Mad Math on why the Bills aren’t thinking QB in the first round

There he goes.

You’d be foolish to think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are deeply convinced that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s recent struggles aren’t anything to worry about, despite what the Bills coach and general manager say to the media. But you’d be even more foolish to say that offense is the reason the Bills have fallen to 5-9 after a 4-1 start to the 2011 campaign.

The Bills defense is very bad. How bad? On the AAToB, I’d place them at “garbage”.

FACT: Buffalo has kept a team under 23 points in a game just twice this season. Those opponents are the Nos. 27th and 31st ranked offenses in the NFL. The average offense in the National Football League — the average — is scoring 22.08 points-per-game. That’s not good.

FACT: The Bills offense, for that matter, isn’t a ton above average in point-per-game either. Buffalo has put up 22.2 PPG.

FACT: The Bills sack total is an NFL-low 21.0 through 14 games.

FACT: More than 1/4 of those sacks have come from 3-4 end or tackle — and rookie — Marcel Dareus.

Now for some more work (ppg= points-per-game // papg = points-allowed-per-game):

Buffalo Bills
2011*- 22.2 ppg, 26.5 papg
2010- 17.7 ppg, 26.6 papg
2009- 16.1 ppg, 20.4 papg (Jauron’s last year)

For those of you wondering, the Bills have one more defensive touchdown this season than last, good for .375 ppg.

Let’s say the Bills only manage a combined 20 points against Denver and New England (poor showings indeed!). Buffalo would finish the year with a 20.7 points-per-game, three full points higher than 2008.

What if Buffalo was to finish by scoring the average points their opposition has let up per game (Denver- 24.5, New England- 21.2). Buffalo would finish the year with a 22.3 points-per-game mark, its highest since 2004. That year, by the way, is the Bills last year above .500 (woo-hoo, Buffalo football).

Let’s think about major turn-around teams in the last 10 years, clubs that in a few years went from continuous pratfalls to bonafide playoffs contenders.

San Francisco 49ers
2011*- 23.4 ppg, 13.2 papg
2010- 19.1 ppg, 21.6papg
2009- 20.6 ppg, 17.6 papg

Cincinnati Bengals
2011*- 21.8 ppg, 20.2 papg
2010- 20.1 ppg, 24.7 papg
2009- 19.1 ppg, 18.2 papg

Kansas City Chiefs
2010- 22.9 ppg, 20.4 papg
2009- 18.4 ppg, 26.5 papg
2008- 18.2 ppg, 27.5 papg

*- through 14 games

It also helps that San Francisco and KC were playing in trash-heap divisions, but I digress.

ZERO of those teams experienced as significant an offensive increase as the Bills, while all of them saw massive gains on defense. Under George Edwards, the Bills not only lost any momentum from defensive coach Dick Jauron, they got significantly worse (no, I don’t think the man deserves the job next year).

Look, the goal is winning the Super Bowl as quickly as possible, as it should always be regardless of predicament. Another goal is also to find a quarterback better than Ryan Fitzpatrick for the long haul. If the Bills end up selecting sixth and Matt Barkley or Robert Griffin III is there, by all means Buffalo should take the one in which they believe.

But if Buffalo is sitting anywhere and there is no elite quarterback on the table (despite the massive depth of this year’s class), then the shouldn’t just eschew their knowledge of Landry Jones’ penchant for interceptions. They shouldn’t gamble on Case Keenum or whomever else leaps after the combine. They should get a difference maker on defense (though we could talk about planning a way for USC OT Matt Kalil to suddenly drop to Buffalo!).

Now for some fun, false excuses!!!!

1) Oct. 24 — Shawne Merriman goes to IR

— The Bills were allowing 24.5 points-per-game before Merriman went down. They have actually been better with a mish-mosh of OLBs who probably shouldn’t be near an NFL starting lineup anywhere in the league.

2) Kyle Williams only played in three games

— Those are three games in which the Bills allowed 35, 31 and 23 points.

You can never dismiss an entire game from the books, but if we were to dismiss Buffalo’s 9-sack, 2-INT performance in Washington — which most people are already doing in saying Fitz hasn’t performed since signing his new deal the previous Thursday — the Bills have 12 sacks in 13 games. Twelve. If the Bills don’t manage four sacks over the next two weeks, they’ll beat their worst mark in nearly 30 years (25.0 sacks in 1985 & ’95). I’d go back further, but the Bills only had 12 sacks in 1982, apparently because they let my pregnant mother play DE.

Quarterback is the most important position on the field and the Bills would be wise to address an improvement for the long-term if they can… but quarterback is not more important than nearly an entire defense. LB Nick Barnett, FS Jairus Byrd and DT Marcel Dareus are having strong seasons, while it appears LB Kelvin Sheppard as well as CBs Aaron Williams and Justin Rogers may be able to play football. With multiple strong edge rushers/OLBs and more than one potential franchise corner come April, can the Bills afford to speculate on offense?


8 Responses to Mad Math on why the Bills aren’t thinking QB in the first round

  1. Being a fan in Virginia, I only get to see the Bills from afar… but I couldn’t agree more. The pass rush, or lack there of, certainly seems to be the area that needs to be addresses the most.

    A rush OLB like Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware/Harrison etc. etc. is likely what the Bills are missing. I’d also like to see more 4 man fronts so you can run Dareus and Williams out there at DT and get some pass rush ends… but with a 3-4 as the main defense, I doubt that’s in the cards.

    First thing I’d do if I ran the Bills would be to cut the fat of Kelsay, Merriman and every other pass “rusher” that runs a 5 flat 40. From there, I’d look for guys that can make things happen. Remember, it’s not always sacks that make big plays… but guys that can disrupt the flow of progression from snap to completed pass. Get a couple of those guys, as well as a couple extra OL/DB/DL and a developmental QB… and I think that’s a great 2012 draft.

  2. I totally agree with you that the defense has been horrid all year but lets face it, it’s a passing league and teams need a great QB to consistently win. The Patriots & Packers are 31st and 32nd in total defense this year yet combined have won more games this year than Dick Jauron did his entire career in Buffalo.

    This franchise needs a QB, they have only taken 2 first round QBs in it’s entire existence and both of those weren’t even their first pick in the first rounds those years.

    When a QB throws for 50% of his passes for 135 yards and 3 INTs in the first 3 quarters there’s a problem. Fitz nose dived the past two years after hot starts and I don’t want to see him do it again a 3rd year.

  3. I disagree with the fact that the offense isn’t why the season has tanked. I take the exact opposite view: the Bills losing streak is precisely because the offense has tanked. There are of course a number of variables which can be associated with the Bills collapse, but to simplify let’s only look at offense and defense. A (offense) + B(defense)=Y(wins).

    In the Bills case, Y is decreasing over the course of the season, so we want to determine why. In order for the results to change, one (or more) of the inputs must also be changing. You acknowledge that B has been putrid all season, to which I agree. Despite this putrid defense, we won games. Why? Because A was so strong. In other words, B has been constant, in a negative direction. A was just so large in the positive direction it was able to overcome B.

    So in the beginning, A-B=Y, meaning a positive offense minus a strong defense, resulted in wins. However, since then, the offense has fallen into a crater (be it because of injuries, or simply regression to the mean [Fitz’s career performance]), so A has become negative. Meanwhile, B has remained negative the entire time, so now we have -A-B-=-Y. Declining offense, combined with an already negative defense, has led to negative wins, aka losses.

    In sum: the defense is absolutely a contributor to the overall record at this point, it’s been awful. However, when the offense was great, the team was good. The CHANGE in record, on the other hand, is directly related to the CHANGE in the offense. We won because of offense, and now we’re losing because of offense.

    • I’m not sure the logic can work that way. We won because of the offense says that the defense was a constant yes, but it could easily be stated that we won in spite of the defense in which case now we’re just losing because of the defense and an offense that can no longer overcome the defense.

  4. Fitz really isnt the problem and Im glad you would agree Nick. While I think they will eventually need someone down the road to replace him, well, thats down the road. Another fact you should mention is the bills run a spread offense with timing based routes. Its hard to have any timing with guys constantly injured and new receivers every week, and our offensive MVP out for the year. Fitz certainly isnt Aaron Rodgers, but he holds his own. He has a better TD ratio then Carson Palmer and Vick, but nobody would dare say replace them. He has a higher QB rating then Joe Flacco and has thrown more TDs then him and Big Ben, but Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both 10-4. Point being is Fitz is more then good enough. Its our TEAM that isnt, and more specifically our defense. No one actually thinks Tim Tebow would be 7-2 on the bills, with that defense, do they? Remember how bad the Broncos where last year? Look at Ortons stats while he was there, he certainly wasnt the problem. Becoming a better TEAM is what is really needed and the formula is more simple then people think. Its actually really simple. You get rid of your bad players, and keep your good ones. Thats it, as simple as that. No need to get complicated. The bills have wasted so much talent over the years and have let so many good players lose to other teams. Just think of what our team might be like if we kept our good players around over the years like other good franchises do. No need to name them, everyone can think of 3 or 4 easily that would dramatically change our TEAM. Yes our TEAM. Thats what the problem is after all, and for once not our quarterback. Chan said it best, you cant just have ones, ya gotta have twos and threes. We have no depth, non, zero, zilch, nada. On top of that half our starters on defense might not even make other teams rosters. Not a winning formula. I think chan and buddy will get us up to par, and thats all you can ask for. They have had a lot to clean up after all. What might our record be right now if our defense was just middle of the pack? We all want results but you cant just go buy them, ask the Redskins. Your only as good as your weakest link on the field. The bills are like a chain made of some steel and some rope. We need to just cut the rope and they will be fine.

  5. If George Edwards is brought back than I have no trust in Chan or Buddy. I’m not sure that the Bills are good at any position except rb. The defensive backfield has been awful but how much is that a product of no pass rush. If they believe Barkley or RG3 can be the QB for the next 10 years how do they pass that up? The Bills are soo awful at drafting guys it’s hard to trust them. If Troup, Carrington, Easley are off the team going into the start of next year would anybody be surprised? Drafting a QB does buy Chan more time. 5-9 at this time next year Dave Wannstedt will be the interim coach.

  6. To say that a QB is not more important than a defense is not necessarily true. Aaron Rodgers seems to do just fine in Green Bay with a defense that is ranked pretty darn lowly. Brady does well with New England’s defense, etc.

    Granted, their offenses have stronger players in general, and the defense is lower because teams find themselves having to pass and play catchup. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that QB doesn’t supercede any other area on the football field at all. Those players on offense are better BECAUSE of their QBs, that is not something that Fitzpatrick will ever accomplish. He doesn’t have the ability to make the players around him better, and lead them to CONSISTENT winning.

    Chan Gailey has a nice history of getting more out of the players he’s got, but for very short bursts. He has not proven that he can maintain good winning teams, and that is because he puts too much faith in guys that don’t match up with his belief. He can fool the NFL with scheming around his players for only a certain amount of time, but that won’t last for multiple seasons.

    A “franchise” QB should be having “good” games at least 60 to 70 percent of the time, in my opinion. Ryan Fitzpatrick will never be that guy, and we should find the replacement as soon as possible, preferably 2012, and if possible, with the first pick we have. (assuming it is one of the top 3/4 QBs)

    And yes, I hate to disappoint a lot of fans, but it is even more important than improving our pass rush. (as pathetic as it is)

    This year looks to be one of those rare exceptional QB years, and the Bills would be absolutely foolish to pass it up. Address the pass rush later in the draft, not with the first pick.