Doug Marrone had an awful lot to say following the worst game he has presided over in his rookie year as the Bills head coach.
He took responsibility for the ridiculously inept performance put forth by his quickly sinking team against Tampa Bay, and the disappointment and anguish on his face wasn't manufactured; it was as real as it gets.
This guy cares, he wears his emotion on his sleeve, and losing rips his guts out. I respect that and appreciate that, though I also expect it because as the head coach, he better be mad after a game where his team was so thoroughly outplayed by an opponent that is surely no better than the Bills.
However, one thing Marrone said really burned my ears and gave me pause. He referenced the Bills' inability on a couple of occasions this year to put disappointment behind them and move on.
The 23-13 loss to the Chiefs on Nov. 3, when Buffalo rushed for 241 yards and somehow found a way to lose at home, was a heartbreaker for sure, and then the following week, the Bills looked completely out of synch in their 23-10 loss to Pittsburgh as if they were still suffering from a Kansas City hangover.
Doing that even once is unacceptable because in the NFL, it can't happen. Just like you can't bask in the glory of your victories beyond that 24-hour window players and coaches love to reference, you can't wallow in defeat, either. It's not what professionals do.
So, to have it happen a second time within a month is abhorrent. One week after suffering a gut-wrenching overtime loss in Toronto to Atlanta, the Bills seemed to be experiencing the same type of post-defeat blahs against the Buccaneers.
"Kansas City was a difficult loss," Marrone said. "I think you earn the right to be upset about it. But the next week, I don't think we bounced back like we should. And I feel the same way today. We talked about it last week, and we come back and we play even worse than we did in the Pittsburgh game. That's disappointing when you want to grow and you want to go forward. Did that bother me, that we didn't take that challenge and overcome that? Absolutely. Absolutely, that's bothersome."
It bothers me, too.
All season I have bought into this group of players and coaches, and felt they were a team that was finally starting to turn the corner, though not for a second did I believe they were going to make the playoffs. Not when they rallied to beat Carolina in Week 2, not when they went to Miami and beat the Dolphins to improve to 3-4, and certainly not when they coughed up those games to the Chiefs and Falcons. But I thought they were headed in the right direction and was of the belief that 2014 might finally bring an end to the playoff drought.
Who could possibly feel that way right now in the wake of what happened in Tampa Bay?
This team appears to be headed nowhere.
The Bills seem no closer to solving their vexing quarterback dilemma because while I'm willing to give EJ Manuel the benefit of the doubt in his rookie year, I also thought he'd be better today than he was in Week 1, and he's not. He may be worse.
The offensive line has regressed, and while it would have been foolish to pay Andy Levitre as much as he ended up getting from Tennessee, it has definitely proven tougher to replace him than anyone truly thought.
I don't know what to say about C.J. Spiller.
The wide receiver corps that many felt was young, fast, and promising, is certainly young, certainly fast, but not very promising. Even though the Bills have spent three of their top seven picks in the last two drafts on T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, they still need a No. 1 receiver because it isn't veteran Stevie Johnson.
The defense is schematically stronger thanks to coordinator Mike Pettine, and has some nice pieces in place, but it still makes the same dumb mistakes that result in huge plays which lead to losses.
And perhaps trumping all that is the culture of losing that hangs over this franchise no matter who's calling and executing the plays. The names change, but the results never seem to, and being incapable of recovering from tough losses is a lightning bolt of worry.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams said Monday, "It's important for us to know who we can count on. You look at where we stand right now and you can question everything. It has to be everyone (pulling on the chain), or it's not good enough."
In these last three games, the Bills need to take a serious look at who is not pulling on that chain. Who are the players who let tough losses one week affect them the next week?
Marrone and new general manager Doug Whaley are trying to remake this team, and in order to do it properly, no one can be spared if he doesn't deserve to be here. The Bills haven't won anything with any of these players, so no one should be untouchable.
"We've got three games left and we have to approach that very seriously," center Eric Wood said. "We have to get to a winning spot in this franchise where we're going into each game with the same mindset, urgency, accountability, and passion to win. Just a couple weeks ago we're saying we're not that far off from where we want to be, and then we go and lay an egg and you feel like you're back to square one. We have to grow up. Winning makes this fun, and at this point it's not very much fun."