Dear Buffalo Bills Organization,
Let’s just get what we all know out of the way early on: the past two weeks has been an incredible disappointment. As players, fans, and coaches we can each explain it away anyway we’d like, but from a pure football standpoint, the last two weeks have been difficult to watch, and I’m sure, near impossible to endure on the field. For this reason, I’ve decided not to reflect on how the weekend’s game answered the week’s most important questions. When it comes down to it, only one question matters to us as fans:
WILL THIS TEAM EVER PLAY WITH A LEVEL OF COMPETITIVENESS AND HEART THAT CAN GET US BACK INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
As fans, all we ask is that we move in the right direction. Being a Bills fan hasn’t exactly been easy on us. We spent four straight winters in the early 90s coming so close feeling euphoria, only to see it crash down around us. Then we endured years of 7-9 and 8-8 seasons where it seemed as though the entire franchise was content to simply not reside in the cellar. We weren’t factors in free agency, our draft picks continued to be traded or fail to produce, and we quickly became one of the most forgotten franchises in sports.
Then something happened a couple years ago. We started to feel a level of aspiration that had been lacking over the past decade. There were hiccups along the way, but there was also a clear vision of how to restore the franchise to prominence. We played great teams tough. We drafted well. We became strong players in free agency, and not just by throwing dollars at random players but by targeting our biggest needs.
We saw a light at the end of the tunnel and the entire community of fans began to believe in earnest for the first time in years. But when the season started, nothing seemed to add up. Now, three embarrassing losses into the 2012 season and there’s a very real feeling among fans that they might simply give up believing.
Bills fans have had their hearts broken in Greek myth-type proportions over the years. Watching four straight Super Bowl losses is something that could only be dreamed up by the same people who forced Prometheus to have his intestines ripped out anew each morning. Yet, we’ve always come back to this team. We’ve always been able to wipe the slate clean. Only, there seems to be something missing now.
In the past, we kept coming back because those teams had guts. They took the punch to the gut but continued coming back for more. They believed that they could get over the hump, and we believed with them. Even though they ultimately failed to achieve that final milestone, they are still revered among fans because they showed up to play every week. You could never count them out of any game, and when the 60 minutes of game action were over, every team felt the bruises from playing the Buffalo Bills, win or lose.
For over a decade now, this franchise has shown no semblance of that competitiveness, and people are about to walk away. I want that to sink in for a second because this has always been a dedicated and proud franchise: people are about to finally give up on you. They’re about to give up on you because you’ve given no indication that you haven’t already done the same.
When the Jets started putting together points, there seemed to be no belief that the game was still in the balance. The Patriots rattled off six consecutive touchdown drives without breaking a sweat. The 49ers scored 42 unanswered points by running the same dives and play action passes. You’ve become the first franchise since 1950 to allow back-to-back 550+ yard games and the first team in NFL history to allow 300 yards passing and rushing in the same game. We haven’t just watched losses, we’ve watched beat downs reminiscent of the schoolyard or Edward Norton in Fight Club.
The truth of the matter was, we didn’t necessarily expect a win this weekend. That’s a top-notch team that you played this weekend. We simply believed that, after the Patriots collapse, you would answer the bell and prove that you had the fire to silence your doubters. We didn’t expect a win, but we thought that a competitive game was within reason.
However, it’s not the result that has made us consider forgoing football on Sundays, it’s the manner in which the result is earned. None of this would be so bad if you had looked like you were trying. Cornerbacks who were getting beat on routes put their hands on their hips before plays were over. They looked back towards the middle of the field, searching for somebody else to blame. Lineman and linebackers got blocked off the line and seemed to be content to be removed from the play. Meanwhile at home, thousands of fans were staring at the their screen and screaming for any sign of life; for any slice of hope that this season might be something different.
So, I reach out to the Buffalo Bills organization from across the internet. I know that you don’t enjoy getting beaten that badly either. I know that in the grand scheme of things, the opinions of the fans means little, but I still felt like you needed to hear from us before you take the field against Arizona on Sunday. We might not buckle our chinstraps or throw on shoulder pads and take the field with you, but for three hours every week, we put our lives on hold. We forsake work and family responsibilities and sit down to watch you play. For some of us, it’s how we first began to bond with grandparents, friends or significant others. It’s something we’ve done for decades despite enduring constant criticism and mockery from friends who cheer for other organizations. We’ve always come back because we want to be there when you finally cross the finish line; when you finally get over that last hurdle. We want to be there because we’ve taken our own form of lumps for longer than anybody on this current roster has been in town.
All that we ask in return is that, if you truly love your fan base, you take the punch and keep coming forward. If you do that for us, we’ll be behind you all the way, no questions asked. If you can’t, then this might be the end of a lifelong relationship.