During the 2012 season the Buffalo Bills backfield was an odd, nonsensical place. An offense that often struggled to score points — a crucial element in the fight to win football games — refused to put the ball in the hands of its best player much more regularly. That players’ name is C.J. Spiller, and his 6.0 yards per carry placed him in a tie for the league lead with Adrian Peterson. Yeah, he was pretty alright.
At first his opportunities came when Fred Jackson combusted early again, which led to Spiller’s incredible 364 all-purpose yards (292 of which came on the ground) and three touchdowns over just the first two games. Then something maddening happened: when Jackson returned he often remained a sidekick. Robin to his Batman, Luigi to his Mario, etc etc.
That ends now.
Yesterday, new Bills head coach Doug Marrone delivered the glorious news that Spiller’s fantasy owners and soon-to-be owners have been waiting so long to hear: the team’s best player will be given every opportunity he needs to do great things, and that includes near the goal-line. Swoon.
Sing it to us, Marrone (from the Buffalo News):
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone indicated after today’s voluntary workout C.J. Spiller will not be pulled from games in short-yardage, third-down or red-zone situations because of size or skill set.
“My philosophy’s always been if someone starts off and they’re running well, keep feeding them the ball,” Marrone said.
Chan Gailey’s status as Buffalo’s former head coach was partly achieved through his troubling and senseless use of Spiller. Often after the much faster of his two running backs showed great burst in the open field along with the lateral agility to identify and hit holes, he’d revert to Jackson in the red zone. That’s what zapped Spiller’s touchdown production when Jackson was healthy, as four of his six rushing scores were recorded with the elderly running back watching from the sidelines.
To be fair, Jackson still has a role, and he can still contribute. Most fantasy owners in our digital land were quite rightfully whining and/or crying about Spiller’s usage during this past season, but Jackson can still contribute as the proverbial change of pace back who pounds away with a handful of carries, and he’s still a fine receiver out of the backfield.
No one’s saying Jackson should be erased entirely, or at least I’m not. But Spiller’s carry total being even close to Jackson’s on any day going forward will be the kind of stuff that leads to re-occurring nightmares with clowns. Jackson’s overall yards per carry average was 2.2 yards behind Spiller’s (3.8), and it sunk to that low because he had seven games when his average was at or below 3.5.
That’s not a running back who can be successful in any scenario in which he receives a high volume of carries, whereas attempting to keep up with Spiller’s speed leads to increasing levels of huffing and puffing over the course of a game. In turn, that condition will lead to good times around the goal-line.
So good on you, Doug Marrone, for starting your tenure by appeasing all fantasy folk (because surely that’s always your foremost priority), and most importantly, for bringing common sense to Buffalo. Applause all around.