Bills closing in on 2017's worst-case result

November 22, 2017
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Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the Buffalo Bills are closing in on yet another season playing out in the absolute least desirable, most meaningless way. Let's recap.

The off-season started and they had a coaching vacancy. It appeared they soon would have them at general manager and quarterback too. That's not ideal but it's advantageous in one sense: You can chart a new course.

The Bills, in their usual way, stopped short. Instead of ditching general manager Doug Whaley at their first opportunity, they kept him on for months. He was the general manager at the 2017 NFL Draft, but no one believed then or now he had much to do with who was chosen, which of course is exactly how all good sports teams operate. And, instead of dumping quarterback Tyrod Taylor and setting out for a new hero at the position, they made their decision on his future not about ability, but about money. Taylor of course then surprised them and accepted their lower offer, and the Bills went forward with a quarterback they didn't really want.

Great job.

It was said every time in this space and on our show that the Bills had two worthy options. One, commit to Taylor and do your utmost to surround him with players and coaches best suited for his strengths and style. Two, move on and throw 2017 into the proverbial volcano, accepting some short-term headaches in the name of better long-term odds.

The Bills, naturally, did neither thing, and they are a few weeks away from finalizing the season no one wanted for them and that they should have avoided at all costs: stuck in the middle, not good enough for the playoffs, not bad enough for the draft's richest rewards.

They still have a chance to make the playoffs and nothing else matters now. Of course nothing else mattered last week either when Sean McDermott started fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman over Taylor, a reprehensible move. The time for grooming a quarterback isn't when you're in a playoff spot days before Thanksgiving. Peterman had to be at or above Taylor's level for McDermott's move to not be a huge mistake; to say that Peterman wasn't at Taylor's level is a gross understatement. An all-time bad decision for a franchise known for them.

What would be most fitting now happens to be the scenario that's likeliest. Bills Magic! Win three of your remaining six games, lose three, finish 8-8 and land just out of the playoffs. The Chargers game, which already will go down in Bills history for the Peterman debacle, has a good chance to stand out as the one you needed to win to end the drought.

McDermott announced Wednesday morning that he was returning to Taylor. In his undying effort to reflect positivity, McDermott emphatically and repeatedly stressed that the Bills are "in the hunt", failing to recognize that fans suffer a gag reflex every time they hear the phrase. We know, Sean, you weren't here the last 17 years -- but did anyone tell you about them?

Every ounce of energy since January should have been put into either maximizing a Taylor-led Bills team or distancing themselves from one. Somehow, Terry Pegula navigated us to some other destination where the tumbleweed blows.

Is there a way out?

This really is only interesting in the sense that many or most pro sports teams have figured out by now that the middle is death. If the AFC were a casino, the Patriots are running Phil Ivey's baccarat scheme and making millions, the Chiefs are counting cards at the blackjack table, and the Bills remain at the Moo-Lah slot machines with their players card attached to them by lanyard, permanently.

Before the 2017 regular season started I didn't expect to be considering the Bills as a playoff possibility. They did well accruing draft picks at this year's draft and then again in the weeks before the season. That's nice. I do look forward to the 2018 draft. But the skeptics called it: If you put your best forward your likeliest outcome is another 7-9-ish season. You can boast about being "in the hunt" at Thanksgiving but you should realize there's not much there. You have to make it for it to matter. 

The season isn't over but it's very close to being so, and also to being just like so many others. And this was the year where everybody knew what to avoid -- except the Bills themselves.