The Buffalo Bills can win the Super Bowl... with one philosophy change
They're close. So close. GM Brandon Beane has done a solid job this month. But to finally, once and for all, win a Super Bowl? The Bills need to look in the mirror.
He needed to “disappear” first. For one week, Taiwan Jones traveled to the other side of the globe. To Dubai. And upon returning, he spent a quick two days in Buffalo before flying home to California.
This might’ve been the heartbeat of the Buffalo Bills in 2022, but Jones is no household name. Nor does he even use his actual name on the Uber app. So excuse his driver for having absolutely zero clue who was stepping into his vehicle. With the Buffalo Bills’ 27-10 loss to Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC divisional playoff round still throbbing, the driver asked Jones if he was a Bills fan. Jones played along — “I am,” he said — and the driver shared a joke.
“Why is it easy for a girl from Buffalo to get a boyfriend? … Because they’re not expecting a ring.”
Jones chuckled and pointed out that the Bills were close this season. To which, the driver looked visibly disgusted by the team’s performance vs. Cincy.
“They didn’t show up,” the driver told Jones. “I’ve seen better college games. That game was best to just not be played because no one showed up.”
When Jones asked what happened, the driver first guessed that it was the weight of adversity throughout the season catching up to the players before correcting himself. No, no. Nobody expects a team to look this flat, he said, because it appeared the Bills didn’t even want to be there.
And as this driver ranted on, and on, Jones never told him he played for the Bills. Never even pushed back.
“I just took it,” Jones says. “I had to take it because I honestly felt the same way. I agree with him 100 percent. That game, I left so mad. Last year was hard to deal with because we were so close. But I was able to swallow it because at least I knew everyone went out swinging. I can take a loss on a chin and as long as my guys go out fighting? I can live with that. But this last game was harder to deal with because I felt like we didn’t go out swinging. A lot of us left something on the table or we just ran out of gas.
“That stung harder. I left that field pretty upset.”
So were the 70K in attendance and millions of long-tortured supporters ‘round the country.
Bills fans are smart and justifiably demanding more than division titles seven years into this regime.
That night, the Bills felt objectively further away from a Super Bowl than they did after each of the last three playoff defeats. Because not only did the Bengals punk this team in every facet — everyone’s keenly aware that the days of GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott supermarket spree’ing their way through free agency are over. This is new territory with Josh Allen making $258 million over six years and the likes of Von Miller ($52.4M, three years), Tre’Davious White ($69M, four years), Stefon Diggs ($96M, four years), Dion Dawkins ($58.3M, four years) and Dawson Knox ($52M, four years) all paid handsomely. Only two players originally drafted by Beane have been extended. Suboptimal drafting for a team banging at the Super Bowl door. McDermott keeps getting what he wants on draft day, yet it hasn’t mattered in the games that count most. The last three playoff defeats, Buffalo has sacked Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow four times on 122 total dropbacks.
That Uber driver reflects the mood of the team at-large because now the Bills are in danger of losing ground.
The defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs paid their quarterback but keep finding playmakers on both sides of the ball in the draft. Cincinnati will pay Joe Burrow soon, yet added one of the best left tackles at a surreal discount. All the Miami Dolphins did was reel in cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a third-round pick and a backup tight end. Excellent linebacker David Long Jr. cost only $11 million for two years. And the best acquisition in the entire NFL was Vic Fangio. The new defensive coordinator will get the most out of his star power: Jaelan Philips, Bradley Chubb, Christian Wilkins, Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland and Ramsey. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins defense turns dominant.
Aaron Rodgers is expected to join the division. Lamar Jackson will play football… somewhere.
Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville) and Justin Herbert (L.A.) are both poised to leap to superstardom.
And here were the Bills, bruised ‘n bloodied by those Bengals, with no choice but to work the fringes of free agency.
At multiple press conferences, a tepid Beane sounded more like Cousin Eddie warning his kids Santa isn’t coming this year. He said the Bills didn’t want to suck bad enough to draft Ja’Marr Chase. He claimed he didn’t want to go so crazy signing vets that the Bills are soon forced to tear the roster completely down. A not-so-subtle reference to the L.A. Rams, the 2021 Super Bowl champs. All in all, Beane basically told his constituents to watch March Madness instead of NFL Network. But in reality? Beane then did a bang-up job in free agency. Maybe it’s the bald, thrifty, “Hun, do you really need a $9 drink at Starbucks?” middle-aged dad in me, but I love these moves. Down to pocket change, the Bills found a new left guard (Connor McGovern), a speed threat who brings profound life perspective (Deonte Harty), a grit-and-grime wide receiver who’s earned every inch in life (Trent Sherfield) and a bigger, better two-down running back (Damien Harris).
The market was unkind to safety Jordan Poyer, so even he’s back on a team-friendly contract that’ll promptly be devoured by NYS taxes.
All unbelievably promising. This team remains extremely close to winning it all.
But as the GM opined on the cap… as fans clamored for the dusty remains of Zeke and OBJ… as Leslie Frazier suspiciously stepped away, I couldn’t help but think that we’re all having the wrong conversation around these Buffalo Bills. Such issues are granular in relation to the No. 1 problem holding Buffalo back. A shiny new toy in free agency is not what’ll ultimately get the Bills over the hump. McDermott assuming playcalling duties on defense isn’t the a-ha moment, either.
This is a franchise in need of a philosophy change.
The Bills still possess a quarterback in Josh Allen at the peak of his powers. How long he stays at this peak is a mystery. Buffalo must conduct all business on and off the field with this sense of urgency top of mind. Time’s of the essence. Because if the Bills refuse to evolve, we know their ceiling. We see it each January. They’ll continue to coffin-corner punt their way to numbing defeats and McDermott will max out as a modern-day Marty Schottenheimer, Marvin Lewis, John Fox. Those whispers that the Bills let the wrong coach exit the building will only get louder.
So, it’s simple: The entire organization must lean into what it does have — Allen — and function as an unstoppable offensive juggernaut that wants to score 50 points every Sunday.
At the Combine, Beane told the tale of how Buffalo fell in love with its quarterback. They first met him at the Senior Bowl. Then they worked him out privately in Laramie, Wyoming. That trip, the GM said they spent a good 18 to 24 hours with Allen. Finally, the Bills brought the quarterback in for one of their 30 in-house visits.
“What we came away with,” Beane said, “was we still have a young man who’s still ascending and has the DNA. He’s very smart. He’s a competitive guy. He’s got that want-to. He’s got that give-a-shit factor that, ‘Man, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.’ And every offseason we’ve been here, Josh is his own worst critic and that’s what we knew about him. Whatever his deficiencies are, he’s very self-aware. You can be open and honest with him — and he’s willing to work on them.”
It's time for those in charge to do the same thing. Off the field. The Bills now need to parlay a strong March into, you know, drafting a wide receiver before Round 4. This is the team’s most important draft since ’18. On the field. Step one is admitting you have a problem. Five playoff losses have supplied more than enough proof. Seanball needs to be terminated. The time is now for McDermott to stop coaching like a man paralyzed by fear on fourth down in January.
The identity of the Bills needs to change.
The good news? It absolutely can.
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