"We're not that far away"

Buddy Nix says Bills close to being contender. He has tough decisions ahead. The team's new G.M. will probably be rebuilding without Terrell Owens (left)...

New general manager Buddy Nix thinks the Bills aren't that far away from competing for a playoff spot.

Perhaps nobody's told him the team has failed to make the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons, that it has burned through six head coaches and four GMs in that span and that last season, the club finished 30th in offense and 19th on defense.

"You may think I'm crazy but we're not that far away in this league," said Nix, the former Bills scout and assistant GM in San Diego who helped turned the Chargers into an AFC power.

"The league is watered down now. Almost every game it's two or three critical plays, two or three mistakes that make the difference. If we can do a good job, we can get away from that."

Indeed, the Bills lost five games by 7 points or less in 2009 when they finished with a 6-10 record. Two losses were the direct result of fumbles by kick and punt return specialists against New England and Cleveland. A break or two could've gotten them over the hump in excruciatingly close defeats to Jacksonville and the New York Jets.

But while a play here or there could've turned the Bills' record around, nobody with an honest eye can kid themselves. The Bills were not a good football team, one capable of making its own breaks.

And now with a complete overhaul of the coaching staff under way, starting with a search for a head coach, continuity isn't something that will be in play in 2010. Along with new coaches, half the roster is expected to be turned over with free agents such as Terrell Owens, Josh Reed and Ryan Denney not expected back.

"I'm fairly certain they are looking for a complete re-do here and bringing in new guys," said defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who is among the young solid veterans the new coaching staff will want to retain. "All I can say is that I'll be here, I'll do what I'm told and I'll give you what I got."

Nix and chief executive officer Russ Brandon spent the first week of the offseason interviewing and lining up coaching candidates; the process is expected to take at least two to three weeks. Interim coach Perry Fewell, who led Buffalo to a 3-4 record in place of Dick Jauron, was officially interviewed Monday.

Any candidate that hopes to take over Buffalo's team will have to convince Nix, Brandon and team owner Ralph Wilson that he can fix Buffalo's offensive woes. Buffalo has ranked 25th or worse in total yardage seven years in a row. In 2009, the Bills ranked 30th in passing, last in sacks allowed with 46, last in converting third downs and 28th in scoring.

Buffalo used three quarterbacks, with one-time promising prospect Trent Edwards benched for journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The line was a complete disgrace to the front office, which traded Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia rather than pay him. Buffalo wound up using nine line combinations.

The offense's inability to convert third downs and stay on the field took a huge toll on the defense, which played 175 more plays. It finished 30th against the run.

"The games we lost this year, we were in a bunch of those until the third and fourth quarter," said Owens, who finished with 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns. "Offensively, we just didn't have the firepower and we didn't execute a lot of plays to help the defense. We put them in bad situations and they were on the field longer than needed to be. They were spent by the fourth quarter. The offense, we just didn't get the job done."

Toss in a team-record 21 players that wound up on injured reserve, and Buffalo brewed a recipe for disaster.




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