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Column: Bills pain replaced with call for changes

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Wellsville native and Bills super-fan pens second annual reflection

Pictured is a large group, full of Wellsville people, at a 2022 Bills game in Charlotte NC

A Column by Kurt Culbert

Continuing my trend as an absolutely miserable host during Bills games is about the only thing that remained intact when comparing the Bills playoff defeat of a year ago, to the one that occurred Sunday at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Then again, there also was the familiar check-in via text with fellow Wellsville transplant Michael Felsen. And the normal banter within the decade old text group made up of another dozen or so 14895 friends.

Oh, and the wings. There are always wings.

Other than that, though, this one was different.

Last year, it felt as though defeat was ripped from the jaws of victory. This year’s finale was never in question. The lasting heartbreak of a season ago, is replaced with frustration and concern.

Was last year “the missed opportunity?”

While I certainly look forward to an opportunity to share a column with Wellsville Sun readers, it would be fantastic if it were to ditch its annual timing. Two years in a row the Bills were bounced during the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

The familiar adage of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is at play here. Changes should happen. Changes must happen. Just how many remains anyone’s guess, although I assure you that my once steadfast faith in the McBeane regime is not as iron clad as it once was to “trust the process.”

If we’re being honest, this loss also came on the heels of Buffalo showing glimpses of the team’s warts for the last several weeks. The Bills allowed too many inferior opponents to remain in games all year long. There were a couple of strong wins, sure, but predictable game plans were exploited by hungry coaches dating back to October.

The chorus of fans and friendly media quick to absolve the poor postseason as a culmination of an emotional season bring solid merit. However, those same elements that drove the emotional peaks and valleys should have helped propel this team.

And injuries? There’s not a team in the league that hasn’t had some injury adversity. Heck, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl is a team trotting out a third-string quarterback.

While we empathize, we also must remain realistic.

Head coach Sean McDermott remains an unbelievable leader of men – among the best in the league during an era when players need treated differently. These are Generation Z players, after all. That said, it remains maddening to review his game management (mismanagement?). Odd timeouts, terrible use of replays, defensive schemes that break more often then they bend of late all come back to coaching. As he currently noted following this week’s shellacking, any criticism should start with him.

I agree.

However, we must also scatter a bit of criticism at a first-year offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey. Should he not land a head coaching job, I’m of the mindset he needs another shot. He needs to reinvent the offense a bit though. Much of the success in the Josh Allen era has come in part from the element of surprise … a lack of predictability. This year’s offense was far too probable – even on the 3rd-and-short downs (run the ball a few times, please)! It’s as if Dorsey saw the success against Pittsburgh to get the ball deep and made it his foundation the remainder of the season. “Take what they give you” was replaced with “force the ball into tight coverage downfield.”

And Allen. He deserves a bit of a noogie too. I will not give up my figurative seat as the co-president of the Allen Fan Club alongside Aaron Stisser (informal positions appointed by previously mentioned text group), but Allen too needs to make adjustments. There’s no need to rehash the turnovers, but he needs to be a vocal leader in reinventing the playbook. Allen was vocal about helping Dorsey land the gig, it’s time to help him be a hero minus the “hero ball.” I have faith he will.

A new, well-respected offensive line coach in Aaron Kromer delivered a porous line that left the primary asset vulnerable all season long. Changes are needed.

We need to kick Brandon Beane in the shin a little bit as well. His department’s draft results have been dreadful. It caught lightning in the bottle with Josh, but that is the anomaly through Beane’s first five drafts.

A reinvention of that process is necessary.

There will be a number of key players that will leave before the Bills show up at St. John Fisher University (new name for my alma mater) in July. Twenty-one free agents are currently on the 53-man roster. While a number of those are restricted free agents, the salary cap will not lend itself favorable to keeping veteran salaries across the roster.

That’s okay, evolution of the roster also is needed.

Next season will be pivotal, and will feature more heat in the seat for Bills personnel, coaches and administration than it has felt since “The Process” began. Among the positives for next year is the likely departure of the Bills serving as the odds-on favorites to win it all. This team has a better history of exploiting the role of underdog.

Programs and eras have a beginning and an end. Here’s hoping this era has a long way to go with greater heights to achieve, and that I’m putting together a Bills column a few weeks later in 2024.

For now, let’s hope the Sabres continue playing meaningful games for the next couple of months. That would be a welcomed change.

Wellsville native Kurt Culbert remains a diehard Buffalo sports fan, along with his family, in China Grove, NC.

Kurt Culbert shared his thoughts with the Wellsville Sun after last year’s Buffalo Bills season concluded. It was part of his post-season therapy. He needs it again after Sunday’s game.

Feel free to look back at his reflection from a season ago here.

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