Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix laid the challenge down to his coaches and players before the season began. It was time to start becoming relevant, he said. Time to quick talking and start walking.
Well, with the Bills off to a 2-3 start -- with the losses by embarrassing scores of 48-28 to the Jets, 52-28 to the New England Patriots and 45-3 to the San Francisco 49ers -- many fans wouldn't mind seeing Nix start walking, taking the mess he's put in place with him.
"Well, obviously, we're not pleased with it," Nix said of the record-setting loss to San Francisco and the season in general. "There's really no excuse for losing the way we did. We're all to blame. Let's do better. Hell, let's get it going."
Nix spoke by teleconference with reporters from Phoenix, where the Bills play the Arizona Cardinals (4-1) on Sunday.
The Bills elected to fly right from San Francisco to Arizona and avoid consecutive cross-country round trips. They are staying the week at the Arizona Grand Resort, a four-star resort with multiple swimming pools, a water park and a golf course, arrangements that haven't exactly endeared them to critics who wonder why underachieving athletes are being pampered.
Nix has bigger issues to address than perceptions.
This is year three of his rebuilding project, and he's the Bills' fifth general manager since 2000, when Buffalo's streak of non-playoff years started. The current roster is 70 percent Nix's work, but he's also made key decisions to make players from past regimes key building blocks, foremost being quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Stevie Johnson, two very inconsistent performers on an offense that ranks 17th in the league.
His free agency moves aren't exactly winning Nix votes for NFL Executive of the Year either. Defensive end Mario Williams, who was awarded the richest contract ever for a defensive player (six years, $100 million) has become a lightning rod for all that's wrong with the Bills. Hired to be a difference-maker, he has 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Worse, the defense has fallen apart around him.
Most thought things couldn't get worse than the showing against New England, when the Patriots scored touchdowns on six consecutive drives in the second half to win in a laugher.
However, everything got worse against the 49ers, who rolled up 621 yards, the most ever allowed by a Bills defense. San Francisco became the first team in history to rush for 300 yards and pass for 300 yards in the same game. The yardage differential for the day, 417 (621 vs. 204), was largest ever for a Bills game; the 42-point margin of defeat tied for third worst.
The Bills have been outscored 90-17 over the past six quarters.
As is to be expected, Nix defended his moves, his coaches, his players. He was the one who also hired Chan Gailey to be his head coach. Gailey is 12-25 so far.
"Chan has never lost it. He's even keel, he's the same every day. He's not going to panic," Nix said. "He knows what he's doing, and he won't lose this team, neither. We will get them back. I've got great confidence in that."
Same goes for Buffalo's awful defense.
Nix committed a grand total of $127 million to Williams and fellow free agent end Mark Anderson (12 tackles, one sack). Dave Wannstedt was also supposed to be the answer at defensive coordinator after Buffalo allowed a franchise-record 5,938 yards last year.
Nix wouldn't single out Williams.
"When you miss tackles, usually it's one of two things: It's talent or lack of effort," Nix said. "And we've seen these guys do it before, so I think they can. But we've got to get that urgency back somehow.
"It's not just Mario. Mario actually plays better than people give him credit for. Not to defend him, he can play better. We expect him to, but so can everybody else. I mean, we all need to play better. ... I don't care who's getting paid what, none of us have earned it the last couple of weeks."