Bills Take One Step Forward, Two Steps Back!

It appears that the Donahoe "Friends and Pittsburgh Ties" program is still alive and kicking! With the recent hiring of Mike Mularkey, the Bills took the first step in a series of offseason moves to reshape a dismal 2003 team. This may very well be the end of the end for Mr. Donahoe in Buffalo.

Presumably the Bills are limited in which coaches they can sign due to a rumored self-imposed and long existing ceiling of $1 million. I question this unwritten policy regarding hiring inexpensive, read cheap, head coaches. This rumored Wilson-imposed $1 million cap on head coaches has not even seemingly been adjusted over the years to accommodate even economic dynamics with a slight cost-of-living increase let alone to provide some semblance of a competitive advantage.

While this may seem reasonable to some, it places the Bills at a clear disadvantage on an uneven playing field, pun intended. After a revolving door of poor QB play, poor head coaching, poor offensive coordinating, how many times are the Bills destined to make the same mistakes. Yet, limiting themselves beforehand to below average market value for a head coach ties the hands of the organization in being able to hire the best man for the job.

So Weiler, hiring Mularkey is a mistake, eh! No, we do not know. I can only tell you that neither myself nor anyone that I know who is a Bills fan, and that is quite a few people, are enthused about the move. Furthermore, what we do know is that there were several other far more experienced and formerly successful candidates available and that Mularkey was the least experienced and the least successful candidate of all those interviewed.

If money is the entire issue, the Bills would be better off self-imposing a salary cap that is $1-2 million less than that set by the NFL and by putting that into a head coach. Or heck, solicit the fans for the delta! I'd have gladly pitched in $10 to sign a decent head coach. I am sure there are another 99,999 fans out there who would have joined in the effort and pitched in the same to raise the additional million necessary to sign someone better if money was the entire issue.

Instead, the Bills braintrust and front office seemingly expect to build the nicest shiniest car they can, rub out the rust, put a Lamborghini chassis on it, and then stick a Yugo engine under the hood. Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick do more with less. Bills head coaches and offensive coordinators have done less with more as of late. Parcells pupils seem to exude success. Crennel played under Parcells as well as did Weiss. Fassel, apparently not impressing Donahoe, has the experience and success as well. Obviously he did something right even if Donahoe did not care for his interview. Perhaps Mr. Wilson should ask Mr. Donahoe what he thought about the interviews and then turn around and hire the candidate whom Donahoe liked the least. I would be far more comfortable with that at this point.

Brian Billick pupil Marvin Lewis, a defensive minded coach, along with his cast of assistants propelled the Bungling Bengals from 28th last season in scoring offense to 13th this season. The common thread between all of those coaches is that they have achieved the ultimate success in the NFL, namely a Super Bowl win in one capacity or another. But heck, why hire coaches who have succeeded when there are "cheaper" ones available, right!

So why is it that the Bills braintrust simply cannot figure out that the Bills would be better off without all the marquee players and with decent coaching than with a roster full of big names without a head and good leadership! And for this they get paid the big bucks. It is quite incredulous actually.

But wait Weiler, aren't you being a bit too hard on Mularkey and Donahoe? No! There is little reason to suggest that the offensive coordinator who in Pittsburgh this season led the Steelers to the 19th ranked scoring offense and the 22nd ranked yardage offense will correct the problems of a Bills team that was by far-and-away dead last by over two points per game in scoring production over the last 14 weeks of this season with only 11 points-per-game out of the offense during that stretch.

When you throw in the fact that in 6 of 7 games vs. playoff teams, other than the Ravens in week one of the season, the Steelers averaged fewer than 14 points per game in those other 6 contests and none of which were against teams currently remaining in the playoffs, then I would say that I am not being too hard here. With the lion's share of the Bills issues this season being on offense, why, why oh why is the answer Mularkey?

Mularkey took a team that was ranked 7th in scoring offense in '01 which was handed to him, produced a team ranked 8th in '02 likely on the merits of changing little, and then reduced it to the league's 19th ranked scoring offense this season. Can you say "trend."

This is not exactly enticing me to run out and double my season ticket purchases. It does put in jeopardy the re-purchase of the ones that I do have. Furthermore, I am of the mindset at this point that the team will cling to an aging and well past prime immobile Bledsoe and I'm practically down on my knees in tears wondering if Gilbride will be kept on.

The logic here is also frightening. Hire Mularkey, a former Tight Ends coach, draft Winslow or some other high prospect TE to make the "new Ben Coates" for Drew. It sounds great, on paper! The problems with that approach are numerous however, some of which are contained in my "Five Things'" piece. It also hitches the success of the Bills in the near future to Bledsoe's performance directly. A failed attempt using this methodology will set the Bills back, not propel them forward. The Bills do not need a receiving TE that cannot block and besides, Mark Campbell has demonstrated clearly that he is among the better all-around TEs in the league.

All I can think of is the Steeler team that got schooled by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game due to tactical mismanagement and after barely beating a weak Ravens team solely on the merits of defense to get to that game.

It was after that game that I had decided that Cowher and his offensive assistants were nowhere nearly as good as the media had been claiming. This is the same offensive coordinator who is now the head coach in Buffalo. The Steelers had 13 carries for 19 yards rushing from their running backs in that game and that was against a worse Patriot team than is on the field this season or will be next to be sure.

Tom Donahoe had better have an incredible offseason player-talent wise if the Bills expect the fans to get excited about next season. And by that I mean they had better sign two name players to start for each of the two lines and find a quarterback to replace Bledsoe as well. Otherwise, I will go on record right now stating that the Bills will fare no better than .500 in either of the next two seasons.

I personally cannot think of a more depressing way to attack and start the offseason than this move. Of all candidates interviewed, the Bills, for whatever reasons Donahoe had, opted for arguably the single candidate with the least experience suitable for head coaching along with the least record of success in the NFL.

It is a complete travesty to me quite frankly! All that I am waiting for now is the announcement at Mularkey's first press conference that Gilbride will be retained as his offensive coordinator due to "their having worked together before." Then naturally will come the corresponding announcements and assaults and insults on the fans' intelligence trying to sell us the notion that Gilbride will be better with his former fellow assistant coach over him.

Of course, then we may likely all be treated to yet another announcement that Bledsoe will be kept on along with all the reasons why, likely while making no real plans for the immediate future at QB. If that happens, I suppose I won't be attending any games in '04 until week six when tickets are available in the lots in droves for $5 apiece for good seats. As well it will enlighten the fan base as to exactly what Donahoe's true beliefs were regarding the retention of Gilbride and Bledsoe.

Those who have been ranting that Tom Donahoe is a veritable genius of sorts may very well be correct. Where else can a person earn as much as Donahoe does while consistently making such risky decisions with a consistent track record of "worst case scenarios" resulting. Mr. Donahoe will without question need some good fortune and will without question need to have a flawless offseason from a draft and free-agency perspective if he is to stave off fans questioning his decisions during his tenure in Buffalo following this season. Frankly, I am not sure that he will be able to weather the storm of criticism that will follow beginning immediately.

Meanwhile, the phrase "Déjà vu" comes to mind!


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories