In 2022, on a cold January day, America watched a football game that was supposed to represent the future of the NFL. It was the AFC Divisional Round, played between young and ascending quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen and the Kansas City Chiefs/Buffalo Bills. It was a high scoring affair, a 42-36 win in overtime for the Chiefs. But if anyone knew one thing, it was that the Bills would be back.
Since that game, the Chiefs have gone on to make 2 AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl, while Patrick Mahomes has won a MVP and a super bowl MVP. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills have won one playoff game, a squeaker against the Skylar Thompson led Miami Dolphins, and have no major individual accolades to share. This year, the Chiefs are 7-2 coming off a great win against the Dolphins in London, while the Bills have fallen to 5-5, putting their playoff hopes on life support after another loss to an inferior opponent in the Broncos.
This strongly begs the question, what happened in Buffalo? How does a team that was poised to be the second best in the conference now look like their window is closed. Why did Josh Allen go from future elite talent to a walking interception. I believe that coaching, poor injury luck on the defensive end, and key flaws on offense have contributed to this fall.
First, let’s talk about Sean McDermott. McDermott has done a decent job as the Bills head coach, taking the team from an irrelevant franchise that was barely winning anything to one of the key players in the AFC. Coming from a defensive coordinator background with the Eagles and Panthers, he understands that side of the ball well and has stopped mistakes on that end.
However, questions can be asked about just how well McDermott knows offense, given the fact that he does not call plays and spent most of his career around defense. This has led offensive coordinator to be the biggest position on the Bills when it comes to working with Josh Allen. We know this is the case because they just haven’t looked the same since the departure of Brian Daboll to the Giants.
Since Daboll left, Josh Allen’s turnovers have become an issue, He had eighteen fumbles last season, and already is up to eleven interceptions this season. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired after the Broncos loss, and it’s clear that no one trusts what is going on offensively to be productive. Every great quarterback needs a coach to guide them, and McDermott just isn’t doing that.
Related to this season specifically, the Bills have lost several key players to injury on the defensive side of the ball. In a span of a week, they lost star corner Tre White, linebacker Matt Milano, and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. Not many teams can survive losing a key player in every single unit of their defense.
This has also been the case going back to last year, when star pass rusher Von Miller had his season end early. Their depth offensively also isn’t great, and thus they are very susceptible to pretty much any injury on that end.
Key Offensive Flaws
Tying into both other points, the offense of the Bills is inherently flawed for a couple of reasons. The offensive coaching of Josh Allen makes it turnover prone at key moments, and that is something that they need to fix. In addition, they have been really poor at developing a running game, causing them to struggle when it comes to differentiating the attack.
This also means they rely a lot on receiver Stefon Diggs, who is their best player other than Allen and pretty much has elevated the offense. However, this leads to drama as well, as Diggs has publicly seemed upset when he doesn’t receive touches and his brother is now publicly saying he may want out of Buffalo. If they lose Diggs, they don’t really have another go-to receiver, which exposes the lack of depth they have.
Buffalo has work to do to fix these issues. They probably need a new coach, definitely some receivers, and a need to develop a running game. These are all things they need to achieve for their team to succeed, and it can’t be done this season. At 5-5 in a loaded AFC, their playoff hopes look unlikely, as do the odds that this specific core will ever make a real run. Let’s hope this isn’t the last of them.