Monday, October 25, 2004

StuPats, meet the ShiBills.

As my longtime readers know, the NFL franchise based in the suburbs of Boston, MA is known for purposes of this blog as the New England Stupid Patriots, because they're the greatest force for evil yet known by the world of sport. If Cthulhu himself appointed a football team to do his dark bidding, the StuPats would be the team. I suppose I should call them the Evil Patriots, but Stupid Patriots more perfectly captures the existential stupidity of a franchise once owned by that goofy Remington Shaver guy now being the NFL's leading franchise.

But in light of the performance of my preferred team yesterday, against the Baltimore Ravens, I feel that the Buffalo Bills can no longer be referred to as such in this space. So, what to call them?

Well, as is usually the case when I think about stuff like this, a pop-culture reference leaps to mind: the movie Major League. (I know, it's a baseball movie and we're talking football, but humor me.) The story of Major League involves the Cleveland Indians, back in the day when they were perpetual doormats of the AL East (a period which lasted something like 40 years), end up being inherited by a rich woman who hates Cleveland and wants to move the team to Florida. Trouble is, she can't get out of her lease unless attendance for the season falls below some threshold number -- one million, I think -- so she fills the roster with the worst talent she can find. Sure enough, the team starts off absolutely horribly with its crew of whodat's and ne'erdowell's.

But these guys have pride, and when they learn of the owner's plan, they decide to "Win the whole f***in' thing". Which, of course, they do, after a one-game playoff against the hated Yankees (remember, the Indians and the Yankees were in the same division for many years).

(Incidentally, I've always remembered an exchange from the film that was featured in the movie's TV spots, even though it didn't occur in the final cut of the movie. Discussing a home run given up by the team's closer, the crusty catcher (Tom Berenger) says, "That ball wouldn't have gone out of most parks." The closer (Charlie Sheen) counters, "Name one." And Berenger says, "Yellowstone." Har!)

Periodically throughout the film, we cut away from the main characters (the ballplayers and their wives/girlfriends) to check in on the opinions of the Cleveland faithful. Most start off thinking they suck, but then they gradually gain respect for the team -- except for these two Asian groundskeepers, who jabber at each other in an Oriental tongue that is subtitled, each time, as the finely nuanced bit of baseball analysis:

"They're shitty."

Well, that's what I think of, watching the Bills offer game after game like yesterday's effort. So, here's the new policy here: Until the Bills demonstrate to me that they no longer warrant the title, they shall be known on Byzantium's Shores as the Buffalo Shitty Bills, or the ShiBills, for short.

How will I determine that they have risen above their new moniker? Well, I don't really know for sure, but I'll start with this: they have to win four games in a row. This year, next year, whatever -- four wins in a row. That's a minimum requirement for ditching the title "Shitty Bills". Now, it's not the only requirement, and they might well win four in a row in shitty fashion, and thus not have the name changed; but three wins in a row won't do it. Even if they win 56-3 three weeks in a row and then lose a 27-24 squeaker in OT. Even if they have three wins and a tie. Even if the officials blow every single call against them, call every non-penalty, and uphold every coaches' challenge. Even if they lost close games by a single point each. Until I say so, they are the Buffalo Shitty Bills.

(And none of this StuPats stuff of straddling two seasons for a streak's purposes. If the ShiBills win their last two games this year, and then win their first two next year before losing the third one next year, they're still the ShiBills.)

Buffalo Shitty Bills. Get used to it. I know I sure am.

I'm not going to delve into long details about how bad yesterday's game was, except for one key facet (and to note that once again I have to agree with Jerry Sullivan, Jerry's crappy writing notwithstanding). That key facet is this: Drew Bledsoe is done. I've supported him longer than just about anyone else, mainly because of my strong belief that a good football team is built on its big men up front -- on the offensive and defensive lines -- and that the Bills are inadequate on both accounts, woefully so on the offensive side. I firmly believe that Steve Young or John Elway, the best mobile QBs I've ever seen, in their prime, would not be able to run a decent offense behind this line.

But that excuse has run its course, at long last. Yesterday, Drew Bledsoe made one bad decision after another, pressing passes into double coverage and heaving up passes he had no business attempting (to say nothing of fumbling on one of his sacks). Yes, several of his passes were deflected away from his own receivers, but that doesn't really faze me anymore. His passes were errant, his decisions questionable. Consider this: according to this calculator, if every pass you throw in an NFL game falls incomplete (and isn't intercepted), your rating is 39.5. Drew Bledsoe's quarterback rating from yesterday's game was 32.3. There's no way to sugarcoat that, or excuse it as the work of an able quarterback behind a godawful line: it's the work of a bad quarterback behind a godawful line. I've resisted this conclusion as long as I could, but the evidence can no longer be ignored. The ShiBills will never win consistently with Bledsoe as the starting quarterback.

From where I sit, the 2004 season is over for the ShiBills, and all that remains is playing out the string. Better, then, to get JP Losman a bit of game experience -- maybe not starting him the rest of the way, but getting him some reps and snaps in real games, and getting ready for the post-Bledsoe era. And you know, I'm not opposed to having a rebuilding year on principle. The bad taste in the mouth comes when one realizes that this is the second rebuilding year in four years (2001 being the first), in an era when well-run NFL franchises can rebuild with startling quickness.

So there it is. All behold the Buffalo Shitty Bills.

Go ShiBills!

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