It's hard to avoid the feeling as a Bills fans that we're watching, year after year, a series of experiments that inevitably go wrong. Combinations of personnel and plays and intangibles amongst players and coaches, mixed together with a seeming haphazard flair, accompanied by varying hints of optimism from fans and franchise alike. Never a true sense of "this is what it takes to win and we have it, let's all have fun," but instead "we think this might be the one, please trust us?" Frustration levels vary depending on what kind of fan you want to be from week to week or minute to minute, and what kind of team we happen to have in front of us every Sunday.
The Flutie years had fan optimism high, but franchise confidence was suddenly low and we got something else instead. Losman had fans and franchise on more similar planes, followed by Edwards and other guys I don't care to remember, and then a Harvard guy who looked to our layman eyes like a shit sandwich but who had been molded into a winner, briefly, by a coach with a charming, deceptive drawl.
We're duped because it's nearly impossible for us couch-dwellers, and seemingly for the "football guys" employed by Ralph "wears a gold-plated diaper" Wilson, to know the difference between Kurt Warner and Ryan Fitzpatrick until one of them is winning a goddamned Super Bowl. We're duped because believing we have Warner and not Fitz is a hell of a lot more fun than the other way around.
And then there is this season, with this coach and this QB, and it was both different and the same for each of us watching it all unfold. The franchise seemed both progressive and consistent with it's prior, terrible versions... a new system with new rules and new aggression; an old system with phenomenal players left behind, uncompensated by the franchise they've sweat and bled for, with fans like myself bounding across social media, rationalizing the decision to let uncommon Buffalo Bills talent walk away from the Sisyphean challenge of getting this fucking thing right.
And then there is this season, with the promises and renewed sense of purpose; the stunning efforts and sharp growing pains; the rising legend of new powers on defense; the quarterback who has left games with more of our love and hope, the benefit of the doubt held firmly in his poised grasp.
And then there is this season, with growing hope following a great win against Baltimore, followed suddenly and cruelly by a moment so predictable, we couldn't believe it...
Our squad has lost a burgeoning leader following a moment of quintessential Bills - doing the right thing the exact wrong way - but we're not in a place yet where we can reliably judge whether the experiment unfolding in front of our eyes has a sense of true purpose or whether the team is blowing in the wind again, trying at every turn to figure out what works as it continues along. They were a shit sandwich after losing at MetLife. They were gods after beating the reigning champs. They were something else entirely when one of their newly beloved decided to abandon sense and caution and got himself hurt instead, leaving the reigns to, well, nobody.
This season - fuck, just this week - the Bills have reverted to an updated version of their typical self, replacing Jeff Tuel with practice squad MVP Thad Lewis, an apparent upgrade in experience only, right on the heels of news that they are shopping their best defensive back to other teams because they can't help but trip over their own frugality and Ralph's colostomy bag en route to putting together a "keeps trying hard but lacks real talent" secondary. The Bills are suddenly a squad with little real purpose, the season's purported formula of successful Buffalo Bills football having now been pushed aside, replaced with a simple hope that a shit sandwich under center can muddle through a game and keep things relatively intact so that maybe EJ can come back and put in some late season work in preparation for next year.
It's hard to avoid, as you know, the sense that this team can't get this thing right. Update the personnel, update the plays, update the coach, fine, but pretending it's any different? Pretending those changes matter in the long run, set against a history so clear and a future so fucking unavoidable?
Show me. Please. Because now... with Lewis about to start and Byrd about to get shipped off, and the team lacking any true, serviceable right guard, and the special teams units being a complete mess, and Stevie and Freddie and CJ all banged up, and Leodis and AJ being entirely infuriating with their inability to play well two games in a row, and the only glimmer of good news is that Brian Moorman is coming back and that's only good news because we're remembering him as he was 5 years ago and not as he was the last time we saw him playing for our squad... right now it feels like whatever was being put together at OBD is falling apart. Because of course it is.