Bills remain work in progress under coach Marrone
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone has gradually come to the same
realization his four immediate predecessors encountered during
their first years on the job.
Transforming the Bills into winners doesn’t happen
Though not counting the Bills out just yet, Marrone grudgingly
acknowledged this week that the high expectations he had after
taking over in January have begun giving way to the reality that
his young, inconsistent team remains a work in progress.
”Yeah, I have a hard time with that,” Marrone said. ”We have
players here who are capable of winning games. We have coaches here
that are capable of winning games. And we’re not getting that done.
And that’s where I’m struggling to get ourselves over that top and
The only thing that has remained consistent is the team’s losing
record as the Bills (4-8) prepare to travel to play Tampa Bay (3-9)
Buffalo is in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active
playoff drought to 14 seasons. That would tie Cincinnati
(1991-2004), Tampa Bay (1983-96) and Kansas City (1972-85) for the
11th longest stretch in league history.
Following a 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta last weekend, the
Bills are guaranteed their ninth year without a winning record.
It’s as if, Marrone said, that he’s fighting an uphill battle
against the franchise’s losing past.
”Make no mistake, I think that you do fight those things,”
Marrone said. ”But that’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here.
That’s why our staff is here. That’s why the players are here to
Easier said than done for a team now on its fifth coach since
Under Marrone, Buffalo has shown glimpses of progress.
The Bills have been competitive particularly at home, where
they’re 3-4, including last weekend’s game at Toronto. The four
losses have been decided by a combined 17 points, including two in
They’ve shown signs of resilience in overcoming injuries,
especially at quarterback after rookie starter EJ Manuel missed
four games with a sprained right knee.
And their defense has improved under new coordinator Mike
Buffalo’s NFL-leading 43 sacks are the most by the Bills through
12 games. Buffalo is also tied for second in the league with 16
What’s been most promising is the play of their crop of rookies.
It’s a group led by linebacker Kiko Alonso, a second-round draft
pick, who has merited mention as a rookie defensive player of the
Manuel, the team’s first-round pick, has been inconsistent but
efficient at quarterback. He has a 3-4 record in games he’s started
and finished. Overall, Manuel has thrown nine touchdowns versus
four interceptions and also scored a touchdown rushing.
The trouble has been the Bills’ inability to consistently
manufacture their own breaks.
They squandered a 14-0 lead to Atlanta, and then lost the game
by losing fumbles on their final two possessions. In a 23-13 loss
to Kansas City on Nov. 3, Buffalo held a 470-210 edge in yards
offense, but still lost after the Chiefs returned two turnovers for
Those are among the telltale signs of growing pains that were
expected from a team that went through a top-to-bottom offseason
”It’s definitely tough, but it part of it,” running back Fred
Jackson said. ”There are some growing pains there.”
Linebacker Manny Lawson likes what he’s seen in his first year
with the Bills.
”I haven’t been here for the past years, so I don’t know
everything that’s gone on,” Lawson said. ”But I see a lot of
The Bills’ season so far can be summed up by a motivational
message, ”Don’t confuse effort with results,” Marrone had painted
prominently on the two end zone walls inside the team’s practice
It’s a message that hits home to Jackson.
”That’s something we talk about probably every week. We say,
`We’re giving the effort, we’re still not getting the results,”’
Jackson said. ”That means we’ve still got to keep working.”
NOTES: TE Scott Chandler was excused from practice because his
wife is expecting a child. … WR Marquise Goodwin was held out of
the final portion of practice as a precaution after hurting his
calf. … DT Kyle Williams returned to practice after getting a day
off to rest his sore right foot.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org