Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Fun Offensive Wrinkle

Bills Offsenive coordnantor  Nate Hackett has come under quite a bit of fire this year (and last for that matter) and mostly it has been justifiable because our offense has sucked. But, check out this cool play the Bills ran Sunday for a score: As described by Gregg Easterbrook in his always entertaining Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:  "Needing to shake up its dormant offense, Buffalo showed a wide-trips formation composed entirely of tight ends. Reaching third-and-goal at the 1, the Bills put six offensive linemen on field, then split 6-6, 330-pound tackle Chris Hairston, who reported eligible, out wide covered by a skinny cornerback. As New England pointed at the wide giant, Buffalo ran up the middle for a touchdown."

Although I was watching the game, I admittedly dosed off during this part of the game...which gives an idea of how exciting the contest (and the Bills offense throughout most of the season) was.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Eight Most Dissapointing Bills Losses in Recent Memory

I've been a Bills fan since 1974 I think, the day my grandmother took a 7-year-old Redskins fan into a western NY clothing store to buy me a football jersey. And do you think they had any Redskins shirts? No. This was the year after O.J. had gone for 2,003 and I came out of there with a brand new, sweet, royal, 32 jersey with Bills across the front. Thanks Grandma?

So, there have been a lot of disappointing Bills losses over the years, starting with that 1974 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And yes, I live in Erie, PA, so any Steelers (or Browns) loss hurts particularly. The Steelers used that '74 plaoff game to launch themselves to four Super Bowl titles in six years, while the Bills, well, two years later we were 2-12, and won one playoff game in the next 14 years. But then we had 1988 - a completely wonderful, kind of a surprise year when were went 12-4 and made the AFC championship game. That year was so satisfying, I'll push the reset button on disappointing losses up to that point. The list that follows is off the top of my head and includes game from 1988 on. (If you need specifics like score and dates, you're not a true Bills fan.)

8. Dallas Monday night loss - This one sucked because we blew it on a lost on-side kick (like the one we couldn't convert yesterday), it was at home, and it was in front of a national audience. On a personal note, I'm a Yankees fan and the Yanks lost a key playoff game to the Indians (remember I'm from Erie) that night - which I had the pleasure of watching simultaneously with the Bills loss.

7. Stevie Johnson's drop in the end zone vs. Steelers: Once again, I'm from Erie.

6. Yesterday's loss vs. Oakland: According to Grantland's Bill Barnwell, Bills only had like a 5% chance of making playoffs heading into the weekend and we still would have had to win at New England. But still, talk about a punch to the gut. So many things went wrong. Oakand, 2-12 coming into the game, ran all over and we couldn't run at all on them. Bills came out flat. It certainly brought to mind that atrocious game vs. Pittsburgh a few years back when we couldn't beat their third string...

5. Miami Playoff game w/ Flutie at QB: From what I remember we had several chances to convert a TD in the fourth quarter but couldn't get it done. Eric Moulds had more than 200 yards receiving and we lost. I also missed the first half of this one because, well, a guy in a Browns t-shirt (remember the Browns had no team at this time) showed up at my house at kickoff to show me how to use the incubator to combat my newborn son's slight case of jaundice. You can't make this shit up!

4. 1989 Browns Playoff Game: Once again the Erie thing.

3. Steelers Playoff Play-in fiasco: There were just so many things wrong with this game - as I said, it was similar to the Oakland game. Let's take the fans, for example. I seem to remember the announcer wondering how the Steelers fans could have let Bills fans get so many tickets for the game - before he was corrected and informed the game was actually in Buffalo - so the reverse was actually true, and even though we were playing for our playoff lives, well there were a lot of Steeler fans there. And we lost. To their third string. And Bledsoe was jettisoned, and J.P. Losman became our starter...One positive note, Steelers fans took pity on us after this one.

2. Giants Super Bowl: Wide right. Gag!

1. Titans - Music City Miracle: Vomit.

So, yesterday's loss was only like the 6th most disappointing Bills loss in the past 25 years. That's not so bad, is it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Say Bears Keep Cutler

So, now that the Bears have benched Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen, there is a lot of talk about the Bears trading Cutler, who still has, I believe, two guaranteed years left on his contract, for like $15M each, so they can't just cut him without killing their salary cap. There has been a lot of talk about Culter landing in Buffalo, and apparently Bills brass would prefer just about anybody to their current QB tandem of Kyle Orton and EJ Manuel. I've watched probably more than 90% of Bills' offensive snaps this year, and I can't say I disagree.

That said, my fear is that Cutler would be another Drew Bledsoe, a past-his-prime veteran that just can't get the Bills over the hump. Then again, the asking price for Cutler, at least initially, would seem to be considerably lower than the first round pick the Bills gave up for Bledsoe 10 years ago or so. Yeah, you still gotta pay him, but, from what I understand, the Bills have room under the cap.

That said, I don't think it will happen, because there is no way the Bears go into next season with Jimmy Clausen as their starting QB. And I don't think they will have a high enough draft pick to get either Winston or Mariotta, the only highly touted QB prospects in the upcoming draft. And the 2015 QB free agent class is not currently looking stellar - as a Bills fan I've thought about all this stuff a lot!

Personally, I think the Bears will fire their coach before they trade Cutler - as decent NFL starting QBs - which Cutler has been in the past mostly - are harder to find than mediocre head coaches. And if they do trade Cutler, it will be to the Jets - well, because they really are the perfect fit for him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Alexander Supertramp on Adventure

Came across this inspirational quote from Christopher McCandless from shortly before he left on his final ill-fated journey to Alaska. If you don't recognize the name, McCandless was the kid they made the movie "Into the Wild" about. He basically graduated from college cum laude, gave away all his possessions and lived like a hobo for a couple years before starving to death in Alaska. His body was found in an abandoned bus that people used for shelter.

Before it was a movie, Into the Wild was a book, written by Jon Krakauer, a writer for Outdoor magazine, who also wrote a well-known account of a disastrous trip to the summit of Mt Everest (of which he was a part), called Into Thin Air. I stumbled across Into the Wild while looking for a biography of Lawrence of Arabia that my friend Stan L. had recommended.

Here's a quote from a letter that McCandless (who had unofficially changed his name to Alex) wrote to a friend of his while he was preparing to embark on the what proved to be the final leg of his journey. "....will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy in life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon..." I think you get the point.



Monday, December 01, 2014

November Bills Update

Just realized I made it through November without a blog post. Maybe this had something to do with the end of the baseball season or just a general malaise regarding the Bills season. If you haven't been following offline, the Bills went 2-2 last month with two sloppy losses followed by two fairly impressive wins. We'll discount the Jets win, because we seem to have the Jets number (and they seem somewhat awful) but yesterday's 26-10 stomping of the Browns was somewhat impressive.

I read somewhere that the Bills allowed the Browns something like 8 yards on seven possessions during one stretch. The game really turned on two TDs scored by the Bills in the 3rd quarter. First, Kyle Orton hit Robert Woods with a long pas that set up our first score and made it 7-3 Bills. Then, on the next play from scrimmage, the irrepressible Jerry Hughes stripped a Browns running back of the ball, picked up the fumble and trotted into the end zone. With the way the Bills defense was playing that was basically all she wrote.

Bills finished with two sacks, two interceptions, and what should have been two fumble recoveries for TDs, if not for a bad call by Jermone Boger's crew on Johnny Manziel's second possession. But anyway.

As great as our D looked, it was somewhat disturbing that the Browns offense actually outgained our offense, and Kyle Orton threw two picks. I was not a huge fan of the change to Orton from E.J. Manuel, but that said, he's definitely been an upgrade. He brings a veteran presence to the field and he certainly seems more savvy that Manuel. That said, he's fairly immobile and really doesn't have the strongest arm. I don't think Manuel makes that throw to Woods that turns the game around yesterday - but it was still more of Woods' great catch than Orton's throw that made the play. That said (again), Orton at least attempted the throw and gave Woods a ball he could catch. I'm not sure Manuel could've/would've done that.

Of course, then again, how can you lose when you have this going on (picture from the Buffalo News)?

Next up, we are at the Broncos. It's really hard to see us winning that game, but if we get enough pressure on Manning with our front four, who knows? Basically, we need to go at least 3-1 coming home to make the playoffs and we are at Broncos and Patriots, at home vs. Green Bay, and at Oakland, so it's a tall order. Offense probably needs to come alive to make this happen. Not sure it is capable of that.

One final thought is that after the season the Bills should do what the early 80s  Bears did, when they fired their head coach but kept their defensive coordinator - Buddy Ryan (and then hired Mike Ditka as head coach). Now, I'm not so sure Jim Schwartz is Buddy Ryan, and the Bills defense was pretty good last year when Mike Pettine (current Browns head coach) was running it, but it certainly hasn't gotten any worse under Schwartz and we lost arguably our two best defensive players (Kiko Alonso [injury] and Jarius Byrd [free agency]).

I like head coach Doug Marrone's attitude, in that he knows that what the Bills are doing is not good enough, but really, the offense since he got here has pretty much been one misadventure after another. I won't get into details now, but suffice to day if he goes down it's going to be because of the offense, which we all thought was kinda supposed to be his specialty.

Man as a Disruptive Force

From Elizabeth Kolbert's fine book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History: "Before humans emerged on the scene, being large and slow to reproduce was a highly successful strategy, and outsized creatures dominated the planet. Then, in what amounts to a geologic instant, this strategy became a loser's game. And so it remains to today....Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it's not clear that he ever really did."

Which all of course leads to the question of where did man, this agent of change, come from?