ORCHARD PARK - I guess it’s somehow fitting the Bills were whistled for 9 – you read right – 9 false starts in a 6-3 loss to the equally inept Cleveland Browns Sunday at the Ralph because this season so far has been one, big false start for Buffalo.
And given the rash of injuries – they probably lost linebacker Kawika Mitchell for the year after he mangled his right leg on the first play of the second quarter – it’s extremely doubtful things are going to get better any time soon.
The Bills have now lost five defensive starters to injury, their woefully inexperienced O-line is a shambles, their quarterback is regressing faster than a QB chased by Bruce Smith in his prime and their head coach is on ice so thin it couldn’t hold a feather.
I didn’t have great expectations about this team heading into the season, but I never expected it to be this bad.
Sadly, it’s beginning to feel a lot like 2001 at One Bills Drive. You might remember (or perhaps you’d rather forget) that was the season in which rookie head coach Gregg Williams led a gutted team to a 3-13 record and a last-place finish. There were guys on that team who would have had problems making a good team’s practice squad, let alone their 53-man roster . And in some instances they were starting for those Counterfeit Bills.
I wish I could report something positive, I really do, because it’s no fun covering a habitually mediocre football team. But I’d be grasping for straws.
I really can’t see how Ralph Wilson retains Dick Jauron as head coach any longer. He’s followed up three consecutive 7-9 seasons with a 1-4 start that surely will be 1-5 after the Jets pound them in the Jersey swamplands next week. As I wrote last week, a change has to be made, just to let the fans know that management is at least paying attention.
I suggested Bobby April, solely as an interim guy, but now I’m second-guessing myself on that one, given the sketchy play of a special teams unit that had been rated the NFL’s best in three of the past five seasons. (Roscoe Parrish’s fumbled punt with three minutes to go led to the winning field goal and marked the second botched return by him in three weeks.)
The sad thing is that the Bills are back to square one. Edwards is a head-case right now, battered and on the verge of becoming a shell-shocked Buffalo version of David Carr. The offensive line was thrown together haphazardly and may wind up becoming solid down the road, but right now the unit is as overmatched as a Pop Warner team vs. the varsity.
The courtship of a Bill Cowher, a Jon Gruden, a Mike Shanahan, a Mike Holmgren, etc. needs to begin because there are several other NFL teams in dire need of leadership, too.
Wouldn’t you know it? The guy who recovered Parrish’ fumble to set up the winning field goal was Blake Contanzo, who led the Bills special teams in tackles last season with 26 and who now has three fumble recoveries in the Browns first five games.
The Browns last regular-season win came 11 months ago in a Monday night game here against the Bills.
Demetrius Bell, Jonathan Scott and Kirk Chambers were flagged twice each for false starts. Gives new meaning to the term “triple-double.’’
I still don’t understand how Lee Evans, who has more touchdown receptions of 70 yards or longer than any receiver in the NFL since the start of the decade, has become such a non-factor in the Bills offense this season. Especially when you’ve supposedly added a deep threat in Terrell Owens to take some of the coverage away from Evans. Unless Evans is hiding an injury from us, this all falls on the shoulders of Trent and the coaching staff.
I think Parrish used poor judgment in trying to field a rolling punt in the fourth quarter that resulted in the fumble and the winning three-pointer. But I understand why he felt compelled to try to force the issue and make a p lay because the Bills offense was so pathetic.
So if I told you before Sunday’s game that the Browns were going to beat the Bills even though quarterback Derek Anderson completed just 2-of-17 passes for 23 yards, you would have asked me what I had been drinking. But that’s what happened. Cleveland won, inspite of Anderson’s terrible stats and seven dropped passes by his receivers.