The Ravens sent offensive coordinator Cam Cameron packing Monday afternoon, a day after they scored 28 points in a loss to the Redskins. Baltimore is still in first place in the AFC North with a 9-4 record, but their 18th-rated offense wasn’t good enough for Cameron to keep his job going into the playoffs.
Chan Gailey was still the Bills’ coach Monday even though they have a 5-8 record, have all but been eliminated from the playoffs for the 13th straight season, haven’t won a road game against a team with a winning record during his tenure and haven’t challenged in the division in roughly forever.
It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what happens when a team with an oblivious 94-year-old owner keeps the bottom line his top priority, refuses to relinquish control and tethers himself to familiar faces based on convenience. If you need a reminder about Ralph Wilson’s idea of a good score, the Bills’ annual money-grab is Sunday in Toronto.
Buffalo’s results reveal ineptness at the top, starting with Wilson and top aide Jeff Littman. It includes money man Jim Overdorf and General Manager Buddy Nix and trickles down to Gailey and his players. None of this is breaking news, as you know. It has been the same way for years, give or take a few names.
Gailey should have been fired weeks ago, when it became apparent to anyone with a pair of eyes that he was losing his grasp on the team. Looking back, it was clear he was finished after the blowout loss to San Francisco. He has done nothing since to suggest he should stick around. If anything, it has been the opposite.
His players quit in the second half of the loss to the Niners, a record-breaking defeat and the low point of the season. The Bills should have lost to Arizona the following week after Gailey refused to kick a field goal and dialed up a ridiculous bomb out of the Wildcat that was intercepted.
Arizona has lost nine straight games, by the way, including a 58-0 defeat to the same Seattle team that Buffalo will meet in Rogers Centre. Maybe the team bus will be stopped at the border by a customs agent who happens to be a Bills’ fan. Perhaps he can find some trumped up charge against Gailey for crimes against football.
Ryan Fitzpatrick insisted the Bills were making progress and pointed toward the importance of continuity while coming to his coach’s defense. Fitz and tight end Scott Chandler, both of whom feel indebted to Gailey for giving them opportunities in the NFL, nobly blamed themselves for their overall failure.
Players almost always are going to defend their coach for various reasons. It’s the professional approach. It’s a team-first mentality. And what happens if they criticize the coach and he stays? It would make for an uncomfortable relationship, if not career suicide, as things move forward.
The Bills are on pace for fewer yards and fewer points than they had last season, so it’s not clear how that equates to progress. Fitz didn’t appreciate the line of questioning Monday, or the tone in which they were asked. Fine, but it still doesn’t answer one simple question at this stage of the season:
Where is this going?
Buffalo needs changes but not a massive overhaul. Wilson would be reluctant to fire Nix because he’s not up to speed on qualified applicants to replace him. What he could do is rearrange pieces with people he does know, assuming he knows his assistant general manager and director of pro personnel.
FYI: It’s the same guy.
His name is Doug Whaley, and he’s right under their collective nose.
Whaley, 40, is widely respected across the league and is considered one of the bright young personnel men in the NFL. The Steelers held him in high regard before he left for Buffalo. He should be given the chance to spread his wings along One Bills Drive.
Nix, 73, could step aside and use his experience to help Whaley navigate through NFL potholes while surrendering full control of all personnel decisions to his understudy. Another option is losing Whaley, a known commodity who sooner than later is likely to be snapped up by another organization.
Whaley can pick his own coach.
The Bills also would need a new offensive coordinator, however, and there’s another sharp young mind who would jump at the chance to run his own offense in Buffalo. Let’s assume Wilson has heard of him. His name is Alex Van Pelt, an assistant coach in Green Bay who is considered a rising star in NFL circles.
Van Pelt was fired with the coaching staff in Tampa Bay, but he wasn’t out of work for long. Packers coach Mike McCarthy respected AVP enough to give him a job even if it meant a former quarterback overseeing the running backs. The Packers are 18th in rushing despite playing eight backs in a passing offense.
Something tells me Van Pelt would find an appropriate number of carries for C.J. Spiller, the Bills’ most dynamic player who touched the ball eight times Sunday. Spiller had the same number of touches as Rams punter Johnny Hekker, for heaven’s sake.
The Bills would need upgrades in other areas — quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker — but promoting Whaley, hiring a new head coach and adding Van Pelt for the offense would be a good start. It beats sticking with what hasn’t worked, which is Gailey leading a team that has underachieved.
Gailey talked Monday about the Bills being only a handful of plays away from turning around their record and maybe he’s right.
Ultimately, it comes back to winning. Fitzpatrick said as much himself. Gailey agreed. The Bills haven’t won enough with this quarterback and this coach. Both have kept their jobs.
The Ravens were 9-4 with Cameron running the offense, and it wasn’t enough for him to keep his job.
It speaks to the Ravens’ standards.
And it says plenty about the Bills.