Apparently, nice guys do finish last.
by Dave Staba (@DavidStaba) - posted 11:25 am, December 16, 2008
Apparently, nice guys do finish last.
Buffalo’s nauseating retreat from a three-point lead with just more than two minutes to play Sunday in New Jersey all but assured that the Bills will conclude 2008 at the bottom of the AFC East, as well as serving as this month’s laughingstock of professional sports.
The game-turning fumble by the helpless J.P. Losman, the direct result of the most inexplicable single play call in the franchise’s 49 seasons, put Buffalo at 6-8, three full games behind their three foes in the AFC East, a division the Bills led barely two months ago, with two contests left on the schedule.
Back then, Dick Jauron’s team looked positioned to put Leo Durocher’s old taunt-turned-cliché to rest, to prove that a football team coached and populated by humble, decent men with some sense of perspective might actually triumph over the glaring, jaw-jutting, mustachioed mindset prevalent through most of the National Football League.
It was easy to pull for those Bills, whose efficient and entertaining string of early-season wins reflected the philosophy espoused by Jauron and the man who hired him, Marv Levy.
Buffalo’s strong start also seemed to validate Levy’s two-season return as general manager, further puncturing the notion that only spittle-spraying football traditionalists can build a winning team.
But while Levy and the only head coach he hired share Ivy League backgrounds and a more expansive world view than most football types, Jauron’s team showed none of the resilience that was at the franchise’s core during his mentor’s tenure on the sidelines.
Jauron’s team never recovered from the knockout blow absorbed by Trent Edwards in Week 5. Yes, the Bills and their starting quarterback recovered in time to put together a comprehensive win over San Diego, but that accomplishment has become significantly less impressive as the Chargers have also stumbled to a 6-8 mark.
Buffalo became increasingly lost as November dragged into December, managing only a pair of field goals in lifeless losses to San Francisco and Miami.
The offense came to life Sunday, due mainly to bravura efforts by running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.
So it was only fitting that the Bills chose to give the ball to neither back on Sunday’s pivotal play, but to instead entrust the game to Losman.
Losman is another guy you want to like, an amiable sort who is one of the few Bills in modern times who chose to make his home within Buffalo’s city limits, instead of barricading himself in a suburban mini-mansion.
Unfortunately, Losman’s level of civic commitment matters as much as Jauron’s degree from Yale when it comes to Sunday afternoons and Monday nights.
Jauron told reporters after the game that he, and not offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, decided it would be a good idea to eschew all rational thought and let Losman roll out on second-and-5.
Whether that’s true or not, the disastrous but thoroughly predictable result – sack, fumble, Jets touchdown, ballgame — would ensure Jauron’s dismissal in any other city. On Sunday, however, NFL.com reiterated its earlier report that Ralph Wilson had given his coach a three-year extension back when things were good, which would mean the Bills owner will be paying Jauron to do something for the next three years.
But after a season of collapses, both sudden and ongoing, bringing Jauron back as coach would rate as an up-yours of epic proportions to the fans who bought every ticket for every game in the stadium that bears Wilson’s name.
Wilson must know that. You don’t achieve his level of success without knowing what your customers want.
The only question now is if he cares.
Pick up Thursday’s Artvoice for further analysis of Sunday’s debacle.