EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The clock has officially struck midnight on the Bills 2016 season following an embarrassing 30-10 loss to the New York Jets. The final results; a 7-9 record, a 17th year without a post-season appearance and another head coach gone. New year, same Bills.
Interim head coach Anthony Lynn’s was indeed the team’s leader in Week 17, but it might as well have been Rex Ryan. Buffalo’s defense made the same costly mistakes that got Ryan fires in the first place. They missed tackles and had substitution confusion. Jets RB Bilal Powell gashed them for 122 rushing yards – the third time in four weeks an individual back went for 100 plus yards against the Bills. And Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season and been benched numerous times, added 210 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
The offense, which has seemed rejuvenated since Lynn took over the play calling duties in Week 3 was predictably disappointing with EJ Manuel starting at quarterback over Tyrod Taylor, who was a healthy scratch. Of course that “business decision” was out of Lynn’s hands, but after Manuel completed just nine of his 20 passes for 86 yards through three quarters, even Lynn had seen enough and he opted to bench Manuel in favor of the rookie Cardale Jones. Jones finished six-for-11 for 96 yards and threw a pick.
Lynn noted afterward that he thought Manuel would play better.
LeSean McCoy exited the game with an ankle injury on the first play of the second quarter, Buffalo smartly held him out for the rest of the day. He recorded just 10 yards on five carries, but his Pro Bowl season won’t soon be forgotten. His backup Mike Gillislee would score the Bills lone touchdown in the fourth quarter, with the game already well in hand. He had 40 yards rushing. One of the league’s best rushing attacks finished with a measly 68 rushing yards and an offense that a week ago lit up the Dolphins for a franchise record 589 yards and was averaging more than 25 points per game, ended the season by registering just 230 yards and 10 points.
The most embarrassing moment of the day came in the fourth quarter after the Jets kicked a field goal to go up 23-3. The ensuing kickoff soared over Gillislee’s head and rolled into the end zone where Gillislee tracked it down but didn’t even attempt to field it before New York’s Doug Middleton jumped on the loose ball for a Jets touchdown. It gave the Jets two scoring plays in zero seconds, which is some sort of NFL record.
As bad as all of that was it came secondary to the upcoming decisions Buffalo must make as they dive head first into off-season mode. In fact, according to reports that surfaced ahead of kickoff, that process may already be underway. In the wee hours of the morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced via Twitter that former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley will apparently follow current Bills interim head coach as a defensive coordinator, wherever Lynn accepts a job.
Then as Lynn prepared his team for their eventual slaughter, an Associated Press story told of two sources with direct knowledge of the Bills head coaching situation claiming that Lynn is the clear favorite to take over the vacancy permanently. One of those sources described Lynn taking over as Buffalo’s “working plan,” and that after general Manager Doug Whaley gives his recommendation on the matter, the final decision will rest solely with Kim and Terry Pegula.
Regardless of that report’s accuracy, Lynn will keep his options open. “I think if you want to be a head coach in this league, I think you’d have to,” Lynn said of his pending coaching opportunities.
Still, he didn’t hesitate to specify his preference. “This is where I want to be is right here with the Buffalo Bills,” Lynn asserted. “So this would be my No. 1.”
Meanwhile, Taylor’s benching may have served as a blessing in disguise for the 27-year-old quarterback. The Bills also have to decide whether or not to pick up an option in Taylor’s contract that will guarantee him more than $30 million over the next two season; money they would have owed the former starter if he had been seriously injured against the Jets. Sitting him points to the Bills being uncertain about their commitment to Taylor long-term, however, without even playing a snap Taylor actually gained some leverage by how embarrassing the offense looked without him. The Bills may decide to move on from Taylor regardless, but at the very least they learned for hopefully the last time that Manuel is not the answer.
Buffalo’s head coach and quarterback situations will certainly headline all the tough decisions that the organization must make this off-season. Perhaps Doug Whaley will shine some light on each when he speaks in a long overdue media appearance to wrap up the season at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
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