How is it that this team still looks flabbergasted to be trailing late in a football game? Seriously now. How is it that in the 16 years since the Bills played football in January that no offensive coordinator has had a specific plan laid out for “what to do in case of trailing by a touchdown”? Are we not considering this possibility? Do the Bills opt not to run through the two minute drill because they think they’ll definitely be leading when they reach the last minutes of the 4th quarter?
I’m not kidding. How can we possibly not be ready for this scenario? Last Thursday, with the clock winding down and the Bills down by one score, what did we see? Shot after shot after shot of Tyrod Taylor staring at the sidelines with his hands in the air, clearly unable to grasp what it was that Greg Roman wanted him to do next. Did we think there was no way we’d be trailing the Jets by the end of that game? Did we take any plays with the words “no-huddle” on them and set them on fire? ANSWER ME!!!
Alright… alright… I’ll be fine.
Thanks to all of these questions and more, I’ve reached the acceptance level of grief over the firing of Greg Roman. I have not, nor will I ever, watch film or scour through player quotes to get to the bottom of this, because it’s pointless. That’s what ESPN is for. Also, none of that ever really tells you anything. Would anyone like to look at old footage of Belichick coaching the Browns and see if there are any correlations to what he’s doing now? I didn’t think so.
Of course, I am in no way trying to compare Belichick and Roman. All I mean is every time a coach is fired, we rarely ever find out what the true cause was and it's always difficult to say who was really at fault. What we do know is that magically a bevy of stories will emerge about how people didn’t get along with them or their playcalling was too complex or they were simply in over their head. It doesn't matter if it's the coordinator, the head coach, or the ball-boy. Whatever the reason, everyone still left on the team will point at the guy walking out the door and say in unison, "There goes the source of all our troubles."
Coordinators, specifically, are always fired because their gameplans were too complex. And the person who is replacing them is going to get “back to basics.” Always. Whenever a new plan is installed, midseason, it’s about simplifying things. To be fair, it would sound ridiculous if Lynn had come in and said, “These guys better get ready for some homework because I’m adding 50 new plays to our playbook.” But you’re definitely gonna hear a lot of quotes like, “We just need to get back to having fun” and “Coach (Insert name of guy who’s probably going to get fired soon too) is just letting us go out there and do what we do!” This, of course, is total horseshit. If you’re lucky, you get a boost for a game or two, but it never lasts. Remember when Dan Campbell was maybe the guy to turn the Dolphins around? Exactly.
Messing with coordinators has become the easiest knee-jerk reaction for head coaches or general managers when the spotlight is getting its hottest. I’ve lost track of how many times Mike McCarthy has relinquished and retaken the job of play-calling for the Packers. And somehow people like me still fall for it. Oh yes, dear reader, I say all this, but my optimism has not left me completely. Within two days of finding out Roman was gone, I was on the phone with my Dad saying things like, “I meeeeean, if Lynn can get the running game going again and take some of the pressure off Tyrod…” I’m hopelessly hopeful. Let’s do this.
1) An Upset
Ok, I know. I'm reaching already and we're just getting rolling. But honestly, this is the only possible thing you could be excited about. Now, before you leave a comment (HAHAHAHA, you’re not gonna do that) and tell me I’m nuts to even float this idea, believe me, I already know that. BUT I am hanging onto my optimism by a very thin thread. And the only way I can do that is to imagine a world where the defense realizes the season started two weeks ago and this shit is for real. Firing Roman was all well and good, but he’s not the one responsible for nearly four 100-yard position players at home to the Jets last week. I don't care how little rest they had between series. One of those guys was Quincy Enunwa, a 6th round pick out of the illustrious wide receiver factory known as Nebraska.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals regular season is starting exactly the same way the last one ended. Carson Palmer has had a quarterback rating of 100+ his last six regular season starts and you know he’s on a mission to prove all the haters wrong. But hey... if they get cocky and we get lucky, things could get interesting.
And if we pull off what would certainly be one of the biggest upsets of this young season, that momentum would be huge going into a Week 4 match-up against the Patriots and their 4th starting QB who’s probably selling real estate this weekend.
2) Between Two Ferns
Yes, I just told you to believe and now I'm completely changing the subject. How do you think I stay optimistic? Besides, if you haven't seen this yet, you need to stop what you're doing immediately and rectify that right now. And even if you have, it's worth watching again...
3) The Wild Card Race
Yup. Surprise upset. That's the only thing that could really be exciting. Moving right along, if you're already bored with the football, might I interest you in some of America's Pastime?
Heading into the final week of the baseball season, the division leaders are set in stone, but the wild card races are far from over. The Tigers who have been left for dead repeatedly throughout the season have come on late to make one last run. The Mets led by Bartolo Colon (after all their other pitchers died) have rebounded and are in control of their destiny. The Giants are in it, the Blue Jays are back for more, my Orioles are still holding onto hope... Somehow, even the New York Yankees, last seen stripping their broken down old beater for parts are STILL mathematically in the mix for a spot in the one-game playoff. (It's beyond comprehension. Fuck that team, man.)
So if you already can't bring yourself to care about football anymore, that doesn't mean you still can't get your fix of competitive sport. If nothing else, who knows how much longer Bartolo is gonna play. Savor every minute of that wonderful man, while you still can.
“I'm a personnel-driven guy. I believe in personnel. Get the ball in the hands of players and let them make the plays. Because if you do that, they'll make way more plays than we'll ever design.” - Anthony Lynn's Master Plan
They're the Cardinals. Their entire history is Jake Plummer leading everything from 9-7 to 3-13 squads and that one time Kurt Warner threw a 100-yard pick-6 to James Harrison in the Super Bowl. Their coached begged the fans to come watch them play last season when they were arguably the second best team in football. It's like hating condiments. You don't have to like mayo, but does it truly anger you that it exists in the world? There are legitimate things worth hating out there. Bruce Arians' terrible hats aren't one of them.
Did you know that former head coach and Super Bowl winner Brian Billick somehow drew a connection between his tragically deceased former assistant and the firing of Greg Roman? It's true! And it barely took him two paragraphs!
"I was reminded this week -- not that those of us who have done it for a living need much of a reminder -- of how tenuous and hard-hearted the coaching profession can be.
Saturday in Baltimore, Clarence Brooks, one of my former assistants with the Ravens who stayed on the staff when John Harbaugh took over, died after a long battle with cancer. A day earlier in Buffalo, one of my former assistants, Rex Ryan, fired another one of my former assistants, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, just two games into the new season.
"Clarence was a profoundly joyful, beloved character who perfectly fit the mold of a defensive line coach. The best D-line coaches are part coach, part lion-tamer, because the manic intensity of a Jared Allen or J.J. Watt is so integral to success at that position. Brooks was a living testament to Dick Vermeil's saying: "Your players don't care what you know until they know that you care." C.B. was a pure coach who loved working with the players.
The coaching life isn't for everyone, and the coaching fraternity can be both fiercely loyal and incredibly cold-blooded. The old adage that you often heard at the NCAA coaches conventions was that if an assistant coach died of a heart attack on the convention floor, his head coach would have two dozen résumés slipped under his hotel room door before the paramedics arrived.
...the true reason for the firing (Greg Roman) will remain obscured, for the time being, at least...
There's less than seven full days to prepare for the next game, and you become pensive, thinking about the new set of challenges, the injuries you may be dealing with, the play designs that didn't work, the opponents' strengths and the opposing coaching staff's tendencies. You go back to work.
That's what the staff did in both Baltimore and Buffalo, after grieving the loss of Brooks and saying their good-byes to Roman. That's what coaches do. We'll tell you that the game doesn't allow anything else. While that's true, it's also true that we are obsessively devoted to the game, and don't know any other way.
With little to go on other than blind hope, I'm hanging onto my optimism for one. more. week...
Cardinals 23, Bills 27
I'm an idiot. Go Bills.