Proof Positive: The Pegulas Are All In

15 Jan


I bet most of you watched or heard about that 17-9 Bills victory against the Patriots in Foxboro (the first win in more than a decade) and thought to yourselves, “That’s fine and all, but our Bills should have been a playoff team.” We were resigned to having Doug Marrone back as Head Coach – a guy who definitely helped Buffalo make strides towards being a quality team, but also in the same breath seemed to hold back the team with some key mistakes.

A couple of weeks ago, Marrone himself changed all that. He showed himself the door when ownership rebuffed his attempt to gain more power and stability within the organization. Conveniently for Marrone, the change in ownership this fall initiated a $4MM buyout option for him to escape Buffalo. He took it.

Buffalo has long been seen as a cold, desolate, struggling market. Having a moderately successful head coach bolt town would have been devastating for Bills fans under the old regime. You can just hear the one-liners; everything from, “He couldn’t wait to get out,” to, “Look, the rats are leaving the sinking ship.” And based on previous hiring efforts, the Bills would either bring in an unproven candidate (Marrone, Mularkey) or one who had long since proven his inability to lead a team to glory (Gailey, Jauron). Even Marv Levy, the most successful coach in Bills history, was a retread after failing in Kansas City.

And that’s the legacy of Ralph Wilson. He kept a small market team afloat for over 54 years. The Bills enjoyed near-championship successes, but the financial challenges of existing in a decaying city always presented a significant hurdle for Wilson. His legacy is grand, but the fact his biggest accomplishment of the last 20 years was “finding an enormously wealthy family with local ties to purchase the team” says a lot.

And that’s where we are now, in Terry and Kim Pegula’s first offseason as owners of the Buffalo Bills. There was always a little uncertainty how they’d approach it. Things haven’t been perfect at their other big league sports property, the Sabres. They have invested in the Sabres, but the NFL is a different beast than the NHL. And even after that final 2014 victory over New England, the question still remained: “How and when will they rebuild the Bills?”

We finally have the evidence to prove that the Pegulas are ready to put the past behind this franchise.

The Rex Ryan Era begins.

This city has been aching for their football team to return to greatness. This yearning has been unfulfilled for so long, that Ryan’s arrival has felt more like a war hero returning from the battle. Simply hiring a coach that is relevant on the national stage has become a reason to celebrate.

We must be careful, though. This celebration shouldn’t turn into pure adulation of Ryan. He hasn’t brought results yet. He is a man with a vision, a staff, and a partially-completed roster. Wait to foist the Coach of the Century honors at least until the decade ends.

No, the celebration should be for a changing in the philosophy that guides the organization.

See, I don’t believe the Pegulas will allow another 15 year playoff drought. That is the development we fans should be hootin’ and hollerin’ about.

Doug Marrone’s self-departure handed ownership an unforeseen opportunity to prove their intentions to fans. The Ryan hire is only a part of it though. This coaching search was credible, and appeared much more deliberate than any done in the Wilson years. They wanted to get the right guy, and they lured a coach with some significance.

Will it be the right hire? That’s not something I’m going to speculate about. But I’m also of the belief that Terry and Kim Pegula will keep trying if it doesn’t work out.

That’s hope inducing for me, and I’ll bet it is for you too.

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