Buffalo– the city where we assume the football team is eliminated from playoff contention… until the coach says it.

Buffalo–  the city where we assume the football team is eliminated from playoff contention… until the coach says it.

I distinctly remember something I heard in a WGR 20/20 sports update the day after the Bills lost to the Colts, falling to 4-7.

“The Bills need to win their last 5 and get help if they have any chance of making the playoffs.”

It stood out to me because there was no Wade Phillips-style “pretty much out of it” caveat. Win them all or you’re done.

By the way, it wasn’t true.

There’s a responsibility that comes with being the sports radio station in this town. The community looks to you not just for hunches and feelings but for facts around which the public bases its own opinion. It’s one thing to hear a talk show about how they’ll “never get in.” It’s another entirely to hear the anchor of  a (theoretically) fact-based “news” block mindlessly guess and make assumptions about things that simply aren’t factually correct.

When WGR reports that the team needs to win out, and then the team loses a game, the community at large should reasonably be able to expect that the playoffs are no longer mathematically possible. You see, WGR, when you say things, people hear them, believe them, and share them with friends. You drive the sports conversation around here. Please take it seriously.

During a Bills discussion on Friday, Mike Schopp asked Chris Parker, Paul Hamilton, and Jerry Sullivan if they had even looked at the possibility of the Bills still getting in. He was met with silence. I’m sure each has his reasons for purposefully remaining in the dark, but if not a single one of these guys is going to consider the facts when carrying on a conversation being broadcast to the masses, how can we expect the community to be informed?

Chan Gailey knew he “needed” to win on Sunday. Should the coach of a 5-7 NFL team clinging to slim playoff hopes take even a second out of his preparation time to consider how things will look if he loses on December 9th with three weeks left in the NFL season? Nope. Should someone in charge of talking about this team for hours on end sneak a peak at tiebreaker scenarios? Probably.

The morning after another tough loss, Chan Gailey still hadn’t crunched the numbers on playoff possibilities and went with the flow of a “we’ve got no chance” conversation. He corrected himself later in the day, as expected.

At the time, Gailey thought they were mathematically eliminated.

Didn’t you?


2 quick additions:

1.  Thanks to Joe Buscaglia for laying out the “playoff math” for weeks 15-17 here.

2.  None of this is meant “sour grapes” anti-WGR rhetoric. It’s what I’d say directly to any of the above-mentioned people, named and unnamed, and directly into a WGR microphone if I happened to have one in front of me. Then everyone would tell me I’m a crazy optimist. Then I’d tell them that it’s just math. Then we’d probably bet on something.


  1. Brad I love ya, along with the guys from WGR, but you’ve got it backwards here. I’d much sooner expect the head coach of the Bills to know what needs to be done to make the playoffs than sportstalk radio hosts. Gailey’s job is to know how to get the most out of the talent in front of him, win, & successfully lead the team towards a goal, like making the playoffs. WGRs job is to comment on and inform us about said sports team. WGR has done much better at their jobs than Gailey has done at his, wouldn’t you say? Maybe WGR were just being realists saying the team had to win out at 5-7 to make the playoffs. Them making that statement isn’t remotely as bad as say a head coach not knowing the distance of a FG, being scared of attempting said FG, or not knowing what it takes for your own team to be successful and make the playoffs. These three things alone stuck out from the last game, let alone the last 29 with him as our head coach. Ultimately it comes down to our coach, the teams leader, Chan Gailey. If he could do his job in the first place we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The team would have won the games it should have, our record would reflect that, and people like myself and groups such as those at WGR wouldn’t have to reference the Periodic Table, Mayan Calendar, star charts etc. to determine how the Bills make the playoffs. We’d already be there.

  2. Maybe it’s just a product of the way public discussion goes these days, but even in your case against my point, you’re misusing the term “realists.”

    The REALITY is that they are alive. They were alive with 5 weeks left, they lost a game, and they remain alive with 3 weeks left.

    If you want to have a conversation about probability, likelihood, etc., cool… but math is reality.

    “Not eliminated” is reality and it has been the whole time.

    “Not eliminated” is fact.

    “I still don’t think they’re going to get there” is opinion.

  3. In my use of the term “realist” I didn’t intend it to mean “reality”: by the book, per the rules, etc. I meant what will most likely happen based on past history and probable outcomes. I agree Brad, the Bills do mathematically have a shot (well, several per Joe B!). But based on the team’s 15-30 record under Chan and the last 13 years of underperformance in general I’m quite cynical on the team making it. I really hope I’m wrong…

    • I’d easily agree with that. I’m surprised we still have as many chances as we do, as long as we win out. But in the day and age of supposed parity across the league, after seeing a team with a losing record make the playoffs, & a wild card team who barely got there win it all nothing should surprise me anymore.

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