Buddy Nix:

Bills And Sabres Making All The Right Moves

It’s a pretty great feeling when your favorite sports teams seem to be making all the right moves. As Buffalo sports fans we’ve certainly dealt with a lot of stomach-roiling management over the years and it’s nice to feel like things are finally going well for both the Sabres and the Bills management-wise.

As for the Bills we had to put up with some horrible coaching ever since the Marv Levy days. Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron and a brief look at Perry Fewell. Fewell didn’t have enough tenure for us to know much about him but the rest … ugh.

The “Dick Jauron Face”. Passion-inspiring it is not. We had to put up with THREE YEARS of this.

Chan Gailey is such a breath of fresh air form those guys – especially from Dick Jauron. It’s ridiculous to think back on the fact that he fired his offensive coordinator and had Alex Van Pelt install a no-huddle offense mere weeks from the start of the regular season. “Hey build me an awesome offense quickly. It’s easy, right? Hey, you’ve got Trent Edwards so don’t complain.” Er, yeah.

Mismanagement. We’d dealt with it for over a decade.

Now the Sabres have fans thinking that it’s possible they could pick up any player in the NHL. Rick Nash? Certainly possible. One source said they had $100 million offers in on both Parise and Suter. They’re willing to spend money and do anything – absolutely ANYTHING – that is necessary to make the team better.

The Bills got Mario freaking Williams to come to Buffalo. They’re signing great talent at every position and appear to be on the cusp of better-than-average-ness (I won’t say greatness because it’s been too damn long since we could say that and I don’t want to jinx it.)

There’s a disturbance in the force. Great players are being attracted to Western New York. Maybe it’s the prevalence of chicken wings across the country. Perhaps it’s a decades-long plot finally coming to fruition where scientists figured out a way to inject hot sauce with a mind-controlling substance that calls atheletes home to the wing mecca that is Buffalo.

Whatever the reason for it, it’s awesome. The Bills and Sabres may not reach their expectations this season but it’s still a great feeling to know that the organizations are willing to do the right things. That they’re willing to spend money and be aggressive. That they don’t just follow someone else’s script, but instead blaze trails with their own gameplans.

Another thought is that I used to give bad coaches the benefit of the doubt. After a year of guys like Williams/Mularkey/Jauron I’m usually like, “chill people, let’s give them a couple of years and see what they can do when they’ve established their system”. I used to think that 3 years was what it took for a new coaching regime to get their things going.

That’s bull. A new coach’s presence should be felt immediately. The team might not start winning right away, but you should be able to see their affect on the team. We saw that early on with Chan Gailey. He was willing to switch from Trent Edwards to Fitzpatrick within weeks of the regular season starting. He recognized that Edwards’ brain didn’t work at the game speed required at the NFL level while Fitzy’s did. Chan pulled the trigger and reversed his decision while other coaches (*couch*Jauron*cough*) just stay stuck in the mire of the decision they made in the past.

Thank goodness for Chan, Nix, Lindy, Darcy and perhaps most of all the Pegula clan. They may not make ALL the right moves, but you can’t be perfect. At least they’re sticking to their blueprint for success and being unabashedly aggressive about it. I love it. And it bodes well for an exciting 2012-2013 for both franchises.

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The ‘Stache, The Bills New 4-3 Defense and Bad Things, Man

I love the moves the Bills have made recently. Of course it’s all “on paper” and nothing guarantees more success than last year. But there’s a lot to love about the new defense.

And of course if you’re going to talk about the defense, you’ve got to mention the man behind it, the new defensive coordinator, “The ‘Stache”, Dave Wannestedt.

The ‘Stache is one of those guys we’ve had to hate with other teams, and I can’t think of worse ones than Dallas (during the early 90s) and Miami. I could appreciate him during his stint with the Chicago Bears from 1993-98. He always had that Bill Cowher-esque scowl while he contorted his mustache into various configurations – all of them implying anger.

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It's not true that the eyes say it all, nor the eyebrows... mustaches convey more emotion than either of these.

I love the guy as our D-coordinator. He’s one of those guys that never quite translated as well as a head coach but can be awesome as a coordinator. However he actually had decent success as a head coach: he was only 41-57 with Chicago, but he was 42-31 at the helm in Miami and that was with QBs such as Jay Fiedler, Ray Lucas and Brian Griese. He actually made the playoffs his first two years at Miami (remember 2000 when our own Thurman Thomas played there? Ugh.) It’s worth mentioning that his NCAA record is 42-31.

His defenses typically rank pretty high in terms of yards allowed, points scored and takeaways. He had some off years with Chicago, but his Dallas and Miami defenses were amazing.

With Wannestedt though, everything is predicated on the defensive line, as it should be. That’s where the action starts, and if you can control the line of scrimmage you can typically control the game. As The ‘Stache says in this TBN article:

It’s going to be a defensive-line friendly scheme, and by that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front play,” he said. “That’s how it was at Dallas, at Miami, every place where we’ve run this scheme. The guys up front, it all starts there. If we can get a good rotation going, keep some guys healthy, you know that kind of sets the foundation for what we’re trying to get done here.

The Bills’ 4-3 will be an attacking defense as well. Not one that reads and reacts, but one that uses the talent we have very well. Says Wannestedt:

Our defensive linemen will never hear the phrase, ‘You gotta use up a double team or use up a block.’ We want them making plays.

By going to the 4-3, the Bills also get players back to their natural positions. It’s likely that the 4-3 defense was planned when Chan Gailey and buddy Nix took over but they didn’t have the personnel for it. We have the talent now. I couldn’t say it better then Pat Kirwan does:

Kelsey returns to his natural position (DE) but relegated to backup, too, and this improves depth. Andre Davis is gone. Barnett is better suited to play in a 4-3 front (scheme he played when originally drafted by Green Bay) and Merriman becomes a situational pass rusher which adds length to his career which has been up and down with injury. The only change in the secondary is McKelvin, who is now third string.

So a new defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills and a new scheme in the 4-3. According to Wannestedt, there’s no reason whatsoever to worry that the switch to the 4-3 will be difficult or won’t happen in time for the regular season (from the same TBN post):

Every day we’re putting in something different. Every day it’s a different coverage, it’s a different front. It might be a different blitz and we’ve got it organized pretty good,” Wannstedt said. “I think when we get to about Day 11, 12 [of spring practice] we’ll be about ready to play a game, really. And then the key will be to come back in training camp and start over again.

SuperMario, Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mark Anderson… if those guys can stay healthy it could be the harbinger of very, very bad things for opposing QBs and RBs.

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