Overreactions: Ranking 2014’s Bills First 2 Games in the Era of Futility

There are two parts to this:

The Bills are 2-0 and it’s exciting.  But we’ve been 2-0 before and we’ve been excited before, so I decided to take a look at the entire Era of Futility and see where this season’s start ranks in terms of excitement, and what that means.

Secondly, anyone who’s watched the Bills over the last decade and a half knows that it hasn’t just been the sheer number of games they’ve lost, but the way they’ve lost them.  It’s been especially frustrating because 14 years of no playoffs is somewhat unusual, even in the NFL where only 12 teams make it every year.  Generally even bad teams put together a soft schedule or they get a little lucky one year and crap there way to a decent record, and you get things like Rex Grossman inexplicably winning 13 games and getting the opportunity to make an ass of himself in the Super Bowl or Derek Anderson…DEREK FUCKING ANDERSON leading the Browns…THE GODDAMN CLEVELAND BROWNS to a 10-6 record.  Although they missed the playoffs on tiebreakers.  #LOLCleveland

Part I: Ranking Excitement

#15 – 2010

2010
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Miami 10 15 7-9
Green Bay 7 34 10-6

Coach: Chan Gailey

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best Player: Fitzpatrick – 57.8% — 3,000 yards — 23 TD — 15 INT (13 games played)

Record: 4-12

Pretty much everyone expected this team to suck right out of the gate and pretty much everyone was okay with that given that it contained precisely zero Dick Jaurons.  The first two games were pretty much devoted to Chan Gailey deciding that Trent Edwards sucked balls and forever stapling him to the bench.

#14 – 2001

2001
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
New Orleans 6 24 7-9
Indianapolis 26 42 6-10

Coach: Gregg Williams

Quarterback: Alex Van Pelt

Best Player: Larry Centers – 80(!) Receptions — 620 Rec. Yds — 160 Rsh. Yds

Record: 3-13

I don’t really remember the early years so well, but I do remember this being one of the worst teams in my lifetime.  Picking out a best player from this team is like picking out the best Bills team of the Futility Era.  Is it Van Pelt’s 12 TD and 11 INT?  Is it Eric Moulds’s 904 receiving yards?  Is it Travis Henry’s 729 rushing yards?  I went with 80 receptions from an aging fullback because, fuck it.

#13 – 2004

2004
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Jacksonville 10 13 9-7
Oakland 10 13 9-7

Coach: Mike Mularkey

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe

Best Player: Willis McGahee – 1,128 rushing yds — 13 rushing TDs

Record: 9-7

I think this start left a lot of people scratching their heads.  The team was in its third year with Bledsoe and its first with Mularkey.  He seemed like a fun, half competent coach, the offense was expected to be decent, and the defense much improved.  Then the Bills lost back to back games by a field goal and…well…we all know how the story ends.

# 12 – 2007

2007
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Denver 14 15 7-9
Pittsburgh 3 26 10-6

Coach: Dick Jauron

Quarterback: Trent Edwards

Best Player: Marshawn Lynch – 1,115 rushing yds — 7 rushing TDs

Record: 7-9

Ah the Kevin Everett game followed by a shellacking at the hands of Pittsburgh.  Followed later by the Monday night collapse vs. Dallas when I threw my injured roommate’s crutches into the courtyard of our townhouse complex in a fit of rage.  Good times.

#11 – 2012

2012
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
NJ Jets 28 48 6-10
Kansas City 35 17 2-14

Coach: Chan Gailey

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best Player: C.J. Spiller – 1,244 rushing yds — 459 receiving yds — 8 total TDs

Record: 6-10

I don’t think any one game turned the fans on a team faster than that opener against the Jets did.  Chan Gailey had proven himself somewhat less incompetent than his predecessors and people thought that Ryan Fitzpatrick, with some weapons, could be okay.  But after the Jets drilled us (and that score is kinder than it actually was), and the Bills beat up on the terrible Chiefs, fans were almost done with the team already.  Fitzpatrick continued his trend of being decent EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE TIME and the team finished 6-10.

#10 – 2009

2009
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
New England 24 25 10-6
Tampa Bay 33 20 3-13

Coach: Dick Jauron / Perry Fewell

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best Player: Fred Jackson – 1,062 rushing yards — 371 receiving yards — 4 total TDs

Record: 6-10

Dick Jauron was fired by now right?  How was Dick Jauron not fired by now?  Any team helmed by Jauron has to score low in enthusiasm.  After McKelvin’s fumble in week 1, and struggling unecessarily with a bad Tampa Bay team in week 2, the book on this team was written.  Jesus fuck, I forgot this was the Terrell Owens year too.  Holy shit this team’s history is littered with tears and diarrhea.

#9 – 2005

2005
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Houston 22 7 2-14
Tampa Bay 3 19 11-5

Coach: Mike Mularkey

Quarterback: J. P. Losman

Best Player: Willis McGahee – 1,247 rushing yards — 5 rushing TDs

Record: 5-11

I almost ranked this one higher, but I feel like enthusiasm was pretty tempered.  People were excited by the young flashy quarterback’s fairly un-terrible performance in week one, only to have it squashed the next week against a team that wasn’t apocalyptically bad.  Here are Losman’s (sack adjusted) passing yards in his first four games: 164, 100, 36, 67.  Ouch.

#8 – 2006

2006
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
New England 17 19 12-4
Miami 16 6 6-10

Coach: Dick Jauron

Quarterback: J. P. Losman

Best Player: Lee Evans – 1,292 receiving yds — 8 receiving TDs

Record: 7-9

The young QB has a year under his belt and will surely have improved.  Uh…they hired Dick Jauron for some reason.  That’s cool.  I guess.  I’m not sure I’ve been more depressed as a Bills fan in a moment that didn’t involve an actual football game than I was when they hired Jauron.  EVERYBODY IN THE HISTORY OF FOREVER COULD SMELL THAT BEING A FUCK-AWFUL DECISION FROM A MILE AWAY.

#7 – 2013

2013
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
New England 21 23 12-4
Carolina 24 23 12-4

Coach: Doug Marrone

Quarterback: E. J. Manuel

Best Player: Starting Running Back – 1,823 rushing yards — 572 receiving yards — 11 Rushing TDs

Record: 6-10

“We know we’re going to be awful, but hey we have a young QB to watch!  Oh my fucking god did you see that Panthers game?!  EJ FOREVER.  Between EJ’s inexperience, Thad Lewis’s That Lewis-ness, and Jeff Tuel wholly and completely sucking, the 2013 Bills had slightly below average quarterbacking when all was said and done.  EJ Manuel showed signs of competence, is now most certainly better than everyone that came before him post-Kelly save for Doug Flutie and five minutes of Drew Bledsoe, and perhaps would have progressed nicely had he played a full season.

#6 – 2002

2002
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
NJ Jets 31 37 9-7
Minnesota 45 39 6-10

Coach: Gregg Williams

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe

Best Player: Drew Bledsoe – 61.5% — 4,359 yds — 24 TD — 15 INT; Travis Henry – 1,438 rushing yds — 309 receiving yds — 14 total TDs

Record: 8-8

“We know we’re going to be awful, but god damn we are going to score some football points.”  Let’s look at the point totals weeks one through eight: 31 (L), 45 (W), 23 (L), 33 (W), 31 (L), 31 (W), 23 (W), and 24 (W).  Damn.  Unfortunately the defense was terrible and the offense cooled off in the second half of the season.

 #5 – 2011

2011
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Kansas City 41 7 7-9
Oakland 38 35 8-8

Coach: Chan Gailey

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Best Player: Stevie Johnson – 76 rec. — 1,004 yds — 7 TDs

Record: 6-10

I think in the back of their minds people knew the Chiefs sucked and knew the team should have had an easier time with Oakland.  But this was a team that could have started 7-0 as they were 5-2 one week after the bye with two field goal losses.  Then they proved incapable of beating the other craptacular teams in their division and that was that.  The only enjoyable thing about this season was beating the ever loving merciless fuck out of Tim Tebow in week 16.

#4 – 2014

2014
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Chicago 23 20 ?
Miami 29 10 ?

Coach: Doug Marrone

Quarterback: E.J. Manuel

Best Player: We’re not sure.  It could be Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins, E.J. Manuel, or someone on the defense.

Record: 2-0

We’ve been hurt before.  But there is reason to hope.  Sammy Watkins is a stud and the corps of wide receivers might just be good enough to ease E.J. Manuel’s growing pains.  Plus the running backs are going to be good every week, as is the defensive line.  If the team stagnates, this is probably a 6-10 season, but if a few young guys grow, like they should, it could be the other way around at 10-6.

#3 – 2008

2008
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Seattle 34 10 4-12
Jacksonville 20 16 5-11

Coach: Dick Jauron

Quarterback: Trent Edwards

Best Player: Marshawn Lynch – 1,036 rushing yds — 8 rushing TDs

Record: 7-9

Ah, the year everyone thought Trent Edwards was a good quarterback as late as week 7 when they beat a fairly good Chargers team 23-14 to go to 5-1.  People point to Trent Edwards’s concussion in the Arizona game as the turning point of his career, but I think it’s more likely that he was only mediocre at best to begin with.

#2 – 2000

2000
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
Tennessee 16 13 13-3
Green Bay 27 18 9-7

Coach: Wade Phillips

Quarterback: Rob Johnson

Best Player: Eric Moulds – 94 rec. — 1,326 yds — 5 TDs

Record: 8-8

The team vanquished the hated Cheatesee Cheaters in game 1, Frank Wycheat and Kevin Dycheat were hit by meteors and disintegrated on the spot and the team raced to its first of five 2-0 starts since it last made the playoffs.

#1 – 2003

2003
Opponent PF PA Opp Rec
New England 31 0 14-2
Jacksonville 38 17 5-11

Coach: Gregg Williams

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe

Best Player: Travis Henry – 1,356 rushing yds — 10 rushing TDs

Record: 6-10

I know people get hung up on 2004 and the loss to the Pennsylvania Dickbags’ backups and their dickbag fans waving their dicktowels around, but this one hurts me so, so much more.  The team obliterated the patriots and then went on and crushed the Jaguars the following week.  I remember both games and they were eviscerations.  And the game that broke the Bills.  The Miami Dolphins on Sunday night football.  Bledsoe was like Samson that year and the Miami Dolphins cut off all his hair.  He averaged 272 yards passing in the first two games.  He averaged 166 in the rest.  When teams started pressuring him, he couldn’t do anything.  I thought the Bills were poised to be a contender that year and they wound up 6-10.

Part II: One Score Games

The most frustrating thing for me watching the Bills has been seeing them blow close game upon close game upon close game.  Their record in one score games is 42-60 in the years since they made the playoffs, which is actually better (.412) than their overall record of 88-136 (.393).  But I wanted to see how they would have fared if they were even just league average (.500, duh) in games decided by one score.  For years in which they played an odd number of such games, I judged .500 to be one more win than loss.

I also wanted to see how they would have fared if they’d gotten a little lucky, looking at their record if they’d been one game over .500 in close games and if their close game record had been reversed, say 5-2 instead of 2-5.  Mostly the team has been hot crap and it wouldn’t have mattered either way, but I did find out a few interesting things.

2004

The team was 2-4 in games decided by one score in 2004 and it goes without saying that they’d have made the playoffs in all cases, if they’d gone .500 (3-3), or one game over/had that reversed at 4-2.  Their best bet at 10-6 would have been beating the Jets in week 5 which would have matched them up against the 12-4 Chargers, whom the Jets beat while riding a couple of Nate Kaeding missed field goals.

Their best path to 11-5 would have been winning any of the other three games in addition to the Jets game (Oakland, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh) which would have matched them up against the Manning-led Colts in place of Denver who got Manning-ed 49-24.

2006

The 2006 Bills were actually halfway decent, going 7-9 and 3-6 in close games.  A solid defense coupled with J.P. Losman occasionally being not awful and being really really good at throwing one type of pass to Lee Evans would have had them in the mix for a playoff spot had they been able to go 5-4 in their one score games.  Literally any two would have tied them with Kansas City at 9-7 and given them the tiebreaker edge in Conference record.  There they would have faced the Indianapolis Colts, whom they were a hair away from beating in the regular season, losing that game 17-16.

Had they been able to reverse their 3-6 close game record to go 10-6 they would have leapfrogged the Jets for the 5th seed as long as one of those wins came against a divisional opponent.  That would have pit them against New England to whom they no doubt would have lost just as handily as the Jets did (37-16).

2009

The Bills went 2-5 in close games in 2009.  Going 5-2 would have put them at 9-7 along with the Jets, Ravens, Steelers, and Texans, and I have no real desire to figure out who would have made it out of that clusterfuck.  Both of the teams that did make it, the Jets and Ravens, wound up winning their first round games.  It’s hard to envision a Fitzpatrick-led Bills team replicating that, but hey, Mark Sanchez did it…

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About Alex

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