The Buffalo Bills just started their off-season, yet already it has been unusually active. The organization had an up and down, bittersweet season this year, although they did wind up with a winning record. They clinched it by getting their first ever victory at New England’s Gillette Stadium in the season finale, after losing in their previous dozen attempts there. It also marked the franchise’s first win at New England since the 2000 season, and allowed the team to end the season on a positive note. There were some other big wins against solid teams as well, including playoff teams like the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Yet, there were also some disappointing setbacks and losses to weaker teams. Now, they have the off-season to cope with their issues before reloading for another crack at things next season.
The regular season just ended days ago. Yet already, the Bills have seen an unusually active off-season with some notable, and rather shocking, changes for Buffalo. First, starting quarterback Kyle Orton retired, and will not be back next season. That leaves a huge opening in a very important and high profile position. Questions will now arise as to whether E.J. Manuel is ready to once again assume the starting quarterback role that he lost, or whether someone else will fill those shoes. The Bills have stated that they are leaving their options open for the time being. Manuel was the starter early this season for Buffalo, but was benched after a 2-2 start.
Also, head coach Doug Marrone is now out, having just stepped down of his own accord in his capacity as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills finished 6-10 in 2013 under Marrone, and he led them to a winning record of 9-7 this season. It was the best record for the franchise in a decade. Still, Marrone exercised his option to opt out of his contract, and is now free to pursue other jobs. For the Bills, that means that the search for a new coach is on, and Buffalo has made clear that they intend to be very thorough in their search for a new coach. Some within the Bills organization believe that Marrone has a strong interest in the head coaching vacancy for the Jets, a division rival in the AFC East. That may be a concern in the future.
There has also been much speculation that Bill Polian might rejoin the club to oversee operations. Polian has a rich history with the organization, as he played a huge part in putting together the roster for Buffalo that saw them go to four straight Super Bowls in the nineties. He also won a Super Bowl in his capacity with the Colts in 2006. The prospect that he might be returning to Buffalo had many fans of the Bills excited.
Buffalo was a playoff contender for most of the season, until an upset loss to the Raiders at Oakland in the second to last weekend of regular season play knocked them out of the playoffs. Buffalo currently has the longest active drought of any NFL team in terms of qualifying for the playoffs. The last time that the Bills qualified for the postseason was back in 1999. They desperately want to change that, although they missed their opportunity this season.
There have been many changes for the Bills already in this unusually active off-season, and they do not even have a first round draft pick to look forward to. They traded that away for wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth pick in the first round of last year’s draft.
By Charles Bordeau
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