[Bills] Is there anything left to play for?
The Associated Press
Drew Bledsoe watches from the sidelines Sunday night after being replaced by J.P. Losman the final two series against New England. Is it time for the 12-year veteran to take an early retirement? The Bills aren't mathematically out of the playoffs, but the season is realistically shot.
[Day in Photos]
The five W's
WHO is starting to think about 2005? Bills fans should be because 2004 pretty much came to an end Sunday night in Foxboro. Mike Mularkey made reference to the Pittsburgh team he played on in 1989 that was 4-6 at one point in the season yet rallied to make the playoffs, so he's not going to give up. The rest of us can give up. This team is not making the playoffs.
WHAT do we make of J.P. Losman's debut? Not much. The kid was terrible, but let's be fair. The game was hopelessly lost and the Patriots — the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots — were in a feeding frenzy. Still, two turnovers on five plays was not what Bills fans wanted to see from their QB of the future.
WHERE was Drew Bledsoe looking when he threw that interception to Tedy Bruschi? He was trying to hit Lee Evans over the middle, but unless he has X-ray vision he couldn't have seen Evans because Bruschi was right in front of the rookie receiver. How many other 12th-year quarterbacks would have thrown that pass?
WHEN is Mark Campbell going to re-surface? The Bills' starting tight end has gone three straight games without a pass reception. He has just 10 catches for 135 yards this season.
WHY didn't the Bills try to make an early statement against the Pats? Last week on the opening series against the Jets, Mularkey went for a fourth-and-1 at the 12 and Willis McGahee scored a touchdown. Against New England the Bills had a fourth-and-5 at the Pats 35 on the opening possession. Too far for a field goal, too close for a punt. Why not go for the first down there? If they make it, maybe they go in and score and perhaps the game turns out different. Then again, maybe not.
— Sal Maiorana
Leo Roth and Sal Maiorana
(November 16, 2004) — Sal: It's ridiculous that we're asking this question in the middle of November about a team that clearly has talent, but when you're a team that can't win on the road, that's the plight the Bills face. Seven games to go, yet the season is basically shot. I don't think there's anything to play for except getting the team's young players ready for the future.
Leo: I agree, although with seven games to go, there's still plenty of time to sell more beer, hot dogs and merchandise. I hear there's a No. 11 jersey clear-out sale this week.
Sal: Didn't they already have one of those? Oh, my mistake, that was Rob Johnson's No. 11 jersey.
Leo: Seriously, the Bills' goal these final weeks should be to get their Big Three of the Future — J.P. Losman, Willis McGahee and Lee Evans — on the field together as much as possible.
Sal: I realize the Bills won't throw the towel in until they are mathematically eliminated, but this situation calls for a serious reality check rather than pie-in-the-sky playoff scenarios.
Leo: Anything's possible, but with four of the final seven on the road, like you say, the Bills' odds of making the playoffs seem more astronomical than the Red Sox winning the World Series. This latest New England meltdown aside, this is a team that lost winnable games at Oakland and New York, and blew the opener at home against Jacksonville. That's why things are so dire. Not only didn't the Bills overachieve by scoring an upset over New England, they underachieved by losing to teams they should've beaten.
Sal: It's not unusual for a team to falter in the first year of a coaching switch. New coaches working with new players can be a tricky dynamic. But coach Mike Mularkey said from Day 1 he didn't walk into a bad situation here. This team isn't devoid of talent. It was expected to compete for a divisional title. But you nailed it. They have underachieved all season.
Leo: Expecting the Bills to win right away under Mularkey with a roster that GM Tom Donahoe has been chiseling at for four years wasn't unrealistic. Look what Jim Mora Jr. is doing with the Atlanta Falcons. But this team has a serious disconnect. I've never been in a Bills locker room that seems to lack chemistry like this one. The players talk a good game, but they rarely deliver, particularly Drew Bledsoe.
Sal: I don't know about you, but I gave the Bills no chance of winning in Foxboro against the defending Super Bowl champs. Their two-game winning streak pumped a little life into the fan base, but in reality, they weren't going to beat the Patriots on the road. And that's fine. What's disturbing was the effort. This was the Bills' season on the line, and they couldn't have played worse. It was a debacle.
Leo: What, you weren't impressed with getting manhandled in the trenches to the tune of 428 yards to 125? I'll admit that I took a sip of the Kool-Aid and felt that if McGahee got on track Buffalo had a shot at the upset. I am excited about what he can do for this club in the future. But the Patriots showed that on the road, if you stop the Bills' running game and make them a one-dimensional team by putting the ball in Drew's hands to win it, it's a recipe for disaster. We've seen it now 14 of the last 16 road games. It's not like anybody is jumping to conclusions here. As soon as Bledsoe is benched, this team can start moving forward.
Sal: We've seen Bledsoe play some brutal games, but this one ranks at the very bottom. The only thing lower than Bledsoe's QB rating of 14.3 was Maurice Clarett's SAT score. The Bills have to turn the page on the Bledsoe Era because with a 3-6 record, the playoffs are out of the question now. The time has come to give the ball to Losman and let him take his baby steps in games that don't mean much the rest of the way.
Leo: One of the reasons Donahoe traded for Bledsoe was reasoning that while the Patriots were familiar with Drew, he was also familiar with the Patriots, providing them with some advantages against the team Buffalo must play twice a season and needs to beat to have any shot at getting anywhere. Instead, Bledsoe helped New England with his alarmingly predictable tendencies. Even staunch supporters of Bledsoe in the New England media turned on him after Sunday's performance. It's sad seeing a punch-drunk ex-heavyweight think he still has it. It's time Mularkey and Donahoe faced facts. Not starting Losman would be an insult to the fans.
Sal: I'll be curious to see if Mularkey has the guts to send his proud 12-year veteran into an earlier-than-anticipated retirement.
Leo: If Mularkey is worried about going 0-7 down the stretch with Losman, he's worrying needlessly. Bledsoe is costing him games now. He doesn't represent his team's best chance to win, Losman does. Never mind how green Losman is.
Sal: Mularkey needs to check out his old team, the Steelers, and what they're doing with Ben Roethlisberger. In today's NFL you have to play your young players, quarterbacks included. There's a reason why Buffalo picked Losman in the first round. Now show your faith in him.