The Culture of “Winning”

ryan fitzpatrick

The agony of defeat.

Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills suffered a second defeat to the hated New England Patriots.  The first loss was took a roller coaster’s path of extreme joy when the Bills were up at the 21 – 7, followed by extreme depression after the Pats tore our defense a new asshole en route to 52 points.  Game two resulted in terrible defense on both sides, but the Bills were in a position to score a touchdown for a one point victory in the final two minutes.  What resulted was heartbreaking to experience, and a terrible way to kick off a short week:

  • two deep passes to Stevie and Donald to get in field goal range
  • a deep ball to Donald Jones just off the fingertips, resulting in injury and loss of timeout
  • a pass to Fred Jackson which results in a fumble/concussion, knocking him out for the game, and the loss of the final Buffalo timeout
  • Completions to Chandler and Spiller to set up shop on the 15 yard line with 28 seconds
  • Interception in the end zone to end the game

Much was made of these last few minutes.  The media has done its job of analyzing the loss to death, really doing their best to rob away any potential focus on the game at hand.  Would the game planning have drastically changed without the two injury timeouts? Undoubtedly.  Should rookie WR T.J. Graham have run underneath McCourty instead of behind him? He says yes. Did Stevie want the ball thrown to him or Chandler instead? For sure.  Did Fitzpatrick play exceptionally until the final play? No doubt.

The loss brings Buffalo’s record to 3-6, making every game a must win to continue the very slim odds of making the playoffs. Due to the Dolphins game tomorrow night, Chan Gailey has tried to move the team forward from the loss and look towards taking down Miami for their first home game since 10/21, which is easier said than done.  What went wrong? Why isn’t this team winning?

I had a terrible high school basketball team. As a sophomore on the varsity squad, we won a single game all year against a school of mayyybe 80 total students. The season felt like a kicked Gatorade bottle to the face, which actually occurred during a mid season halftime. Junior year wasn’t all that different; the team still squandered opportunities and wallowed in ineptitude. During my senior year, we got a new coach and turned things around enough to play (and lose) in the conference championships and earn the right to compete against one of the top seeds in the state, much like how Vermont earns the right to lose to UNC in the NCAA hoops tournament.  What occurred that created the change? Well, we got a new coach that helped us inspire a culture of winning.

With the exception of the starting Center, Right Guard and the undiscovered talents of LB’s Bowman and Brooks, the only difference between the 2011 and the 2010 San Francisco 49ers is the hyper motivational Jim Harbaugh.  We all know how that team has turned around, and has continued into 2012.

Before you accuse me of being an advocate of canning Chan Gailey, for Buffalo I don’t think it’s all about the coach. Players can create a culture of winning just like a coach can.  One factor isn’t the sole answer, though it can be for some teams.  Occasionally, a unique person will come along that immediately creates a “winning” culture.  Jim Harbaugh.  Tom (not Eli) Caughlin.  The problem is, it takes a lot of buy-in and a TON of effort from both the coaching staff and the players to turn a squad that’s used to losing into a team that hungers to keep winning.  That’s the type of subtle frustration that you hear from guys like Stevie.  Gailey is trying desperately to keep pushing the team towards a culture of winning, but some unfortunate breaks have prevented the Bills from getting “over the hump”.  (I can’t say that the interpreted ineptitude and complacency of Dave Wannstedt’s defensive motivational techniques has helped out much.)

Sometimes, it can come down to just a few lucky breaks to change the culture.  Imagine if a few better decisions were made during the Titans game.  What if the last game turned out just a few plays different?  The Bills could have found themselves at 6-4, good enough for first place in the AFC East and having everybody look at this team a completely different way.  But Esteban, along with all the other dedicated Bills fans, will just have to wait patiently until something, or someone, turns this thing around.

About: Esteban

Esteban is the Editor in Chief of Check out his page on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @RantingEsteban, or send him an email.

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