It’s early, to be sure, but things look very grim for the Bills after two games of the 2018 season. For starters, they have allowed 78 points, matching the 1971 team for the most points allowed in the first two games of a season. That ’71 squad finished 1-13, as seasoned fans might recall.
The Bills have been outscored in the first half of their two games, 54-6. No NFL team had been outscored by 48 points in the first halves of their opening two games since 1978, when the Baltimore Colts were outscored by a combined 49-0 in the opening half of their first two.
Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. They’re on the road at Minnesota and Green Bay the next two weeks, facing top quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers. The way things are going, the Bills will be fortunate to hold either of those teams under 30 points on the road.
They don’t seem to have a lot of answers. But fans have plenty of questions. This week’s Mailbag:
Paul Ante asks: How do you feel about national media types and talking heads saying that the Bills were nuts to get rid of Tyrod Taylor?
Sully: Did you watch Thursday night’s game? I wonder what the national experts are saying after Taylor played a horrible game and gave way to rookie Baker Mayfield, who led the Browns from behind for an emotional 21-17 home victory over Sam Darnold and the Jets, giving gave Cleveland its first win since Christmas Eve of the 2016 season.
It grew tiresome hearing how Taylor was “unappreciated” and “scapegoated” in Buffalo. When you saw him up close, you quickly realized he was a great athlete but an inferior passer in a passing league. The Bills were consistently at the bottom of the league passing stats in Taylor’s three years in Buffalo. He won one game when he threw 30 times or more. He rarely led them from behind in games. Mayfield did something in his first NFL game that Taylor never did with the Bills — lead his team back to victory after falling behind by 10 points or more.
If anything, they should have gotten rid of him sooner. The Bills didn’t make the playoffs because of Taylor, but despite him. Sure, he didn’t throw interceptions and made some dazzling plays with his legs. But when they needed him to win games with his arm, he was consistently lacking. When Tyrod finally got a chance in the playoffs, he performed in predictably uninspiring fashion as the Bills lost, 10-3.
Watching Taylor in Thursday night’s game, it seemed he had regressed. Only a habitual loser like Cleveland would buy the tired notion that Taylor gives you the best chance to win. Tyrod’s shortcomings were on full display until he left with a possible concussion. His days as the Browns’ starter should be over. The Browns are Baker Mayfield’s team. Mayfield has been a better pass than Taylor all along, which isn’t saying a lot.
Sean McDermott made a mistake pulling Taylor for Nathan Peterman last year. But on Thursday night, people could at least understand his reasoning.
@ZVIB42 asks: Bills: One win or zero?
Sully: Looking at the schedule, and considering how bad they looked in the opening two weeks, it’s not outlandish to wonder if the Bills could go winless this season. Their roster isn’t any more talented than the Browns team that went 0-16 a year ago, or the Lions’ winless team in 2008.
It’s hard to go winless in the NFL. There are a handful of very good and bad teams, and a vast muddle of average between. Over the years, I’ve found that even in the worst of times, the Bills’ best friend is the utter mediocrity of the league. But this isn’t one of those average Bills teams that can feast on bad teams and make a heroic run to 7-9. They’re one of the worst teams in franchise history, and could be underdogs in every game.
Maybe if Sean McDermott can his team playing the sort of resourceful defense it did a year ago, taking the ball away and limiting opponents to field goals, the Bills could sneak out four or five wins. Josh Allen could prove to be wise and effective beyond his years. But I doubt it. It’s likely to be a long, discouraging season, with fans quickly turning their focus to the draft, and the possibility of the first overall pick.
I have the over/under at 2.5 wins. Bucky says 2. It’s better than one or zero, right?
Kevin Kassay asks: Let’s face it. The Bills are going no where this year and, barring any serious injuries, could end up 3-13. Is it time to give some thought to trading Shady while he still has value?
Sully: Good point, Kevin. The Bills should definitely consider moving LeSean McCoy, who is 30 and on the downside of a great career. McCoy has rushed for 50 yards or less in nine of his last 17 regular-season games. His average per rush declined by 1.4 yards (5.4 to 4.0) a carry from 2016-17, one of the worst one-season drops for a 1,000-yard back in history.
They’re not going anywhere in the next two seasons. Shady’s contract is up after the 2019 season. So they should try to get value for him while they can. But they’re not likely to get more than a mid-round draft pick. Teams know the Bills are moving out players from the Doug Whaley era. A team would have to feel McCoy could help them win big this year, and it would need to fit what’s left of his $6 million salary under their cap.
I think McCoy would be amenable to a trade. He’s a team player who longs to play in a Super Bowl. He’s keenly aware of his personal stats and wants to make the Hall of Fame. So he’d like to play for a winner, which would help his numbers and his chances of performing in the playoffs. He can’t be too happy playing for this wretched Buffalo offense. Something tells me his days here are numbered.
@jvzanghi asks: Why was Gill Byrd replaced for Butler after secondary did well last year? Horrible:
Sully: It was a curious move by Sean McDermott. The secondary was the best part of the team last season, helping the Bills break the playoff drought. But he fired Byrd in January and hired John Butler, who had spent four seasons in the same role with Houston. Butler grew up in Philly. He and McDermott played on the same high school football team, though not at the same time. McDermott said that wasn’t a factor, but you have to wonder. Maybe he had glowing reports from former Bills player personnel VP Brian Gaine, who worked with Butler with the Texans.
Tom Mehs asks: Who are you most concerned about facing your Red Sox? My A's are looking pretty good - you should be scared of them..
Sully: I’m afraid of everyone, Tom. I might be a Red Sox fan, but I grew up learning to expect the worst from them at the end of seasons. I’m afraid of David Price in the playoffs. Chris Sale had an ERA over 8 in last year’s ALDS. Until Thursday’s win over the Yankees, they hadn’t been hitting in September. They did nothing to bolster a shaky bullpen at the trade deadline. I think they’ll lose to either the Yankees or the Red Sox in the ALDS. The A’s do scare. That team can hit. Starting pitching is an issue, but they’d score a lot of runs in a series.
Reverend Bob asks: Well, since I’m sure you’re playing more golf. Did you break 90 this year?
Sully: Actually, I didn’t play as much golf as I wanted over the summer, Rev. I spent close to a month back in Rhode Island dealing with family stuff. I did shoot a few rounds in the high 80’s in late spring after leaving the News. Then I suffered a regression and shot a few rounds in the low 100s. Really struggled to get off the tee. It’s been coming back slowly of late. Hope to play a lot of “bonus golf” in the fall.