Last year as I was driving across the country and covering NFL games in different cities, I ended up making a 16-hour detour in Buffalo to see the Bills take on the New England Patriots. I'm not exactly sure what my assumptions about Buffalo were before I arrived there -- opinions of the city were mostly non-existent -- but I left thinking that it was actually a cool little city.
Nice suburbs, awesome wings, and a college football-like atmosphere at the games because what the hell else are you going to do in Buffalo? The Bills and the Sabres: Literally the only game in town*
*Paid for by the Buffalo commission of travel
It's just a shame when the only game in town is the Buffalo Bills.
Celebrating their 55th season of existence last year, the Bills missed the playoffs for the 15th year in a row. They won back-to-back AFL Championships in 1964-65 but have never won the Super Bowl, including four straight losses in the early 90s. The reason for this is as plain as looking at who the starting QB was for Buffalo on that day I arrived to see them play the Patriots; Kyle flippity-doo-da Orton.
I remember sitting in the press box and thinking to myself, "Is E.J. Manuel hurt?" and then turning to the Bills' guy sitting next to me and asking him what Orton was doing in Buffalo, then him telling me that Manuel just really sucks.
"Oh okay, sounds about right."
Yet here we are in 2015 and who is the starting QB in Buffalo? Well, it might be Manuel. Or it might be Matt Cassel, who is probably as bad as Manuel, but older. Or it could even be Tyrod Taylor, who is basically like Cassel when he was in New England and hadn't started a game in his career.
The Bills didn't do anything to improve their situation at QB, a situation so bad that people actually got concerned when Kyle Orton retired.
Because this is a franchise that has been through Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, Kelly Holcom, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, and Manuel. And things aren't looking better despite having the number two defense in the NFL last year by DVOA, just behind Seattle.
There are plenty of people that would speculate that you could change just one player on the rosters -- Russell Wilson to Buffalo that is -- and the Bills would be the Super Bowl favorites while the Seahawks would be hovering around .500.
If there is a problem, it's that Buffalo is headed towards a potential cap impasse next season. If we were speculating on an imaginary scenario wherein Wilson was on the Bills, not the Seahawks, and would they have extended him by now, the answer is: They might not be able to.
Despite having no quarterback, they are barely under the cap as it is (about $6 million, per OvertheCap) and they are basically set to be at the cap limit for 2016. The Bills could (would) cut Cassel and save $4 million but it's hard to have such a large commitment to a non-QB player like the one they have with Mario Williams and also pay a franchise QB. Not impossible (Dolphins kind of have that with Suh and Tannehill) but clearly Buffalo would have that problem, especially for 2016.
They'd have to cut a few starters -- Stephon Gilmore, and oddly enough, Percy Harvin -- to afford to keep Wilson and then once they do that, they'd be handcuffed again.
Still, would the Bills like to have that problem? Absofuckinlutely.
Did you not hear me? 15 years .... no playoffs ... Kyle Orton.