Sully's Mailbag: Luster is off, but Buffalo Bills coach isn't on Hot Seat


Once the NFL season begins, it has a relentless momentum. One week rolls quickly into the next and suddenly, you're smack into the fall. Maybe it seems to fly by because each week has such significance. Anyway, its hard to believe were just two days away from the second game, the home opener.

It might be even harder for people to believe Im optimistic about the Bills in Week 2. Yes, they have one of the least talented rosters in the league. But theyre at home, and theyre bound to play a lot better against the Chargers, who lost their opener to the Chiefs and are without their Pro Bowl defensive lineman, Joey Bosa.

Josh Allen will get the start, now that Sean McDermott has come to his senses. I think Allen gives the Bills the best chance to win, though it would be silly to expect a huge game from him. But if he makes a couple of big throws down the field, makes some plays with his legs, and gets a strong running game from LeSean McCoy, they have a good chance if the defense shows up big. I do think the D will play a lot better with the 12th Man getting wired and making it hard for Phil Rivers to function amid the din.

Anyway, heres this weeks Mailbag. Lot of questions, which tells me people are paying attention to Bucky and me on 1270 TheFan, and that the NFL season is getting into full swing.

Eric Sepci asks: Recently saw odds out on McDermott being a favorite amongst NFL coaches to be fired this season. I see no way of that happening this season.thoughts?

Sully: A number of sites have McDermott among the five NFL coaches on the hot seat after the first week, based on the Bills abysmal performance against the Ravens. It makes for good discussion, but these people have no perspective and seem to have forgotten that McDermott was given unprecedented power by the Pegulas and broke the 17-year playoff drought in his first season as head coach.

Im not sold on McDermott. Hes a very good defensive coach, but the jury is out on him as the top guy in an organization. His game-day decisions left something to be desired last year. At times, he came off as generic football coach. Hes conservative, given to spouting cliches and seems to have little understanding of offensive talent. The Bills lost ground when they allowed him to run the 2017 draft before Brandon Beane came aboard.

Most NFL coaches get at least three seasons to prove themselves. McDermott bought himself a lot of good will with owners and fans by getting the Bills into the playoffs last year. His players never stopped listening to his message about Process. After giving up 135 points in three straight losses, they went to Kansas City and shocked the Chiefs in November, 16-10. Thats why I could see them bouncing back on Sunday.

McDermott and Beane have a grace period this season. Its next year, when theyre in the third year and have almost all their own players on the roster, that theyll be on any sort of hot seat. But if this team isnt much better next season, the seat will surely begin to warm.


@garylo200 asks: Does Sean McDermott just have a complete blind spot when it comes to offense? He seems to think you can plug in any wide receivers or offensive linemen and just muddle through.

Sully: McDermott strikes me as one of those defensive-minded coaches who believe they can win with a great defense and a remedial offense. Meanwhile, its become more and more a passing league in which the hottest new coaches like Doug Peterson in Philly and Sean McVay with the Rams are inventive offensive guys who are dictating to defenses and winning with deep, talented offensive rosters.

Its not as if McDermotts method cant work. But it does seem that hes given short shift to the offense. Brandon Beane has to take his share of the blame. Hes the general manager, after all. Still, when the Bills spent most of their money in the offseason on defense (Star Lotulelei, Trent Murphy, Vontae Davis), it was a clear sign that the head coach still holds more sway over personnel, and wanted to shore up the D first.

In the Bills defense, they didnt anticipate the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito. On the other hand, Incognito was near the end and they could have done better than Russell Bodine, a center who was one of the lowest-graded offensive linemen in the league a year ago. They've done little to address the O line in the draft.

Theres no excuse for the weak wide receivers. It was negligent to draft a franchise quarterback and surround him with such poor supporting cast.


Mike Stetter asks: Notice any parallels between Beane and Tim Murray? Seems both were quick to flip established players for draft picks, only to fritter that capital away. Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmonds could become superstars, but those extra picks in the 18 draft mightve been nice considering all the roster needs.

Sully: Good points, Mike. Time will tell with Beane, but one clear parallel is the fans impulse to quickly embrace them, mainly because they werent the guy who preceded them (Doug Whaley, Darcy Regier). Both got high marks for their boldness, for not being afraid to make the tough decision. But Murray turned out to be a fraud who wasted draft picks and brought in new players who were busts.

In the end, Beane will judged by his drafts and the way he rebuilds the roster. He knew from the start it would be a difficult rebuild. I cant fault him for moving out the likes of Marcell Dareus and Sammy Watkins. The question is whether hell hit on enough draft picks who become low-priced assets in their first contracts and does a shrewd job of finding veteran talent to complement them. Thats how you make playoff runs.

Beanes recent acquisitions were not encouraging. But it might be a strategy to bring in cheaper, more modest talent in the short term so he can position himself to go after bigger free-agent prizes in the years ahead. Hell have a lot of cap money next spring, so well see.


@BuffaloBRAUN asks: With a rookie, potential franchise QB, an O line that is inconsistent at best & WR's that gain very little separation why doesn't "the process" consider more double TE alignments to give Allen more protection, run blocking & two big targets to throw to? Thanks.

Sully: Have you been listening to the Bucky&Sully Show? Weve been talking about using two tight ends to help out Allen and get the running game going. Theres no way they play the Chargers close on Sunday if LeSean McCoy doesnt have a good game (say, 90 yards rushing and 50 receiving). They have a bounty of tight ends on the roster, and weak wideouts. Why not put them to good use?

For starters, Allen has to develop Charles Clay as a receiving option. Clay is being paid big money to be a weapon in the passing game. He was invisible in the opener. He and Tyrod Taylor had a good chemistry. If Brian Daboll is such a genius, he needs to get his tight ends more involved as blockers, extra protection for Allen, and as receiving options. Good question.


Bone daddy asks: Who do you think would win the most games as the Bills starter with this roster: Allen, Fitzpatrick, Tyrod.

Sully: Fitz. I know Taylor won nine last year. But Ive never bought the notion that he was the Bills best QB since Bledsoe. Fitzpatrick is more willing to take chances down the field, which is why hes had eight four-TD games in his career and Taylor zero. Yes, his guts are bigger than his talent, but hes not content to manage the game and avoid turnovers. If Fitzpatrick had a better defense in 2011-12, he could have gotten the Bills to the playoffs. He almost got the Jets there in 2015 and set the franchise record for TD passes.

Allen has more upside than either, which is why the Bills drafted him. But hes going to take his lumps and wont win as many games with a deficient offense as Fitz or Taylor would have.


Kevin Lawrence asks:

What do the Yankees do in the Wild Card game. Can they give the ball to Severino for the game that can be their season?

Sully: Severino wouldnt even be my second choice. How can you trust a guy who has logged a 6.76 ERA in his last 12 starts, allowing 80 hits in his last 61 innings? Hes not the same pitcher he was in the first half, when he was a legitimate Cy Young candidate. In a one-game playoff, you cant rest on past laurels.

Id go with Masahiro Tanaka, who was brilliant in the postseason a year ago, giving up only 10 hits in 20 innings. Tanaka can drive you nuts, but if his slider is on, he can be close to unhittable. If he struggles against the As, they can go to J.A. Happ, who is 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA as a Yankee. The As are a little worse against lefties, so hes a good option in relief.

If they survive the wild-card game, the Yanks will rely on their deep bullpen in successive series. Bullpen has become critical in October, when starters are less able to go deep and opposing offenses tend to get to them earlier. The good news is that closer Aroldis Chapman threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and might come off the DL next week.

Comments (4)
No. 1-4

I am so glad youre back.


Tyrod actually only won eight games for the Bills last year, Sully. He didn't play in the snow game victory over the Colts.


That picture is gnomish.


Toughest job in the NFL is being a Bills HC