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Ken Dorsey: Was he the problem with the Bills?

Sean McDermott, Josh Allen and Ken Dorsey share blame in Buffalo

NFL: DEC 28 Bills at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly hiring Ken Dorsey as their new offensive coordinator. With Dorsey being fired by the Buffalo Bills during the middle of last season, HC Kevin Stefanski’s decision to hire him is questionable.

The question is simple “Why is Ken Dorsey good enough for the Browns but not good enough for the Bills?”

Like most things in life, the answer is probably not going to be satisfactory. A sport that has 22 players on the field, referees, numerous coaches, weather and the playing surface itself cannot be distilled down to simple answers.

To try to find the answers to what went wrong for Buffalo in the first 10 games of the 2023 NFL season, we reached out to Matt Warren who has covered the Bills for years at Buffalo Rumblings and is now Associate Director of NFL coverage at SB Nation (and my boss).

From Warren’s perspective on Dorsey:

Ken Dorsey was Josh Allen’s handpicked offensive coordinator when Brian Daboll left to become the Giants’ head coach. All he did was lead the Bills to the 2nd-ranked offense in 2022 and a top-5 offense in 2023, but he was fired midway through the season anyway. I full-throat defended Dorsey when there was buzz he might be fired and then after he was let go.

He wasn’t the problem in Buffalo and I’m very glad he’s getting a chance to run another offense.

The data backs up Warren’s thoughts:

Given how good the Buffalo offense was under Dorsey, there were a few things that were slightly better when Joe Brady took over but not much.

A look at the Bills schedule early in the season shows some inconsistencies in scoring on offense. In their five wins with Dorsey, Buffalo averaged 32.2 points. In their five losses while Dorsey was the OC, the Bills averaged 20.2 points.

A quick dive into those five losses provides a little more insight:

  • QB Josh Allen had three interceptions in Week 1
  • WR Stefon Diggs fumbled on Buffalo’s final possession in Week 5
  • Allen had two turnovers in Week 7
  • Bills had two turnovers in Week 9
  • Allen turned the ball over three times in Week 10
  • Broncos missed a field goal to end the game but Buffalo had 12 men on the field, next kick won the game
  • Dropped passes were pervasive early in the year for the Bills
  • All five losses were within six points or less

Under Brady as the OC, Buffalo averaged 27 points in the final seven games. Under Dorsey, the team averaged 26.2 points per game for the first 10 games. In 2022, with Dorsey, the Bills averaged 28.4 points per game, second-best in the NFL.

As noted in the beginning, distilling wins and losses down to one thing can be very difficult. Based on Warren’s subjective report and a look at the Buffalo offense and losses this year, it seems Dorsey was a bit of a scapegoat for the Bills early-season struggles.

From the outside looking in, Buffalo benefited from the change at offensive coordinator even if their offense didn’t get significantly better. Some of that could be due to opponents, motivation from the Dorsey firing or things just gelling better. It doesn’t, unless there is some inside information available, seem like Dorsey was a problem. Much like with AVP, sometimes change for change's sake is good.

Does looking at the data and Warren’s statements impact how you feel about the Dorsey hire?