Recently, I agreed to do a Q&A with Joe Pinzone, who covers the Buffalo Bills and Sabres at his site, Buffalo Wins. Below you'll find his answers to my questions, and I'll update this article with a link to the responses I gave him once they go up on his site (UPDATE (12/14): Pinzone posted the article today — click here to read it). Enjoy!
1) Statistically, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have been one of the best running back tandems in the NFL this year. Now that Jackson is out with a knee injury, how will the running game be affected? Can Spiller handle the workload on his own, or will the team need Tashard Choice to step up?
It's funny, albeit harsh, but fans are kind of happy that Spiller will be getting more carries now. It has been a constant bitchfest this season about Spiller not getting enough carries. The guy is averaging 6.6 yards a carry, yet he's only carried the ball an average of 12 times a game. He's on pace to have the best yards per carry for a running back with more than 100 carries in the last 80 years. Yet, Gailey is an idiot and elects to pass more than he should. Plus, he takes Spiller out for reasons we don't get. This week, he made it sound like Spiller was "winded" a few times after carrying the ball two times in a row, which prompted him to go to the bench for a series. CJ, of course, scoffed at the notion. Spiller is a unique talent who always seems to have the ability to take it to the house on any given play. He should be getting the ball 20-25 times a game. Gailey's excuse has been that he's got Fred Jackson back there and wants to split carries. I think there's some truth to that, but I think it goes back to Gailey trying to pass his way to the HOF. Since 2010, when Ryan Fitzpatrick attempts 27 or fewer passes, the Bills are 10-2 and are averaging 145 yards on the ground. When he throws more than 27 passes, the Bills are 5-28. Enough said.
2) How would you grade Chan Gailey's tenure as head coach? What's kept him and his team from producing more than 4-6 wins per year? Do you believe the team would benefit from giving Gailey another year or two at the helm, or is it time for him to go the way of Dick Jauron before him?
Oh, we hate him here. It is really up in the air at this point if gets another chance. . The Bills have never been an organization to have a short leash on coaches when they fail constantly. Dick Jauron was the last coach and he survived three straight years of 7-9 seasons to go along with a fan base that wanted his head on a platter.
If the Bills lose out, I can't see how they'd let him come back. To this point, he's 15-30 as their head coach. However, if they finish 7-9 or 8-8 -which is very possible because they have an easy schedule — I think he comes back. Should he come back? No.
He is too arrogant as a coach and believes in passing way too much when he doesn't have a QB for it. He's Hardheaded. As for Gailey's shortcomings: He loves to pass too much. He has a running back that is averaging 6.5 yac but only 12 carries per game. He doesn't know when to be aggressive or passive. He's stuck in the 90s in a lot of his philosophy. He just isn't a good game day coach. He's a retread who has been fired from 3 of his last 4 jobs.
Last week, he sent in Rian Lindell to attempt a 52-yard FG when he didn't know the length of the kick. When he found out it was a 52-yard FG instead of a 50-yarder, he called a timeout and decided to punt. His reason was that there's a big difference between 50 and 52 yards. Um, okay…. This is what we deal with here.
3) Now that you've had four years to evaluate him, what are your thoughts on Ryan Fitzpatrick? Is he just a placeholder, or is he franchise quarterback material? How likely is he to reach the end of that seven year, $62 million contract he signed in 2011?
Fitz is pretty much on his last leg as the Bills' starting QB. Buddy Nix (GM) has said he plans on drafting a QB this April. Obviously, the Bills made a mistake when they decided to extend Fitzpatrick for 59 million dollars as his numbers have gone south since signing the deal. I don't blame the Bills for re-signing him at the time. During a 21 game span, Fitzpatrick had 40 touchdowns, 4,984 yards passing, and 22 interceptions. Why wouldn't you re-sign him for those numbers? However, since he signed that deal, Fitz has been either really bad or average. In his last 9 games of last year, Fitz threw for just 10 touchdowns and an eye-popping 16 interceptions. The word was out on how to defend Fitz. The Bills like to run a lot of 6-yard slant patterns and if you take away those underneath routes, you end up forcing the Bills to go over the top, which they can't do because Fitz doesn't have the arm strength/accuracy to make those throws. For this year, Fitz has been inconsistent. He has 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he's ranked 26th in yards per attempt. His best games this year statistically speaking have been against the Pats twice (6 TDs), Titans (3TDs) and the Browns (3tds), who don't exactly have stellar defenses. However, when Fitz has gone against a defense currently ranked in the top 10 (49ers, Texans, Rams, and Cards) the offense has scored just TWO touchdowns. I think Fitz can start in the NFL, but it has to be on a loaded team. He needs to be a game manager. Put him on the 49ers and I don't think they miss that much of a beat. However, if you are asking him to win games for you, it becomes a tall ass task.
4) Over the last few seasons, the Bills have drafted a lot of defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft, but the defense still ranks in the bottom third of the league in points allowed, rushing yards per attempt, and so forth. Are those draft picks not working out, or is there something else at work here?
The Bills defense has actually played better in the last month. They haven't allowed 100 yards rushing in a game in a month. I think a lot of it is due to Mario Williams being healthy and the fact that it took the team sometime to gel going from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Of course, their offensive competition has been lesser as of late (Rams, Jags and Miami). As for their younger guys, Marcell Dareus has been much better over the 2nd half of the season. He lost his brother to a shooting after the first game of the year and you have to think that had something to do with his slow start. Advanced Stats has Dareus ranked as the 14th best defensive tackle in the league and he's tied for 5th in sacks (5) at the position. He will be a good one. Cornerback Aaron Williams (2nd rounder in 2011) has been a disaster. He was the opposite starting corner at the start of the year and he's been burned on a consistent basis. He just has no coverage skills and is always 2-3 steps behind WRs. You can beat him deep. The other corner, Stephon Gilmore (1st rounder 2012), has had an impressive rookie season and has gotten better as the season has gone on. He's a real physical corner and the Bills have started him since day 1. He's currently tied for 6th in the NFL in passes defended with 16. Defensive tackle, Alex Carrington (3rd rounder in 2010) is finally doing something for the team. He's got a few sacks this season and is a nice addition in the DL rotation. Overall, I think the Bills have talent, but the jury is still out when they go against better offenses in my opinion.
5) Are there any lesser-known Bills players that Seahawks fans should keep an eye on this Sunday?
Offensively, check out Scott Chandler. I'm not the biggest fan of his, because I think you'd want more out of TE when you consider the position has blown up, but all of his catches this season have been for either 1st downs or touchdowns. He's a decent redzone target for Fitz. Defensively, I'd look at the younger guys I mentioned previously, but would throw in Kyle Williams. The guy is a stud. He can get after the passer and always seems to disrupt running plays in the backfield. If here playing in a major market, he'd get a lot more attention.