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Pitoniak: Time For Changes At One Bills Drive
In his post-game scrum with reporters at Miami's Sun Life Stadium late Sunday afternoon, C.J. Spiller said: "We gave it everything we had."
I think about 99.9 percent of Bills Nation citizenry would beg to differ.
Oh, C.J. certainly came to play. The most talented member of this mediocre team rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries and tacked on 35 more yards on four receptions, enabling him to join Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson as the only Buffalo running backs with ten 100-scrimmage-yard games in a season.
Sadly, most of Spiller's teammates failed to play with the same sense of intensity and urgency in a 24-10 loss to Miami that was a microcosm of this putrid Bills season.
That makes seven 10-loss seasons in the past 12 years, including three straight double-digit defeat seasons for Coach Chan Gailey.
During the week we heard passionate comments from the likes of Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick about how indebted they were to Chan. The feeling was that Stevie and Fitz and the rest of the Bills were going to play their hearts out for their beleaguered coach in these last two games.
So, this is how they reward him? With four turnovers, which led to 17 Dolphins points. With 11 penalties. With a defensive effort that allowed the Dolphins to rush for 182 yards.
Johnson, who fought back tears last week while talking about his coach, had four inconsequential catches for 44 yards. He also was stripped of the ball on his first reception - leading to Miami's first score; dropped what should have been a 20-yard catch; failed to hang onto what would have been a touchdown reception, and picked up a delay-of-game penalty when he flung away the ball in disgust after another catch.
Fitz, meanwhile, showed once more that he isn't a starting NFL quarterback. His fumble on a sack resulted in a Dolphins score, and he wound up being picked off at the Miami goal line with just under two minutes left and the Bills still harboring a slim, slim chance of coming back to tie the game.
Gailey said after last week's 50-17 humiliating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Toronto that the buck stops with him. He also said he believed this team was more talented than the one he inherited when he took the job three years ago. Sunday's defeat gives him a 15-32 record as the Bills head coach. Buffalo is guaranteed a fifth straight last-place finish in the AFC East. (In case you needed any more miserable statistics to gag on, the Bills are 3-14 vs. divisional opponents under Chan.)
I know 'tis the season to be jolly, but the Bills continue to be the proverbial piece of coal in the stocking.
And after next week's Irrelevancy Bowl game against the equally hapless Jets at the Ralph, the franchise will be faced with its annual housecleaning project.
(If you are looking for a bright spot, a loss by the Bills in the season finale, along with a couple of other teams winning, could give Buffalo the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft.)
I know general manager Buddy Nix gave Chan a vote of confidence earlier in the season, but the numbers don't lie. Chan isn't up to the rebuilding task. He's had his chance. It didn't work out. Buffalo needs to go in a different direction.
There had been talk about Oregon's Chip Kelly coming to Buffalo, but now there are reports that the Philadelphia Eagles also are interested in him. And Alabama coach Nick Saban reportedly is being courted by the Cleveland Browns.
It was unlikely either of them was coming to Buffalo any way. But there are several talented coaches who would be a good fit and would love the job. Go get one of them. The bottom line is that Chan is done. And Fitz needs to be done, too, as the starting QB.
Hey, I don't like the revolving door either. This would be the sixth coaching change in a dozen years. But it doesn't make sense to retain the status quo - or in this case the status woe - if it means you'll continue to wallow in mediocrity.
Bills fans received good news last week with the signing of the new stadium lease and renovation agreement.
The Ralph, we're told, will be a much better place to watch a football game.
That might be true as far as creature comforts are concerned. But it's going to take more than wider concourses, additional rest rooms and a new scoreboard to keep the stadium packed.
The fan experience won't truly improve until the renovations take hold on the roster.
Yes, the revolving door at coach and quarterback is making us dizzy, but given the latest last-place finish, change is the only answer.
Scott's Report Card
COACHING: To his credit, Chan did get C.J. 26 touches, but for some crazy reason he had Fitz throwing the ball on the one-yard line with just under two minutes to go and the Bills still without an outside chance of making a comeback. If you aren't going to give the ball to Spiller, why not at least use him in play action to freeze the pass defenders in that situation? GRADE: D
OFFENSE: Spiller was great. The rest of the offense was not, turning the ball over four times, resulting in 17 Miami points. If I'm Nix, I order Gailey to start Tavaris Jackson Sunday. GRADE: C-minus
DEFENSE: Allowed 182 rushing yards, didn't put much pressure on Ryan Tannehill and didn't force any turnovers. GRADE: C
SPECIAL TEAMS: Alex Carrington blocked his third field goal attempt of the season and Rian Lindell drilled a 42-yard field goal, giving him 22 in 23 attempts this season. GRADE: C-plus
OUTLOOK: Before the season, it appeared that Sunday's game between the Bills and Jets might have playoff implications for both teams. Now, it only has ramifications for last place in the division and draft position.
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