December 4, 2013 - 9:45 AM
The Buffalo Bills take the field at the Rogers Centre in Toronto Sunday (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)
By Mark Gaughan
The atmosphere in the Rogers Centre for Sunday's Buffalo Bills game was disappointing to team President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon.
Brandon didn't exactly use those words, but he made that point clear in his weekly radio show on WGR this morning. Brandon also made it clear the team still is having a much harder time filling seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium than he would like.
"One of the things I said ... on Jan. 1 of this year was I was going to review every phase of this operation, and this series comes within that framework," Brandon said. "I'm going to look at it very closely."
"Obviously, Toronto has been very positive for us down here," Brandon said. "We've had great growth in the Southern Ontario marketplace the last five years. Back here at Ralph Wilson Stadium that has been a big positive. It has been a challenged market there. And certainly has not translated into enough wins for us there."
The atmosphere for the Bills was not good in Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Announced attendance was only 38,969. There were roughly as many fans wearing Falcons jerseys as those wearing Bills jerseys. The cheers for the Falcons' scores were almost as loud as for the Bills' scores. Falcons fans were making a lot of noise when the Bills' offense was facing key third-down situations in the second half.
The Bills still have four years left on their agreeement with Rogers Communications Inc. to hold games in Toronto. It's unfathomable to think the Bills would spend any significant money to buy out of the deal, which still is a financial windfall for the club. Would he consider trying to get out of the deal?
"I'm going to look at everything," Brandon said. "I'll just leave it at that."
At the same time, Brandon said he also would review the Bills' training camp arrangement in suburban Rochester, something that surely is not going to change. The Bills have a long-term agreement in place with St. John Fisher College.
"Is that the right thing to help us win?" Brandon said. "We have a great setup at Fisher. But is that the best thing for this team? When I said everything is under review I mean everything. Everything that's involved with this operation is under review. This falls under that same atmosphere."
Meanwhile, Brandon made it clear that selling out seven home games in Orchard Park is a great challenge.
"It's also about being viable," Brandon said. "That's one of the things we've talked about for many years here. Look at it from the standpoint of where we've been this year on the ticket side. We've taken a game out of the market, which is essentially taking 70,000 seats out of the market, and have truly only sold out two of our home games."
"We've manufactured sellouts in the other four or five," Brandon said. "We're trying to find ways to obviously keep this team viable, which we've done a very good job at, and this series has obviously contributed to that.
"With that being said, nothing comes above winning. When I took the over the reins on Jan. 1, I said that was the No. 1 focus, and that will be the No. 1 focus. And that's one of the reasons that this will be reviewed in a grand manner."
The Bills (4-8) are headed to a 14th straight non-playoff finish.
Brandon said there still were about 20,000 tickets left for the last Orchard Park home game, against Miami in 17 days.