ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone has gradually come to the same realization his four immediate predecessors encountered during their first years on the job.
Transforming the Bills into winners doesn't happen overnight.
Though not counting the Bills out just yet, Marrone grudgingly acknowledged this week that the high expectations he had after taking over in January have begun giving way to the reality that his young, inconsistent team remains a work in progress.
"Yeah, I have a hard time with that," Marrone said. "We have players here who are capable of winning games. We have coaches here that are capable of winning games. And we're not getting that done. And that's where I'm struggling to get ourselves over that top and creating consistency."
The only thing that has remained consistent is the team's losing record as the Bills (4-8) prepare to travel to play Tampa Bay (3-9) on Sunday.
Buffalo is in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 14 seasons. That would tie Cincinnati (1991-2004), Tampa Bay (1983-96) and Kansas City (1972-85) for the 11th longest stretch in league history.
Following a 34-31 overtime loss to Atlanta last weekend, the Bills are guaranteed their ninth year without a winning record.
It's as if, Marrone said, that he's fighting an uphill battle against the franchise's losing past.
"Make no mistake, I think that you do fight those things," Marrone said. "But that's why we're here. That's why I'm here. That's why our staff is here. That's why the players are here to change that."
Easier said than done for a team now on its fifth coach since 2001.
Under Marrone, Buffalo has shown glimpses of progress.
The Bills have been competitive particularly at home, where they're 3-4, including last weekend's game at Toronto. The four losses have been decided by a combined 17 points, including two in overtime.
They've shown signs of resilience in overcoming injuries, especially at quarterback after rookie starter EJ Manuel missed four games with a sprained right knee.
And their defense has improved under new coordinator Mike Pettine.
Buffalo's NFL-leading 43 sacks are the most by the Bills through 12 games. Buffalo is also tied for second in the league with 16 interceptions.