Stick a fork in them: 2012 Buffalo Bills

  • By Patrick Crawley
  • Updated: Dec. 10, 2012 at 11:05 a.m.

Patrick Crawley is a programming coordinator at We're not sure what that means, but we do know he's a diehard Buffalo Bills fan so we let him do the honors of dissecting his team's downfall.
As a Bills fan, it pains me to do this. But the time is right. At 5-8, it's time to put the playoff dream to rest. The postseason train has left the station with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. standing on the platform with baggage-filled arms -- the 13th train in a row the Bills have missed.
Blame Chan Gailey for reading the schedule wrong. Or Stevie Johnson for tweeting to distraction. Or Fred Jackson and Aaron Williams for ambling too slowly on their wrecked knees. Whatever the excuse, the fork looms. And if it's going to be delivered, I'd rather lower it lovingly. Quickly and painlessly. At the hand of a friend.
What went wrong
From the first game, that 48-28 shellacking to the New York Jets, it was clear the Bills were a flawed team. But at 3-3 there seemed real promise for the season. Then came the brutal one-point loss to the Tennessee Titans and back-to-back routs to the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. And the unraveling was complete.
In hope, the Bills were something of a contender. In reality, not at all.
Gailey has been a mess this season. His play-calling has been terrible. The Bills' best playmaker, by far, C.J. Spiller has only had one game of 20 or more touches (a win over the Miami Dolphins), and six games of 15 touches or less. The fact that he touched the ball just eight times against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday is beyond comprehension. Especially considering the way Fred Jackson was hobbling around the field.
Ryan Fitzpatrick shoulders a portion of the blame as well. Fitzpatrick has cut down on interceptions this season, but losses to the Titans and Indianapolis Colts were affected largely by picks he threw in the fourth quarter. And his difficulty executing in the red zone is legendary -- the Bills have scored a red zone-touchdown this season on just 48 percent of tries.
Throw in the Bills' miserable conversion rate on third down (38 percent), a beaten up secondary (second cornerback Aaron Williams has missed five games in a row with a knee injury) and a linebacking corps that looks perennially out of sorts, and you have a team destined for mediocrity.
Editor's Note: Also, the Bills defense didn't show up for games until November. So that seemed to be a factor.
What went right
Safety Jairus Byrd, guard Andy Levitre and cornerback Leodis McKelvin. All three have a legitimate chance to make the Pro Bowl.
Byrd, who has forced eight turnovers this season, is one of the league's best ball-hawking safeties. His two interceptions against the Dolphins made him co-author to a win in Buffalo's lone national TV appearance.
Levitre is popping up on Pro Bowl ballots all over the place for his work in the Bills' run game -- Buffalo ranks seventh in the league in rushing yards per game. And McKelvin is one of the league's most feared return men.
The defense has also shown progress after an early stretch of blowout losses. The Bills have reduced their points against average from 32.8 points per game in their first four games to 16.8 per in their last four. Free agent signee Mario Williams is the first Bills defender since 2009 to have 10-plus sacks in a season.
And of course C.J. Spiller been a bright light. With 1,298 total yards of total offense he'd likely be Hawaii-bound if given a larger share of the offense.
What still matters
First-round pick Stephon Gilmore has shown great promise as the Bills' primary cornerback. He'll continue to gain experience in the final three games by covering opposing top receivers. Spiller too will benefit from more time as a featured back while Jackson nurses a re-injured knee.
A chance at redemption, and the outside possibility of knocking the Jets from playoff contention, also looms in Week 17. I imagine those gathered at The Ralph on Dec. 30 will relish the opportunity for revenge.
What changes are coming
There are only so many ways a coach can say he messed up. And Chan Gailey has exhausted them all.
The vultures are circling in Buffalo as Gailey drags himself toward season's end. He will almost certainly be fired.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt has made progress in his first season with the Bills, but he could be on the way out as well. In which case his mustache will be missed -- if not the communication breakdowns in the Bills' secondary.
Finally, Ryan Fitzpatrick's job is certainly in jeopardy. General manager Buddy Nix has voiced a desire to be in place to pick the quarterback that fixes everything. Ostensibly, Fitzpatrick is not that quarterback but he is owed a great deal of money and the draft looks slim on difference-making QBs at the level of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Replacing or keeping, Fitzpatrick promises to be an intriguing offseason storyline.