Time and time again we hear all of the canned ideas about the NFL being a league of parity. Buffalo Bills fans like myself have been wondering for too long when that would manifest into a season of success. The fact is, winning takes years to develop. Early seeds need to be planted in order for germination and the final blossoms of real results on the gridiron.
The farmer was at work on Sunday in Orchard Park, spreading a little never-give-up on Doug Marrone’s team at Ralph Wilson Stadium. At this point of the young season, it’s tough to consider this victory against the Carolina Panthers a litmus test. Had the Bills held on against New England a week ago, there would have been more justification to hold onto the ecstasy of an early win. Call me in 7 or 8 weeks, and I’ll be able to give you an idea of the meaning of this result.
Lest we forget, there have also been good starts in years past. A 3-3 start in 2012 was followed up with 3 losses. 5-2 in 2011 gave high hopes, only to have a 7 game losing streak snap Western New York back to reality.
True adversity would always find its way into the equation. Lack of depth and mismanaged situations led to losses, and those losses scraped away the thin layer of confidence instilled by early success. In those situations, it takes a lot of belief, nerve, and leadership to overcome major hurdles. Those other teams were lacking, and the dwindling results that ensued were surprising to no one who has followed this team for years.
But there is a synergistic effect happening right now.
There has been a message of renewing the franchise from the top down. Anyone in the corporate world gets a bit immune to buzzwords and focused marketing. When Russ Brandon was elevated to President & CEO in January, he said this: “This organization is willing to do whatever it takes… We haven’t won enough games… We need to change it.” That’s what people in charge say. We’ve become immune to this positive speak coming from Bills management.
If you get results, though, the message begins to take effect. Especially when those results are unexpected. When it translates into a professional effort on the field, it breeds a different kind of hope. It’s the kind of hope that may get some of those games in November and December sold out (heck, maybe even that Atlanta game in Toronto).
The main thing that seems to have been missing from the Bills’ equation in the past is a clear direction and an authoritative leadership. The days of passive management and a “bend but don’t break” attitude on the field are hopefully gone.
If you follow the Buffalo media contingent on Twitter, you will have heard about Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett dashing through the Press Box after Sunday’s game-winning score. He shouted, “That’s what I’m talking about. It’s a new age baby!” You could never tell if winning really mattered to some former coaches (Dick Jauron, shown above, being one). Of course, Hackett was on the Bills coaching staff earlier in his career, and he’s seen the worst of the Bills’ troubles (you guessed it, he was on Jauron’s staff). He certainly knows what success would mean to this franchise and its fans.
The best news is that this league isn’t made up of 4 or 5 dominant teams anymore. While Denver appears to be the class of the league early on in 2013, any team still has a chance to put it together – even Jacksonville. Success is never terribly far away.
The fact that a playoff berth has eluded Buffalo in such stark fashion for a decade and counting is almost unbelievable. With the way things have started to shape up, things may finally be changing…