Bills still a work in progress after 6-10 finish
Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon opened 2013 vowing to
transform what he called the franchise’s ”tarnished”
On Monday, Brandon closed the year with the job still
Though pleased with the direction the team has taken under
first-year general manager Doug Whaley and first-year coach Doug
Marrone, Brandon expressed disappointment with a 6-10 finish and
the Bills extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 14
”I have all the faith and belief in (Marrone) and (Whaley) to
keep continuing to get this ship pointed in the right direction and
see significant progress as we enter 2014,” Brandon said. ”What
we don’t feel good about is sitting here and talking to you at
6-10. And that needs to change.”
Change was the operative word last offseason, when the Bills
went through a near top-to-bottom overhaul. Buffalo purged much of
its roster, and began a rebuilding plan that included drafting
quarterback EJ Manuel with the 16th pick out of Florida State.
The transition has yet to start paying dividends. In closing the
season with a 34-20 loss at New England on Sunday, Buffalo finished
with six wins for a third consecutive year, ended fourth in the AFC
East for a sixth consecutive year, and extended its string of
losing seasons to nine dating to a 9-7 finish in 2004.
”With youth comes inconsistency,” Whaley said. ”So all those
guys that contributed this year, we expect them to take a bigger
step next year, play more consistent and be more productive.”
And that includes Manuel, who struggled with his consistency,
and had his development stunted by injuries to both knees since
Manuel missed the final two preseason games with a left knee
injury. He missed four regular-season games after spraining his
right knee in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland. And he then closed the
year missing the final two games after tearing a ligament in his
Manuel finished with a 4-6 record, completed just 58.8 percent
of his attempts (180 of 306 for 1,972 yards) and finished with 11
touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Marrone maintains confidence in Manuel, and has already informed
the quarterback he’ll be the team’s starter entering next
Dismissing his critics, Manuel called his rookie season a
”Obviously, you’re going to have ups and downs as a rookie,”
Manuel said. ”I’ve had some good games, and there’s a lot I can
take and build from. I don’t really know who’s questioning things.
But as far as me, I’m just continuing to get better.”
Marrone announced he’s already made one change to his staff by
firing receivers coach Ike Hilliard because of ”a difference in
philosophy.” Hilliard, who spent 12 seasons in the NFL playing
receiver, was responsible for overseeing a young group that
included rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
On the personnel front, Whaley intends to make an offer in a bid
to re-sign three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd. And Whaley
didn’t rule out the possibility of using the franchise designation
for a second consecutive year to retain the player’s rights even if
it risks the possibility of having the player miss the entire
offseason as he did this past year.
Byrd is open to re-signing, and also braced for possibility of
the Bills retaining his rights once again.
”I’m at peace with everything. I know what to expect,” Byrd
said. ”I’ve gone through it once. And it’ll be good. However it
works, it’ll be good.”
Statistically, the Bills showed improvement on several
Their defense, though inconsistent in stopping the run, finished
second in the NFL with a franchise-record 57 sacks. The defense
ranked 10th in the NFL in yards allowed – the unit’s best finish
since placing second in 2004.
Byrd, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and defensive end Mario
Williams all earned Pro Bowl selections this year.
The defense also featured linebacker Kiko Alonso, a second-round
pick, who is regarded an NFL defensive rookie of the year
On offense, the Bills’ running attack finished second in the NFL
with 2,307 yards – the most since 1992.
Running back Fred Jackson was among numerous veterans who
expressed confidence the team might finally be turning the
”If you watched us play this year, you’ll know that we’re not
the same team that we’ve been,” Jackson said. ”But there’s no
moral victories. We know that. We know that for us to be relevant,
we have to win more football games.”
NOTES: The Bills retained the rights to seven practice squad
players: QB Dennis Dixon, DB Mario Butler, OTs Edawn Coughman and
Jamaal Johnson-Webb, DE Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, WR Brandon Kaufman
and LB Jacquies Smith. … Whaley said he’s open to re-signing PK
Dan Carpenter and P Brian Moorman.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org