ORCHARD PARK - The Buffalo Bills (5-10) will look to end their disappointing 2012 campaign on a high note today when they face the New York Jets (6-9), a team that beat them, 48-28, to open the season.
"Obviously you want to win every game," Bills' head coach Chan Gailey said. "But to win the last one and especially against the Jets - that is a team that we all want to beat any time of the year. It would be great to get a win. Finish it off with a win like that instead of finishing losing. You do not want to do that obviously."
The Bills haven't won a Week 17 game since 2009, when they beat the Indianapolis Colts, 30-7, and haven't played a meaningful late-December game since a 29-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leaves the field after his team’s 24-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, on Sunday, Dec. 22, in Miami.
"The last three (seasons) have been frustrating," Gailey said. "I have been fortunate to be around situations in the past where we have been able to turn it around in a fairly short period of time. We have not been able to do it yet, so yeah, it has been disappointing to me personally."
With Gailey's tenure in Buffalo an unquestioned disappointment, his job, along with that of his quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, may be on the line come Monday, regardless of the outcome of today's game.
"It is hard just with all of the uncertainty in the air right now in terms of what is to come," Fitzpatrick said of the speculation that he won't be the Bills' quarterback next season. "I think it is very hard at this point to block out, for it not be at the forefront of your mind. You just have to make sure that it does not affect (you). I have to make sure that it does not affect the way that I play."
Since taking over as quarterback for the Bills in 2010, Fitzpatrick is 15-29 as the team's starter, has thrown for 10,007 yards, 70 touchdowns, 54 interceptions, and has completed 60.57 percent of his passes. Obviously Fitzpatrick is not the main cause of the 29 losses the Bills have suffered since he took over under center, but he will be easier to replace than overhauling the entire offense.
"Statistics lie I think a lot of the time," Fitzpatrick said. "I am not going to sit up here and say we performed the way we wanted to on offense this year because we have not. So I think as a quarterback, I have to point the finger at myself. As an offense we point the finger at ourselves in terms of the lack of success we have had this year as a team. You hope the defensive guys do that as well, but for me, there is not a whole lot of blame to be passed around. You have to look at yourself first."
A few other members of the Bills may be playing their last game with the team as well, as offensive lineman Andy Levitre, safety Jarius Byrd, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and defensive end Kyle Moore can start looking for new teams this March.
"Yeah you do not find a lot of players, we have not in particular, players that are there week in and week out the way he has been," Gailey said of Levitre. "He has been solid, 'Steady Eddie' for us and played well. He has been one of the pleasant things for (our) offense as far as consistency goes."
"There is a certain calm about him," Fitzpatrick added. "He helps some of the guys around him, especially David (Snow) when he had to step in at center. That is just what Andy brings to the table. I think it is a quiet confidence that he is going to get the job done."
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Oregon, Byrd, the Bills' 26-year old free safety, has turned into the team's most reliable defensive player. Whether or not he wants to try and add to his 18 career interceptions in Orchard Park, remains to be seen. It will be in Buffalo's best interest going forward however, if they can lock both Byrd and Levitre up for several more years.
One thing is for sure, the Bills need to go into the offseason with a better plan than they have had over the course of the last 13 seasons. They need to draft better as only five of the 15 first-round draft picks they have made since 2000 are still playing with the team (Stephon Gilmore, Marcell Dareus, C.J. Spiller, Eric Wood, McKelvin). The Bills also need to evaluate the talent currently on the team, trimming the fat where necessary and keeping the players they believe will help get them back to the playoffs.
"We will do an off-season evaluation of everything to see exactly where we were," Gailey said. "We have shown signs of life at times that have been pretty good and then we get into that lack of consistency. I think we have got to figure out why we have that lack of consistency. The main focus is on this week and this game. Let's get through this game and we will make evaluations as necessary."