Buffalo Bills 2017 Season Recap
We now begin with our profiles into postseason qualifying teams of 2017. Our first one is an interesting study. A beleaguered franchise, mired in mediocrity, were able to end a historic drought. Most any type of negative recent history may resonate more with fans than organizations as a general rule. While a simple wild card berth can scrub nearly two decades of struggles away, the bigger question going forward is if the timing of this playoff appearance will be a boon or bane to their long term status.
2017 Record: 9-7
2016 Record: 7-9
Win Differential: +2
What Happened: 2017 began with a new head coach in Sean McDermott and new general manager Brandon Beane, both with experience from the Carolina Panthers. While the Panthers will never be confused with any of the NFL's legacy franchises, they have been a solid ballclub over the last few years, both on and off the field, issues with the founder notwithstanding. Beane would be aggressive in the trade market, pulling the trigger on deals that sent players like WR Sammy Watkins, whose rookie contract was close to expiring and decided to pick up something for the inconsistent talent instead of engaging in a contract negotiation or watching him walk in free agency. The Bills' philosophy on both sides of the ball really didn't deviate from McDermott's predecessor, Rex Ryan, in being predicated a run first offense and solid defense. However, the Bills of 2017 cut down on the mistakes that doomed Ryan's teams of the past. While Buffalo worked to a nondescript 9-7 record, circumstances beyond their control ensured them a wild card berth, their first playoff appearance since 1999 and the Music City Miracle. Despite an uninspiring performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the postseason's first round, it was an accomplishment unto itself to snap an 18 year playoff drought. Obviously, what comes next has become paramount.
What To Expect: The dark cloud that hung over the Bills throughout the season was the situation at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor, the Bills starter over the last two years, may have not been the classic drop back passer that many coaches and executives in the NFL covet, but Taylor has proven to be a competent starting QB at the pro level. That McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison decided to inexplicably sit Taylor for an important November game against the Los Angeles Chargers and put in rookie Nathan Peterman, whose abysmal performance forced Taylor back into action. That will no longer be an issue, as the Bills have completely retooled under center. Taylor was traded to Cleveland, A.J. McCarron was signed in free agency, and due to trades to move up in the draft, Buffalo selected the University of Wyoming's Josh Allen. The plan seems elementary at this point: McCarron will be the veteran who can start in Week 1, as Allen can be brought along safely, until he is ready to be plugged in, either due to injury or if/when the Bills fall out of playoff contention. With the shuffling at quarterback, the Bills are candidates ripe for regression. Unless they can replicate their success from a year ago, they will probably miss the playoffs. No sin there, as normally five teams sit home in January of one year when they played the campaign prior. But if Beane and McDermott's plan goes to script, 2018 will be a case of taking one step back to go two steps forward down the line. We'll find out soon enough if that indeed will be the case.