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The Fall of the Bills' Dynasty Continues as DC Leslie Frazier is Taking the 2023 Season Off

Adrian Kraus. Shutterstock Images.

I can't remember where I heard this, the quote comes from like Confucius or the Stoic philosopher Seneca or possibly a car insurance commercial, but the saying goes, "The only thing harder than working your way to the top is staying there." 

That is especially true in the NFL, where the entire league is built on a structure of stronger teams losing their best players and coaches to weaker teams. Of short time frames of success, so you'd better to while you have the talent. Because by the nature of pro football, every top tier team comes stamped with a shorter freshness date than a package of string cheese.

Take the Buffalo Bills. They were football's Next Big Thing. An AFC championship loss to Kansas City in 2020 was followed by an overtime loss at KC in the Divisional round in 2021, which only meant they were closing the gap and would break through the Chiefs' wall Kool Aid Man style one of these days. Then came a one & done this past year, with a blowout loss to Cincinnati at home. With Bills Mafia streaming out of Orchard Park with 11 minutes to go in the game. Players conducting a shootout in the lifeboat:

Calls to fire their coaches:

And so it became fair to ask if the Bills Dynasty was already over, without even as much as Lamar Hunt trophy to add to those four they collected 30 years ago to show for it:

Well the news just keeps getting worse for Buffalo's nascent empire:

Source - The Buffalo Bills have announced several changes to the coaching staff ahead of the 2023 season. 

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has decided to take a year off from coaching.

With Frazier as their DC, the Bills have had multiple seasons where the defense ranked top five in the NFL. Since 2017, the Bills have allowed an average of 20 points per game (3rd in the NFL over that span), 315 total yards per game (1st), 202 passing yards per game (1st), 107 passing touchdowns (1st), have racked up 99 interceptions (2nd) and 158 takeaways (2nd).

First things first, here's wishing all the best for Leslie Frazier and his family. Coaching lifers like him (13 years as a defensive coordinator for five teams, three-plus years as the head coach in Minnesota) don't just impulsively take a sabbatical in the middle of their careers for light or capricious reasons. So let's hope it all works out for the best.

Second, this is how the collapses of these powerhouse teams always begin. You lose a key man. One you were depending on. His leaving is the Jenga piece getting pulled that makes the whole tower collapse. 

Third despite some Bills Mafia members going ALL CAPS to say how TERRIBLE he is and demanding he be fired, be careful what you wish for. The man's resume speaks for itself. In addition to those numbers above, consider where Frazier's defense ranked this past season:

  • Points against: 2nd
  • Yards allowed: 1st
  • Turnovers: Tied for 4th
  • 1st downs allowed: 5th
  • Interceptions: Tied for 4th
  • Passer rating allowed: 4th

To be somewhat fair, I'm not saying definitively that Frazier is indispensible or guaranteeing that without him, the Bills defense will turn into Chicago's and the franchise will fly off the rails like a Norfolk Southern chemical train and end up back where they were from 2000-16. They just hired Al Holcomb who was the DC in Carolina, and maybe he'll take over and be fine. On the other hand, I'm not saying they won't be a disaster either. Again, these contending teams have a very short shelf life. The Bills have used up a good chunk of theirs. And a brain drain of coaches is typically the first step back toward mediocrity and irrelevance. If that's how this plays out in 2023, just remember where you heard it first.