Thursday, August 5, 2010
More miraculous: '08 Dolphins or '10 Bills?
Some Buffalo Bills fans took umbrage with a remark I made in a Wednesday blog item about their team's playoff chances.
New coach Chan Gailey wondered out loud why the Bills couldn't get to the playoffs.
I proposed if the Bills reached the postseason this year, then it might be considered a more miraculous feat than the Miami Dolphins rebounding from a 1-15 record to win the AFC East in 2008.
Allow me to explain my thinking and then feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.
I understand the Bills weren't as bad last year as the abysmal '07 Dolphins were on the field.
Still, the Dolphins winning the AFC East is more plausible to me because (other than the fact they actually did it) the organizational cultures were significantly different for the Dolphins at this time in 2008 compared to where the Bills are today.
The main reason is Bill Parcells, who was given complete control over football operations. The Dolphins already had a few incumbent stars on their roster: running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and outside linebacker Joey Porter. They drafted franchise left tackle Jake Long with the No. 1 pick.
Parcells drew proven coaches and free agents to the club. The Dolphins also made trades. They acquired quarterback Chad Pennington, tight end Anthony Fasano, guard Justin Smiley and nose tackle Jason Ferguson.
People wanted to be Dolphins.
Compare that to the Bills, who haven't been to the playoffs for a decade and have one winning season in that span. The Dolphins have four seasons of double-digit victories since the Bills last appeared in the playoffs.
I like what Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix are doing to rebuild the program, but they don't have the automatic credibility Parcells brings.
The Bills have little star power or drawing power. Their most-accomplished player, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel, apparently wanted out. They aren't entirely sure who their quarterback will be -- or their offensive tackles. Their top free-agent signings were defensive end Dwan Edwards and inside linebacker Andra Davis, nice players but not course-changers.
While the Dolphins had Long under contract before the draft, the Bills still haven't signed rookie running back C.J. Spiller, the ninth overall pick, a week into camp.
The competition is tougher for Buffalo this year than it was for Miami in 2008. Miami had an amazingly easy schedule, playing the soft AFC West and NFC West. Miami's combined opponents went 118-138 for a .461 win percentage that season. Aside from Bill Belichick, the AFC East coaches Tony Sparano had to match wits with were Eric Mangini and Dick Jauron.
The Bills' schedule strength is tied for 14th based on last year's records at 128-128. They will have to play the rugged AFC North and NFC North in cross-division games. Gailey has to face Belichick, Rex Ryan and Sparano in the division.
That's why I look at the Bills' chances to make the playoffs and think it can be debated their road ahead is tougher than what the Dolphins had in 2008.