After Jim Kelly retired in 1996, the Bills spent 22 years looking for Josh Allen — and once they found him, it was former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's job to transform Allen from a first-round 'project' to the second-coming of his alma mater.
To his credit, Daboll did a fantastic job. Within two years, Allen became a perennial MVP candidate and the Bills offense was the best thing since sliced bread.
But Daboll's tenure — and greatest stretch of performances — came to a crashing halt in the 2021 playoffs when the Kansas City Chiefs mounted their infamous '13-second comeback'. The Bills were scoring on a near touchdown-per-drive pace that January and as a result, Daboll was swiftly named head coach of the New York Giants.
And consequently, in stepped the Bills then quarterback coach Ken Dorsey.
On the surface, Dorsey couldn't have walked into a better situation — a superstar quarterback, All-Pro receiver Stefon Diggs, and a blossoming second option that was fresh off a four-touchdown performance in Gabe Davis.
And while there could have been worse job openings for offensive coordinator, in reality, Dorsey was stepping into a flaming throne of Super Bowl expectations (I mean, guarantees). But he handled himself through the first eight weeks of the season, cruising out to a 6-1 record that included a revenge victory at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6.
And then disaster seemed to strike when Allen sprained his MCL in a loss to the New York Jets in Week 9. The Bills lost the ensuing game, in disastrous fashion, before rattling off six straight victories en route to a 13-3 regular season record — all good in Bills land, right?
Not so much.
Winning or losing, the Bills offense never looked the same after Allen's injury against the Jets. While he claimed that he was healthy, the Bills struggled to find a consistent rhythm before eventually losing in — for a lack of a better term — embarrassing fashion against the Bengals during the 2022 playoffs.
There were certainly a number of probable reasons for the team looking out of shape, but the offense was absolutely part of the problem.
And the worst part is that the same inconsistencies have bled into the Bills 2023 season. So much so, that one of those 17 bridge quarterbacks between Josh Allen and Kelly almost defeated the Bills on their home turf this past weekend.
Outside of winning the Super Bowl, Daboll's tenure in Buffalo couldn't have ended any better when you consider that his offense scored 83 points in eight playoff quarters. As a result, Bills fans have ingrained a near-perfect memory of Daboll as the Bills offensive coordinator because his final moments were glorious, despite the team's defense losing the game in Kansas City.
But was his time in Buffalo all that glorious?
As mentioned, Daboll deserves credit for the development of Allen. Except, after finishing 13-3 in 2020 and losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, the Bills had Super Bowl aspirations the following year but things were rocky.
At one point that next season, the Bills were reeling from another heartbreaking loss at the hands of longtime rival quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team's record was 7-6 and they'd already had their fair share of offensive stinkers. If you're a Bills fan — and if you're not, quite frankly — you'll remember the Bills losing to the eventual 3–14 Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, it was the Bills six points scored and Allen's two interceptions that proved their demise in a sloppy performance.
And doesn't everyone remember losing to a New England Patriots team that only threw the football three times, in primetime at home?
Eventually, the Bills smartened up and rattled off five straight wins after losing to Tampa Bay, albeit in some ugly ways. The team's Week 16 victory against the Atlanta Falcons saw the Bills trailing at halftime. Another tight victory in the ensuing week against the Jets saw them holding onto a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
So what's the point of all this?
While fans are quick to blame Dorsey — and, at times, his lack of creative playcalling — for the team's offensive struggles, a lack of consistency is something the offense has been dealing with for some time.
Unfortunately, I might not have the answer for Buffalo's untimely struggles on offense but that's probably why I'm not paid the big bucks. In order to awaken from their slumber, the Bills entire offense will have to shoulder some responsibility — and not just Dorsey.
It's entirely possible the Bills are victims of the NFL's increased parity, but that's no excuse. For a team that's in Super Bowl or bust mode, it's time to find their stride, sooner rather than later.