OPINION: The Big Picture: Bills excelling at being resourceful

The Bills are 8-3 for the second straight year
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By WGR 550 SportsRadio

Ever been to a job interview and the person who is in charge of hiring you on the other side of the table says, “give me three words to describe yourself?”

Lots of people just come up with the same old cliché of words, thinking that’s exactly what this person wants to hear. Words like creative, prompt, smart, driven. Those are the kind of words the boss wants to hear, because those are the attributes that will get this job, and generally speaking, can get us through life.

I’m going to give you another word. One that probably isn’t used much in that setting. Not many people probably say it when asked for those three words, but it’s one that I think is extremely important in everything we do in life, especially in 2020. It’s a word I’ve always said I’d use in this job interview scenario, not just to sound really good, but because I actually believe in it.

Resourceful.

What is being resourceful? The dictionary definition says, “Having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.”

Every one of us, in our own way, no matter where we came from or what life has thrown at us, has had to be resourceful to survive. Some are just better at it than others. Some look at the situation, understand it’s probably not going to work out the way it’s currently constructed, and adjust to something else that might.

It doesn’t always work out, of course. You may keep trying but never really find the right answer, but at least you’re giving yourself a chance and, if that’s the case, usually, it’s going to be OK. Maybe just not perfect.

Others, they just see a tough situation, get frustrated, throw up their arms and say, “that’s it. I’m done!” You can look at that as giving up. I see it. But I think when that happens, it’s more about not understanding your own options or being willing to risk going to them, and just accepting your fate, hoping it will work out, but ultimately knowing it won’t.

For the better part of two decades, we sat here and watched Buffalo Bills football teams not be very resourceful. When things would go wrong, they’d snowball. Past coaches would simply stay with what they know best, hoping against all hope that they would get a few breaks and it would work out in the end. Of course it usually didn’t. Even if they wanted to do something else, often they simply didn’t have the right resources available to them.

That’s not the case anymore.

The Bills are 8-3 for the second straight season. That’s a really good record. To do it two years in a row is impressive. It hasn’t been done by this organization since the mid 1990s.

In some of those games, their offense looked like world-beaters, while the defense struggled to find answers. This past Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers was sort of reversed. Not completely, because the offense did some good things, but for the most part, the defense played tremendous while the offense made some critical errors, even on its way to 27 points.

But above all, this team has won eight of its 11 games this year because they’ve been resourceful. They’ve used everything at their disposal, in all different ways, to try and win football games.

Take Sunday, for example. Look at the snap counts. The Bills knew they could run the ball against that team. So tight end Lee Smith played the most he has all season. Gabriel Davis, an excellent young wide receiver but also a very good blocker, played 60 of 62 snaps, along with Stefon Diggs, who did the same.

Look on the defensive side. One of the hallmarks of Sean McDermott‘s coaching is playing what’s called “big nickel.” They’ve done an excellent job of that over the last few weeks, using Dean Marlowe and Siran Neal, tapping into those resources because they understand how they can help them — and they have. But Sunday? Marlowe played two snaps. Neal didn’t play on defense at all. The Bills played basically no big nickel.

They were facing a very good young quarterback in Justin Herbert, who had excellent wide receivers at his disposal. So instead, they found a different way. They had confidence in doing it. They were resourceful.

In fact, the Bills dressed 48 players for the game on Sunday.  Every one of them played at least one snap on offense, defense, or special teams.  Every one.

I remember going back to the offseason and looking at the Bills roster and thinking how much depth they have. How good it was compared to many years past. But it’s only that good if you not only use it, but know how to use it. Especially when things start to go wrong and you need to find answers. That’s being resourceful.

This year, more than ever, everyone needs to be as resourceful as possible.

Look what happened with the Denver Broncos this past week. They had no quarterback and had to use a practice squad wide receiver, due to their COVID-19 situation.

The Bills had one of those earlier this year that wiped out almost the entire tight end room. They still made it work. The same thing happened with defensive backs a couple of weeks ago, and short of a miracle Hail Mary at the end of the game, they - for the most part - made it work.

It’s why they keep Jake Fromm away from the team to practice. If something were to happen in the quarterback room, they have to find a way to overcome. They have to be resourceful.

I’m now on my fourth Bills head coach covering the team as a beat reporter. Every day, watching practice, being around them, seeing how they run their operation. You couldn’t get more polar opposite than the last two in any way. McDermott and Rex Ryan.

You already know that, from personality to organizational skills, but let me tell you another way.

Ryan didn’t care to be resourceful. His coaching staff’s philosophy was to coach the best players they have, put them in a position to succeed, and believe that’s good enough.

McDermott and his staff, and obviously general manager Brandon Beane and his staff, believe in coaching and using the entire roster. They believe in using every resource available. It’s why guys like Cam Lewis, Dane Jackson, or Marlowe can make impacts when they play. They’re coached to. They’re expected to. They have a standard. They’re not treated or coached any differently than Tre’Davious White or Jordan Poyer.

The “next man up” mentality is real. It’s being resourceful.

These things are going to become vitally important over the final five weeks of the season. This COVID-19 situation and roster and league situation is not going to get any better. It’s probably going to get worse, meaning there will be more adjustments, more players not able to play, and teams having to become more resourceful.

Feel good about the Bills' ability to do that. Feel good that Sunday, after some things didn’t go particularly right, they were resourceful enough in their preparation and playing that they still won by 10 points.

Follow me on Twitter: @SalSports

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