The Bills haven’t been to the postseason since Frank Wycheck threw the ball to Kevin Dyson on a late-game kickoff return, and Dyson then ran untouched to the end zone to polish off the Music City Miracle.
Buffalo’s pro football team has flirted with a playoff berth several times since then, but they haven’t been able to finish the job. As the 2012 season approaches, the talk has become less about hope and more about expectation, week by week and for the full season.
“One thing Coach [Chan] Gailey has done is taken us from a team that hopes to win and hopes to have the ball bounce our way to a team that expects to win when we take the field,” safety George Wilson told Tim Graham of the Buffalo News.
G.M. Buddy Nix says that, when he returned to the Bills as a scout in 2009, he sensed that the organization was in a funk. “We needed a culture change,” Nix said.
“Sometimes you have to change a bunch of people, and that’s not an easy thing,” Nix explained. “If you get people who are complacent, whether they’re players or anywhere in the building, you try to get by that. We went a year with most folks [at One Bills Drive]. But if they couldn’t make the change, then you make a change.”
Part of the change has been to get the right kind of players. “I don’t think you do that unless you emphasize all areas of life, not just football,” Gailey said. “We have guys that believe in doing things the right way. It’s proven out. We have very few incidents on our football team because I believe we’ve got the right kind of men.”
Wilson says that attitude has resulted in a disappearance of bickering among players. “We don’t have the locker-room-lawyer stuff that divides a team,” Wilson said. “We don’t allow the friendly fire. We try to protect each other, come to each other’s aid. But we hold each other accountable. We don’t let anybody cut corners.
“We have good people in the locker room. They want guys they can trust even when they’re not looking. That changed the culture with the kind of men we have.”
None of it will matter if quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t improve significantly under quarterbacks coach David Lee, or if the new Dave Wannstedt defense will be sufficiently disruptive, with the addition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
But at least there’s reason for hope. No, there’s reason for expectation.