Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News, who regularly covers the Buffalo Bills, steps to the plate to answer five questions on the team. We appreciate you taking the time Mark. You can check out Marks work in print here, and on Twitter here.
Check out the Q&A below.
1. Marshawn Lynch seems like a different person after the midseason trade that sent him from Buffalo to Seattle in 2010, running for over 1,000 yards the last two seasons. What were the issues that led to the Bills wanting to move on from Lynch, and what do you think the response will be to his return from the fans on Sunday? (I know the game is in Toronto, so that could make a difference in fan response.)
Gaughan: I think the Bills viewed him as too much of a high-maintenance player after he had some run-ins with the law. They had a very good running back in the fold in Fred Jackson, and they had a new regime taking over that wanted to turn the page. So they drafted C.J. Spiller. I don’t think there will be much response in Rogers Centre, a smattering of boos and cheers. If the game was in Buffalo, then there would be a fair amount of boos for him.
2. The Bills received a lot of attention during the free agency period after signing defensive end Mario Williams to the most lucrative contract for a defensive player in league history. Williams has 10.5 sacks on the year, but has he lived up to the lofty expectations that come with his immense contract?
Gaughan: He hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations because the team isn’t winning, and he started off slowly due to the fact he suffered a wrist injury just before the regular-season began. It may be impossible for him to live up to the expectations placed on him by the contract. But he has seven sacks in six games since having a surgical procedure on the wrist during the bye week. And he is playing very stout run defense, just like he did in Houston. So he’s not part of their problems, he’s part of their solutions.
3. C.J. Spiller was one of the most explosive players in the 2010 draft. He’s on the verge of rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and has an impressive 6.6 per carry average. However, he’s still had to split carries with Fred Jackson, who was recently placed on the injured reserve list with a knee issue. Do you feel Spiller has been used effectively?
Gaughan: He has been used effectively but not enough. He needs to get the ball more. There are some understandable reasons why he hasn’t gotten the ball in this situation or that situation. But the bottom line is he’s their best offensive weapon and he hasn’t gotten it enough. The offense was on the field 58 plays vs. St. Louis and he got eight touches. They lost by three.
4. The Bills are headed toward a 13th straight season of missing the postseason, the longest playoff drought in the league. Is there a feeling that Chan Gailey is on the cusp of getting things turned around after three seasons as Buffalo’s head coach? And is Ryan Fitzpatrick the long-term answer at quarterback?
Gaughan: There were high expectations the Bills would make a strong push for a playoff spot this season, so there is great frustration and disappointment in their 5-8 record. Gailey is on a very hot seat, as far as the fans are concerned. General manager Buddy Nix has stated several times he has no desire to start anew with a different coach. Ryan Fitzpatrick is widely viewed as not being the long term answer at quarterback.
5. How do Buffalo fans feel about having to play every year in Toronto? And what are the reasons for the annual trek across the border?
Gaughan: Bills fans generally don’t like the Toronto arrangement. A fair percentage of them, however, do recognize that the series is good for the team’s bottom line and that the team has mostly maxed out the corporate sponsorships and support it can get in the greater Buffalo area. So regionalism is very important to the viability of the franchise. The Bills say roughly 20 percent of the fans at games in Orchard Park are from Southern Ontario, and a tad more than 15 percent of them are from the Rochester area (an hour east of Buffalo). So without those two regional markets, Buffalo would not be able to fill its stadium.