2020: The Return of the Buffalo Bills

Twenty-five years. That’s how long it has been since the Buffalo Bills have

won the AFC East, a feat they have finally accomplished this season. The last time

the Bills were division champions was the year movies such as “Toy Story,” “Bad

Boys,” and “Apollo 13” were in theatres and “Waterfalls,” “This Is How We Do It,”

and “Kiss from a Rose” were tops on the music charts. For me, a 29-year-old Bills

fan, I did not get to enjoy, or suffer through, four straight Super Bowl losses. Instead,

my earliest memory of watching them play is one of the two worst phrases a Bills

fan can hear, “music city miracle;” the event that was the first speck of trauma Bills

fans had to endure that led directly in to a 17-year playoff drought.

Here are some statistics from the drought that show the consistently poor to

mediocre teams that were fielded. In those 17 years, they were 8-8 three times, 9-7

twice, and were never terrible enough to get the first overall pick and attempt to

remedy their lack of a new Jim Kelly. They cycled through coach and quarterbacks

every one to four years while the mighty New England Patriots haven’t made one

change (until this season). They tried older veteran coaches like Chan Gailey and

Dick Jauron, they tried a college coach in Doug Marrone (Don’t get us started on

Doug Marrone), and they tried hiring a coach that had national intrigue in Rex Ryan.

The team had at least a .500 record through ten games seven times, (’02, ’07, ’08,

’11, ’14, ’15, and ’16), but never finished strong enough to make it.

Throughout the drought, they only even sniffed the playoffs once, in 2004 with a Drew Bledsoe led team where all they needed to do was beat a Steelers team that was playing the

backups to their backups. The offense ranked in the top 20 in the NFL in points

seven of the seventeen years and in the top 10 only twice in seventeen years. TWICE

IN SEVENTEEN YEARS they had a top 10 scoring offense! You can blame a poorly

run franchise, you can blame poor college and pro scouting, you can blame poor

coaching, or you can blame the players, but it was a combination of all of that and

more (*cough Tom Brady cough*) that caused a 17 year playoff drought for the

Buffalo Bills.

Now, on to the current Bills. First up was in 2017 when then general manager

Doug Whaley hired head coach Sean McDermott. The interesting part was the Bills

let Doug Whaley go one day AFTER the 2017 draft. There had been speculation

McDermott had been gaining trust and confidence quickly with the Bills owners

Terry and Kim Pegula, and they had been planning to bring in executives that had

relationships with McDermott; cue Brandon Beane as the “GM elect.” Once this came

to fruition, Beane went to work, clearing dead cap space. He traded players like

Sammy Watkins, Marcel Dareus, Ronald Darby, and Cordy Glenn. He got players in

return like EJ Gaines, Jordan Matthews, and Kelvin Benjamin and signed guys like

Anquan Boldin as to still attempt to field a winning team. Although Boldin retired

almost immediately, and the Benjamin experiment was a failure, Bills fans could see

things were finally happening. Despite being led by Tyrod Taylor with a 22 nd ranked

offense and 18 th ranked defense, with the help of Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd the

Bills squeaked in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

That off-season season, Beane and McDermott had the draft that would

change everything. Trading up to 7 th overall to draft QB Joshua Patrick Allen out of

Wyoming, the guy who could throw a ball to the moon, but miss the broad side of a

barn from 5 yards away. A lot of fans weren’t happy about it, but to be fair a lot, even

more, fans also liked the move, just weren’t as vocal as the other group. McDermott

stated that the coming season would be a step back before they started moving

forward again as they had to develop a rookie QB and chose to move on from Tyrod

Taylor. Coming out of camp they named Nathan Peterman as their starting qb, yes

you read that right. Peterman WON the job in camp. That lasted about a half into

their first game as Peterman went 5/18 for 24 yards and 2 INTs. In comes Josh Allen

to finish the game and the season minus a few games he missed because of injury.

Allen finished the season with 2,074 yards, 10 TDs, 12 INTS, and with a 52.8%

completion percentage. The surprising part was his 631 rushing yards and 8

rushing TDs. The Bills went 6-10 and had a bad year just like “McBeane” as

BillsMafia calls them, had said.

The 2019 season was the beginning of the transformation of the offense.

They started using the cap space they had cleared, signing among others, John

Brown, Cole Beasley, Mitch Morse, and Frank Gore, as well as pro bowl return man

Andre Roberts. While the front office was making moves, Allen was in California

working with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer on his mechanics and footwork. That

season Allen threw 1,000 more yards and doubled the amount of passing TDs from

the previous season throwing for 3,089 yards 20 TDs and 9 INTs with a completion

percentage of 58.8% (up 6%). He also added 510 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs.

The Bills clinched their second playoff birth in three years with a win over the

Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Taking nothing away from the first appearance,

this one was feeling more like the beginning of something great.

Going in to the 2020 offseason, fans were only clamoring for one thing, a true

number one wide receiver.

While John Brown and Cole Beasley had good seasons, with Brown going for over 1,000 yards and Beasley having one of the best seasons of his career. With the Bills on their way, Beane pulled the trigger, sending a 1st round pick (pick 22) along with other later picks to Minnesota for Stefon Diggs. This season, Diggs is having the best year of his career and his having a blast doing it. He is well over 100 catches and 1,000 yards with Beasley also heading towards the 1,000 yard mark as Brown has been injured. Beane also continued taking care of the cap this offseason while signing All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White to a large extension, but refusing to sign Shaq Lawson and Jordan Jenkins to the large cap eating deals they wanted and replacing them with a quantity of players to lesser deals. I would

be remiss if I didn’t mention the play of the offensive line this season, and the fact

that the Bills still may have the best and most underrated safety duo in Jordan Poyer

and Micah Hyde.

With the help of Jordan Palmer, Brian Daboll, and Ken Dorsey, Josh Allen

took an even larger step forwards this season while on pace for 4,500 passing yards,

35 TDs, and 10 INTs with a completion percentage of almost 69%. That’s a 17%

increase from year one to year three and is almost unheard of. This season wasn’t

just about the development of Allen and acquisition of Diggs. The coaches have all

shown improvement as well, starting with McDermott. His decision-making and

aggressiveness have shined through this season. An example would be going for it

more on 4 th down, which lets them play smarter on 3 rd down knowing that if they

don’t get it they have another play. The bigger example would be keeping their foot

on the gas in the fourth quarter when they are winning instead of trying to run out

the clock and giving it right back to the opponent. Daboll has continued to improve

the art of schemes and play calling getting his receivers open on seemingly every

play. Leslie Frazier has had to deal with significant opt-outs due to covid-19 such as

their big run stuffer in Star Lotulelei and depth cornerback EJ Gaines. He also had to

deal with injuries to both star linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano

and had to adjust how he called the defense with very different style linebackers in

the game.

It truly is the luck of Buffalo sports fans that even if they get the 2 seed this

year they won’t have a bye week in the playoffs, and the fact that no one has been

able to go to the stadium at watch this team. All jokes and stats aside, I have never

been as excited watching a Bills team as I am with this one. The youth, the talent, the

coaching, the front office, and the culture that has been built around One Bills Drive

have all been as good as it has been since the early 1990’s. This franchise has the

ammunition to be Superbowl contenders for the next decade. In my opinion there is

no fan base as deserving as this one with the 25 years we just had to endure.


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