Since arriving in 2017, Sean McDermott has preached rebuilding a broken Buffalo Bills franchise the right way. He has talked about establishing a winning culture, drafting young men who would help foster that culture, defending your dirt, winning division games, winning the division, playoff caliber, championship caliber, and earning the right to win…all while trusting the process. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have been lifesavers for the Buffalo Bills franchise. The Bills went from a 17 year playoff drought to 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl in just four years, which is remarkable considering the plethora of poor decisions that were made in the organization for two decades prior to their arrival.
When talking about losing the ability to control their own destiny for the division after the losing to the Buccanners, Josh Allen said something that caught my attention.
“We talk about playoff caliber and that is our goal…to punch our ticket into the playoffs, no matter how that be.”Josh Allen, after loss to Tampa Bay
For a team that had Super Bowl aspirations, winning the division that they swept last season seemed like a reachable goal. The Bills have a better roster man-for-man than the majority of teams in the league, including the Patriots. The AFC East should have been wrapped up by now, but instead the Bills are in a late-season fight for it. For the Bills to change their language from “the easiest way to make the playoffs is through the division” to “punching our ticket no matter how that be” is bush league.
Some people are even trying to justify why winning the division may actually hinder the Bills. Fans and some in the media have said that a bonus to losing the division is that the Bills play better on the road and would be immune from the Buffalo elements in January. I’ve also heard that finishing 2nd in the division and avoiding the other first place division finishers on the schedule next year is a benefit to losing the division. To be frank, fans and media using the above reasons to justify the Bills’ flaws this year are embarrassing themselves. That is a losing mindset, one that Sean McDermott and company worked tirelessly to reverse. We would be doing the Bills a disservice and not giving them the respect they have earned if we are looking on the bright side of surrendering the division after just one year on top. And I must add, where do those rooting for away playoff games think the other contenders in the AFC play? New England, Baltimore, Kansas City, or Pittsburgh wouldn’t be much better weather than Orchard Park.
If the Bills lose this game, it will show that taking over the division last year was a fluke, something that only happened because the greatest quarterback of all time skipped town. The Bills’ 2020 season will be chalked up to nothing more than the team capitalizing while the Patriots were finding themselves a serviceable replacement for Brady. That will be the narrative if the Bills lose on Sunday, and for the time being it would be tough to argue with and defend. Certainly if given the choice, Bills fans would love to see a deep playoff run as a Wild Card team instead of a first round loss as a division winner. But picking things in hindsight is not how sports are played – the only thing that the Bills can control this week is going into Foxborough and showing that the steady growth they have shown over the past five years will not come to a screeching halt. It’s all in the hands of the Bills, which, despite Allen’s “no matter how that be” comment, is exactly where they want it.