffalo defeated Miami, yet they lost to Indianapolis despite the fact that Spiller had eight more attempts against Miami but gained 16 more yards against the Colts.
Spiller is Buffalo's best player next to Fred Jackson (when Jackson is healthy), and he should be getting the ball more. Why wouldn't he, since Buffalo has an issue of its own on offense?
Why would you give up on a player who's a threat to score anytime he touches the ball and gained 107 yards on 14 touches? You can't say it's because Spiller wasn't running the ball well; he was averaging 7.6 yards per carry!
That's not the only one of Gailey's baffling decisions, but it's the one that sticks out like a sore thumb. Buffalo's running game helped defeat the Miami Dolphins in Week 11 despite the fact that, while the Dolphins run defense is stout, their pass defense is iffy.
So why not use that same strategy against a team with a shaky run defense? If Spiller got 22 carries against Indianapolis, based off his average, he likely gains at least another 60 yards as well as likely producing one more touchdown (he didn't score against Indianapolis).
Gailey's decision making even has one of his players actively questioning it. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson let off some steam to The Buffalo News following the loss to Indy, stating:
How I see it: I think we need to let our quarterback call these plays. He's out there on the field. He sees the adjustments that need to be done. I think we just need to let him make adjustments on the go. I think that's the way we can move the ball better.
He did it a little bit in the game, and we moved the ball (...) He was hitting C.J. (Spiller), getting his run plays, doing the pass plays, and I just think we should do it more often.
Actually, let's go back to that Miami game, a game where Buffalo got into the red zone four times, with each of those trips resulting in a field-goal attempt.
Why did it seem like every time they got into the red zone, the play-calling seemed to go pass, run, pass, field goal?
How does that make any sense when you have C.J. Spiller on your roster? Buffalo should have won that game by at least two touchdowns, yet they needed a Ryan Tannehill meltdown at the end of the game to survive a contest they dominated.
Does Bill Belichick "survive" home games where his team out-gains the opposition by 91 yards and wins the turnover battle by three?
I've already spent what would be an article on its own on Buffalo's questionable decision making under Gailey, specifically when it comes to run versus pass.
What makes this even worse is the fact that, while C.J. Spiller is a Pro Bowl-caliber running back who's ranked 10th in the NFL in rushing and second in the number of running plays that go 20-plus yards, Buffalo's passing game is awfully pedestrian.
Buffalo's pass ranking for the season: 25th. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 2,359 yards and 18 touchdowns—but also 11 interceptions.
He also doesn't possess a strong arm, which isn't Gailey's fault except for the fact that Gailey seems to forget this at times.
Buffalo's passing game does at times look like they can explode on a team, but it's not consistent enough to be trusted without at least setting up the passing game with the running game. If Buffalo isn't able to run for one reason or another, teams can easily pick apart their pass game. The result is never a good one for the Bills.
According to teamrankings.com, the Buffalo Bills are averaging 6.7 penalties per game, giving up an average of 56.3 yards per game on said penalties.
That's not horrible, per se, as they're ranked 21st in the league in penalties and 19th in penalty yards. But that's not good either.
Penalties show a lack of discipline and preparation, and in Buffalo's last three games (where they've gone 1-2), they've averaged 98 penalty yards while amassing an average of 9.7 penalties per game.
Those are horrible numbers no matter how you slice it. You don't want to give up nearly a football field of yards just on penalties; it just makes it easier for teams to score.
The only reason the Miami Dolphins were in the game at the end against the Bills was due to a pass-interference penalty that gave up 30 yards and a face-mask penalty that erased a Bills sack that would've put Miami into a 3rd-and-16 situation.
These plays occurred on Miami's lone scoring drive. Miami's offense was shut out the rest of the game and did nothing to prove that they could score on the Bills that evening.
The New England game the week before, however, was more egregious, as you could make the argument that they lost the game on penalties. The Bills committed 14 that afternoon for 148 yards.
This is the result of poor coaching and poor preparation, plain and simple. If a team doesn't have discipline, it won't succeed, no matter how talented they might be.
Let's take a look at who the Bills have had at head coach since they let go of Wade Phillips.
First, there's Gregg Williams, who's perhaps the most infamous defensive coordinator in NFL history. The reason for this is because he's known for being a great defensive coordinator that failed with the Bills as head coach, going 17-31. Much like Gailey, he had a highly touted Bills team that was expected to do very well in his third season.
And much like Gailey, Williams and the Bills fell flat.
Williams was replaced by Mike Mularkey, who's now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's actually doing worse in Jacksonville than he did in Buffalo, as the Bills went 14-18 in his time there. He's the last head coach to lead the Bills to a winning season, going 9-7 in 2004, his first season as head coach.
Dick Jauron seemed to go 7-9 every season he was in Buffalo before getting fired nine games into the 2009 season. He was replaced by interim head coach Perry Fewell, who went 3-4 in the last seven games of 2009.
Chan Gailey came in to start the 2010 season, and now in 2012, he has a record of 13-27 with the Bills. Mike Mularkey at least went 14-18 and gave Buffalo a winning season.
You will notice that, of these coaches, two of them were castoffs that failed in prior stops (Jauron in Chicago, Gailey in Dallas). While that hiring strategy worked for the Bills when they hired Marv Levy back in 1986 (Levy went 31-42 and never made the postseason while coaching the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978 to 1982), and it's still paying dividends for the New England Patriots since hiring Belichick, the rate for a coach having success in his second stop isn't very good.
Buffalo needs a fresh start, and I don't just mean with Chan Gailey but also with general manager Buddy Nix (whose drafts have been mediocre). The house needs to be cleaned out, because 13 years without a playoff berth is just unacceptable in an NFL where teams go from last to first with great regularity.