A lot has been said about the Buffalo Bills firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman last week, and rightfully so. The Bills had their share of trouble on offense in Week 1, but they posted 31 points in Week 2 (technically 24 not counting the defensive score) and had the No. 1 rushing offense last season.
In many ways, it wasn’t fair to fire Roman, but under the pressure of the ownership, head coach Rex Ryan made the only change he could.
Roman’s philosophy fit the overall scheme of what Buffalo was trying to accomplish as a team, but in defense of Ryan’s decision, new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will also be a good match for the Bills.
He only accumulated 177 rushing yards on 28 career rushing attempts in the NFL, but he won two Super Bowls as a player with the Denver Broncos in 1997 and 1998. Lynn began his coaching career in Denver as a special teams assistant and became a running back coach in Jacksonville by 2003. From that point on, he bounced around as a running back coach from the Jaguars, Cowboys, Browns and Jets until he landed with the Bills. Lynn actually coached under Ryan in New York from 2009-2014 and came over to Buffalo with him before the 2015 season.
As a former running back, Lynn has always been known as a disciple of the “ground and pound” style that pummels the opposition with a powerful run-first philosophy. In this strategy, offenses typically control the time of possession and keep their defense well rested on the sideline.
Knowing this and that Lynn is in his eighth season on Ryan’s staff, the firing of Roman makes a little bit more sense. After being first in rushing last season, Buffalo is ranked 25th in rushing yards through the first two weeks of 2016. The Bills are also 24th in rushing attempts; in 2015, they were second.
Now, part of the reason why Roman didn’t call as many running plays early this season is because the team has been behind. Buffalo has held a lead for just 18:12 in the first two games combined.
But if fans want a logical explanation to Roman’s firing, the lack of dedication to the running game would be it. Lynn is going to return that run-first mentality to Buffalo, and if it’s successful at eating some time off the clock, it will help Ryan’s ailing secondary.
After a week of practice under Lynn, running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor also shared the idea that not as much thinking will go into their offense, and it will be a much more simplified system. Roman would routinely have 80-90 potential plays lined up every week. Lynn plans to cut that down to 30-40, as Half as many plays is a lot easier to master in practice.
“I think the gameplan we have this week is pretty good. Not as much thinking,” McCoy said according to the Buffalo News. “It’s more about just going out there to play.”
“The main thing is just getting the ball to our playmakers,” Taylor said. “We have a bunch of talented guys on the offensive side of the ball, and I think Coach Lynn has a great vision as far as doing what it takes to get those guys the football.”
McCoy has averaged 19.5 touches per week through two games, which is a healthy number, but it shouldn’t at all be a surprise if that goes up. Buffalo must also get No. 1 wide receiver Sammy Watkins the ball far more often. Although he’s dealing with a foot injury, Watkins needs to at least draw defenders to his area to create more space for other players.
One of Lynn’s biggest objectives this week versus Arizona is to establish Watkins as a threat again. He has just 11 targets and six catches for 63 yards this season.
It’s a tall task for Buffalo to turn this year around. With the Cardinals and Patriots up next, the Bills are staring at a possible 0-4 start, but if there was a perfect coordinator for the philosophy Ryan wants to use on offense, it’s Lynn.