My personal belief is, the Bills messed around far too much with their offensive line. To be honest, I didn’t actually say this myself, Nick Hornsby of Pro Football Focus did. “My personal belief is,” Hornsby told John Murphy on WGR, “the Bills messed around far too much with their offensive line.” Like Hornsby, I have said pretty much the same thing for months now. Nevertheless, most analysis of the Buffalo Bills offensive line centers around quality of players, rather than, say, quality of coaching. The visual evidence looks damning — see clip below — but is it that simple?
Hornsby offers a different view, one that suggests Bills choices are to blame.
“They seem to have a view that they needed to get bigger… put more beef on the line. The whole plan was to get Chris Williams, and move him into left guard, to me, that was fraught with disaster before it had even started. Yes, he’s big, but he’s not particularly good. He’s struggled everywhere he’s been, whether he played at tackle or guard. I had no idea what they saw in him when they picked up.They move Erik Pears. Who’s a Pretty reasonable although journeyman type right tackle. They move him into right guard…. and he struggles massively. I would have stuck with Kraig Urbik. I thought what they did to Urbik was very unfair. He’s not a great player, but he’s a good player. I don’t think they made a good decision on that front,” Nick Hornsby on the John Murphy show.
What Hornsby is really saying is, in my own words, “maybe playing unskilled big guys, and moving players out of positions they’re best at, isn’t such a good idea.” Hornsby’s views certainly complicate the visual evidence argument.
Teams like the New England Patriots, who make do with little talent, don’t help the visual evidence argument either. The Patriots looked like they had the least talented offensive line in the league at the beginning of the season, however, the Patriots figured their shit out and ended up finishing 5th in o-line DVOA. That finish is even more impressive, if you consider the fact they played Jordan Levey — who one dude as lookg like “he’s never been laid before — in the first four games.
Making matters worse, even other Bills coaches have had success with little talent. Chan Gailey coached four of the same offensive lineman in his last season and finished 7th in DVOA for the year. Marrone, with the same linemen, finished 16th and 26th in his two seasons. Sure, Urbik and Pears are older, but Cordy Glenn’s more experienced, and Eric Wood is still in his prime. The latter should mitigate the former. The difference is Gailey knew not to fit square pegs into round holes.*
That’s not to say stats are perfect — certainly they do not account for Cordy Glenn’s offseason mystery illness — but such a steep drop in performance does back up Hornsby’s assertion of poor choices affecting the offensive line. I won’t go out on a limb here, and claim the Bills have a talented offensive line, I just think the next coach of the Buffalo Bills needs to have his shit together.
*Trust me, I don’t want to compliment Chan Gailey’s work with the Bills, but Marrone left me with no choice.