I'm sure we are all in agreement that this has been an entertaining ride so far for the Bills. Yes, it probably makes zero sense to outsiders that fans are excited about a 3-4 team, but screw it. We are masters of lowered expectations here, but there's also something genuinely fun about this season that makes it impossible to turn off. I wouldn't say it has gone as far as feeling like the playoffs are on the horizon, but the unpredictability is its own kind of fun.
They could be 7-0! 6-1! 5-2!
They could be 0-7! 1-6! 2-5!
None of the above is hyperbole. It's all true.
In a way, this season kind of reminds me of the first 8 games of the 2002 season. Sure, the offense was much better, but those first 8 games were all over the place in terms of excitement and death-defying wins and losses.
Seriously, I don't know whether to shit or go blind. I don't know if I'm watching a team grow or a team get lucky.
Prime example (with cheap plug):
On Facebook yesterday, I wrote about how the Bills pass defense has been good in some elements (INTs, sacks, completion percentage) and just awful in others (TD passes, passing yards, and big passing plays). Seriously, I don't think I've ever come across all-or-nothing stats like that involving the passing defense.
That's the thing… the Bills have so many blemishes, but they also have a ton of redeeming qualities. They are a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Their new QB is, um, well… probably not that good. Yes, I've said repeatedly you have to view Thad's progression with the idea that he's a practice squad guy on his 4th team. Once you do that, the perception changes. Sure, it is lowering expectations, but what else do we have? It's pretty much like trying to pick up a girl with beer goggles. She's not great, but she'll do because she's the last one here!!
It isn't like watching the hot chick you hope to make your housewife – EJ Manuel – make a nice throw. You don't say, "Look at that arm! He's learning. He'll be a fixture here for years to come." After bad plays you don't channeling, "Well, he's young and makes mistakes. Shit happens. He'll learn."
NONE OF THIS HAPPENS WITH THAD!
When Thad actually makes a decent throw, it's kind of shocking. There isn't any sort of "He's learning how to be a QB" rhetoric. It is more like the astonishment of the fat, nonathletic kid kicking the game-winning HR in kickball (This was me in 7th grade).
It takes your breath away because you don't see it coming. Sometimes being surprised is the best way to get to excitement and that's what happens when Thad makes decent passes. It is funny because when he's dropping back to pass, I'm totally on the edge of my seat. I assume it is going to be awful and when it is, well, there's no sort of tough love about him being a rookie and learning like there is with EJ. Instead…WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T YOU KEEP T. JACKSON!?
I think that's what makes Thad kind of fun.
I mean, we've cheered for young/rookie QBs before. We've graded them on a curve and accepted the good with the bad because that's what smart fans do with rookies. You just hope they eventually get it. But with Thad, it is kind of a no-win and no-lose situation. What do any of us have to lose here? You know he isn't good and he definitely will not be the starter long-term. But when he makes something happen, the excitement overcomes you because the surprise comes out of nowhere.
From a football perspective, you aren't cheering for the future like you are with EJ. Instead, you are cheering for the present and you aren't exactly caring about the future because other than maybe as backup, Thad probably doesn't really have one, right? Hey, the Bills are only 1 game back in the wildcard picture. Alright, I'll stop. They probably aren't getting to the playoffs. It is fun to think about though.
When the season started, it was all about the progress of EJ Manuel for me. I said I'd sign up for a 4-12 year if his numbers resembled what Cam Newton did in 2011 for a shitty Carolina team. With EJ out until Thanksgiving, things have changed. I'm sure if EJ returns and struggles, most fans will chalk it up to rust and then his rookie year will be kind of a wash because of the break. So for now, the EJ love fest is out the window.
Looking back to when EJ got hurt, I thought the season wouldn't be entertaining because his progress had stopped and we were stuck with Thad. But the last two weeks have been anything but boring.
And with that, I just want them to win and overachieve with their warts and all. In a way, it is going back to the purest form of cheering. Take it one day at a time and worry about the future later. Maybe in the end, Thad becoming the starting QB has made us look more at the final W/L total instead of the style points we were judging EJ's progress on.
It is unpredictable either way, and I think that makes it a win for the fans.