The way that things have gone over the past few weeks, it’s certainly been hard for fans of the Buffalo Bills to see the good in how the 2016 season has ended. The team missed the playoffs once again, fired head coach Rex Ryan after not even two seasons, and the terms ‘toxic’ and ‘dysfunctional’ are being thrown around at the regular to describe the state of the organization.
On Wednesday, the franchise sent interim head coach Anthony Lynn to the podium without general manager Doug Whaley addressing the significant change in direction at any point, and the only statement that was made was by owner Terry Pegula through a press release.
It’s pretty clear: accountability has been lacking at One Bills Drive.
While the Bills are about to approach a mostly meaningless game against the New York Jets on Sunday, a lot of focus is on what steps the franchise takes next, and one of the star players on the team spoke out on Thursday.
Sammy Watkins, who will be entering his fourth season in the NFL next year, hasn’t been accustomed to losing before he got to the Buffalo Bills. And now, he believes it’s time things get changed once and for all.
[It’s] very stressful. Being at college, I probably lost five games, six games my whole career,” Watkins said of all the losing in Buffalo. “It’s a culture. That’s something that we’ve got to change, whether it’s us as players, the coaches, the organization, the mindsets of us. We’ve got to change. We’ve got to think like the fans — be all in. Whatever happens, we win the game, we come out on top… that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Easier said than done, especially since numerous franchises are trying to do the same thing. So how do the Bills go about rebuilding the culture?
“Discipline — whatever around the locker room that needs to be addressed,” Watkins started. “Just being a professional. As players, that’s got to get fixed first. And the coaches have got to be harder on us — not scared of us. Get at us, yell at us, curse at us…. whatever can get the player to do that job the best he can, that’s what he needs to do.”
Watkins has seen a culture change before — in college, with Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
“Coach Dabo was strict, and that’s what I think changed the culture and changed the players. We started winning, we started to expect to win. Every game I came into I never thought I was going to lose it, and that’s what we’ve got to do here,” Watkins remarked. “I think situations here, sometimes guys look at games or Peyton Manning, or name dropping Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown… who cares. They’re great players, but they do the same thing we do. We’ve got to step up and play against those guys.”
The first step the Bills must make to change the culture — to find a new head coach. And only one game separates them from officially starting the much needed offseason.