The 2011 Buffalo Bills season came to a screeching if merciful halt over New Years, and after a few weeks to contemplate the season past, The Buzz from Busby’s is offering a quick review.
And it’s inconclusive.
The play on the field stands.
6-10. Last in the AFC east by tie-breaker.
After beginning with an expected eruption, the 2011 year became the Season of the Which: Which Bills team was this? The one that exploded out of the gate or the one that imploded after week seven? Which coach was this? The one that pulled all the right strings or the one that had us pulling our hair out? Which quarterback was this? The dynamic gunslinger at the top of the league in efficiency and scoring and $64 million dollar man, or the mudslinger at the bottom of the heap who couldn’t complete an eye test. Which defense was this? The opportunistic game-changers taking the ball away for pick-sixes, or the one that got picked on all day and couldn’t get off its back or the field after be pancaked and trampled.
Again, after the play has been reviewed, there is insufficient evidence of reversal, and as Chan Gailey is fond of saying, but not so fond of having to say it, you are what your record is.
And the Bills were 6-10.
Buddy Nix probably said it best when he said the injuries were a reason, not an excuse, and there was NO excuse under any circumstances for losing seven games in a row, which his team did.
Somehow they both over-achieved and under achieved in the same season.
The team will be tweaked going into next season more than overhauled. Gone is Defensive Un-coordinator George Edwards, replaced by Dave Wannstedt. No one outside of One Kills Drive really knows the extent of influence that Wanny had on Edwards– hopefully very little as the Bills got progressively worse. There is no indication that Wanny was responsible for the abortion that became the Bills D, and often just calling the right defenses in the game can be a huge difference. DW has proved to be an excellent DC in this league, which is good for the Bills because he’s a crappy Head Coach. Most observers expect a return to a 4-3, Wanny’s preference throughout his career, although it says here, not so fast, and expect more of the hybrid defense, with a lot of 3-4 fronts and looks.
Many of the Bills missing in action, however, will return to the field next year. Back will be Fred Jackson, who was leading the league in rushing when he broke his foot and the backbone of the team. Hopefully Fred Ex will back with an extension he is happy with. Gailey must figure out how to get both Fred and the resurgent C.J. Spiller involved together, and find enough touches to keep them happy and the defenses miserable. Spiller showed why he was drafted #9 overall for the first time and looks ready to explode in 2012.
At WR, Stevie Johnson must be re-signed and likely will be, although he may test the Free Agent market and would be stupid if he didn’t. Stevie has proven not to be an Academic All-American in his short-lived and star-crossed NFL Career, so anything can happen. Someone is likely to offer him 7-8 million a season and hopefully it will be the Bills. But look for Johnson and TE Scott Chandler to be re-signed. Nix has already said the Bills will be looking for a big receiver to play opposite Stevie, and if he doesn’t sign, we will be looking to get two of them.
There are murmurs that Marcus Easley will be back. Shawne Merriman is expected back, wreaking havoc on the training staff. Eric Wood is hoping to be erect by training camp. Kyle Williams will be back, hopefully on two good feet for the first time in a while. Jury is still out on Terrence “Fibber” McGee, so named for lying so much on the field. McGee may have played his last game as a Bill. Roscoe Perish is wanted back but can’t be counted on. Same with Demetrius “Wrung” Bell. Rian Lindell is expected to re-sign after that kick in the face we suffered from David Raynor.
The 2011 team had some stirring moments and bright spots. We had the highest scoring offense in the NFL when healthy, and were the talk of the league after a 5-2 start. Unfortunately that talk soon became badmouthing. The Bills beat the Patriots for the first time since they started cheating, which was forever ago. And the beleaguered team beat God on Christmas Eve, no small feat.
The offensive line, when intact, actually opened holes in the run game, and the Bills were one of the least sacked teams, although a grossly distorted stat since Ryan Fitzpatrick had to get the ball out of his hands pretty much as soon as he got it from center. The team averaged 4.9 yards per carry from scrimmage as a team; good for 4th in the league.
Jairus Byrd and George Wilson became one of the best safety tandems. Marcel Dareus proved worthy of #3 overall and looks to be a stud for years to come. Other rookies, especially Aaron Williams, looked like a solid NFL starter with great potential. Nick Barnett proved to be an upgrade from the departed Poz at ILB.
Coach Chan Gailey is at a crossroads, entering year three of his manure, er, tenure, usually the make or break season for struggling coaches. The team will have a helluva task trying to sell season tickets after the mid season collapse, and while the team has the money, a big splash is not expected in free agency.
But ultimately, the 2011 season, for at least the first third, was the most fun the Bills fans have had in over a decade. We almost expected them to win. They were exciting on the field and rolling up points. It seems Bills fans forgot how much fun it is to play well and win. Busbys was rocking as never before, and Bills fans took over the middle room. There is hope that next year with a few more pieces to the puzzle, and some luck, the Bills will be back as contenders.
Here’s to hoping the play on the field will be reversed after further review. Come on down and join us for the draft the spring, and thanks for making the 2011 Bills Season in the Bison Dome a huge winner.