Hello all 2,268 NYC Bills fans!
Wasn’t it great to watch the Bills knock the Jets out of the playoffs on Sunday? I can now enjoy an entire offseason where I don’t have to be totally ridiculed by Jets fans. My in-laws, all Jets fans, asked if I was smiling after the win. The truth is, no, I wasn’t. I’m actually less excited about next season as I’ve ever been since I became a fan. In some ways even depressed about the team. Why?
I knew this season we wouldn’t improve on our record, although I thought it’d be a result of poor quarterback play. Seeing our stout defense fall apart was surprising, but overall the team just didn’t have any new spark despite the hiring of Rex Ryan. Frankly, they looked like the same old Bills, the ones we’ve seen miss the playoffs for 16 straight years. The teams we’ve watched at McFadden’s and Calico Jack’s. Even with new ownership, nothing on the field changed. One thing did change is something nobody is talking about, and that’s the behavior of the front office.
When Doug Marrone decided to turn his back on the Bills, a strange thing happened with the organization that I never saw before as a Bills fan. Here in NYC, the NY Daily News published an article (http://goo.gl/Mcxl4n) that was essentially a hit piece on Marrone, a lead candidate for the Jets top coach position. Strong words like “dangerous” and “control freak” were used to describe him. The strange part is those words originated not from an agent as many assumed, but from “sources” within One Bills Drive. The words may be accurate, and to be clear I’m in no way defending Marrone who bailed on his players without so much as a heads up, but for the organization to provide that information and air its dirty laundry for revenge purposes was in my opinion – classless. I couldn’t see that happening with respected organizations like the Giants or Steelers, nor ever with Ralph Wilson still alive. It represented to me a major shift within the organization, and not for the better.
Over the last year since that incident, we’ve seen continuous leaks from within the organization. Infighting between Rex and Doug Whaley, the way Fred Jackson was released and Matt Cassel traded, the Bill Polian leaks. Even yesterday there were leaks about Rex/Whaley being given an ultimatum about being fired if they don’t achieve the playoffs next season only to be followed by a conflicting “source” saying Whaley would be extended.
All of the leaks appear to have an agenda targeting and undermining others within the organization. That, my fellow fans, shows an office in disarray and a clear lack of leadership within the organization, which we’ve seen has even filtered all the way down to the players who admitted there is no leadership within the team. My gut tells me the organization is a mess behind closed doors. Who leads the organization? The Pegulas may own the team and have final say, but the guy running the day to day at OBD is Managing Partner Russ Brandon.
Those that have read my emails for the last decade know I am not a fan of Mr. Brandon, who is a glorified salesman who should be restricted to the Sales and Marketing office, not head of the organization. The fact that he was our General Manager for a stint without any of the right qualifications (and continued to have a say in football decisions) still infuriates me to this day, and if you think he’s not involved in football decisions anymore you’re mistaken. In Monday’s press conference Whaley named Brandon as one of the key people who would have a final say in the Tyrod Taylor extension, he’s hired coaches and you’ve seen him in the draft room. The guy still has his hand in the cookie jar.
It’s baffling how somebody who has been tied to almost all 16 years of our playoff drought, who has been directly responsible for securing head coaches (including Marrone who turned his back on the team), players (he signed Terrell Owens and had him spout the “North America’s Team” BS at his presser) and front office staff in that time is not only still here, but keeps gaining more power! He’s essentially the Pegulas’ eyes and ears within the organization, their lead advisor. Let’s not even discuss his involvement with the Sabres. You have to wonder who is resisting a set of outside consulting eyes taking a fresh look at the team.
Sorry Bills fans, but as long as Brandon is still at the top of this organization, I’d be shocked if anything changes with our playoff drought any time soon. An organization takes on the personality of its leader, which is why for the last decade every Bills team fielded has been nothing but hype to sell tickets. It’s why they’re consistently underachievers. It’s easy to blame coaches, but after several coaches have failed, isn’t it time to look to the man who has hand a direct hand in hiring those men?
For that reason, I’m not excited about this offseason. We’re going to hear the “consistency” line over and over again. Brandon is going to have to whip out his hype playbook yet again as this is his first offseason where Bills fans won’t purchase fear-driven tickets knowing the team’s place in Buffalo is now safe, and no anticipated big personnel changes. We’ll see how good he really is at filling seats, and not with fans who are so bored with this organization that they’d rather dive through flaming tables.
Maybe the team will surprise us, but after watching the phenomenal 30 For 30 on the 1990s Bills, you sense that this organization doesn’t have the same drive that those teams had. At this point in my life the Bills have taken a back seat to more important things, like raising a family. My 6 year old son William is totally into them, luckily the Jets/Giants haven’t been blowing things up so he isn’t tempted to be pulled to the dark side by his Brooklyn classmates. But it is a struggle to explain to him why he should root for such a losing team.
On a brighter note I was finally able to bring my daughter Sally, who finished treatment for infant leukemia at the start of the season, to her first game at McFadden’s. When you hit a milestone like that, you remember that at the end of the day, football is just a game. And then I smile again. See you at the Draft Party!
Matt “Talkin’ proud and really hope to watch a playoff game at McFadden’s one day” Kabel