The National Football League season isn't over in general -- the playoffs start Saturday -- but it sure is in Buffalo. You probably could argue that it ended two weeks ago.
And you've never seen a season end with more of a whimper than this one.
The Bills finished 4-12 this season, missing the playoffs once again as they have throughout this century. They lost their first eight games, won four of their next six, and then were the subject of a pair of beatdowns (it's a silly word, I know, but it fits) against the Patriots and Jets. Yes, the Bills had about run out of players by then and were recruiting wide receivers from pickup games, but it was still tough to watch. So it's 4-12 and the third overall draft choice for the locals.
My usual line of thinking is that sports teams go into seasons with several questions that need to be answered, and the season provides the answers. What have we learned?
* The coaching staff eventually made the right decision on quarterbacks. You could argue that it took a little too long to figure Trent Edwards wasn't the answer, but that's an easy second-guess. Ryan Fitzpatrick will never be great, but he was at least OK at times.
* The selection of C.J. Spiller looks a bit worse in hindsight, although no one should give up him. Clearly the Bills had bigger needs than a running back, even though the team probably figured (correctly) that Marshawn Lynch had worn out his welcome. Just as clearly, Spiller showed flashes of great ability. Even so, it would have been nice to get a clear starter and impact player with that first-round pick and some were taken after Spiller was picked.
* Two coaching staffs have decided that Aaron Maybin just can't play in the NFL. I hope he's not cut anytime soon, though, as he's a convenient target for Five Spot lines at work. I guess John McCargo is in the same class.
* The conventional wisdom about the Bills entering the season was that they didn't have much talent. I didn't see anything to change anyone's mind. Is there anyone on the roster who might rank in the top 100 of NFL players? Lee Evans hasn't played at that level for a while, although he sure doesn't have much help.
* Is it too much to ask to see a second-, third- or fourth-round pick come through in a big way once? In other words, Torell Troup, Alex Carrington and Marcus Easley still look like projects a year into their careers. (To be fair, Buffalo did do better with second-rounders last season.)
* And just who is in charge of scouting tight ends, anyway?
The rebuilding process is not going to be a short one, and considering the possibility of a lockout in 2011 and the Bills' stadium lease expiring after the 2012 season, time doesn't seem to be on anyone's side.