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The Buffalo Bills have been so bad for so long, we've become rather numb to it.

Generations have discussed the Bills' lousy records, their quarterback troubles and their consistent inability to make the playoffs.

My communications students at Canisius College know the term "cognitive dissonance." Our text book, "Media Writing: Print, Broadcast and Public Relations," explains it in media terms thusly on Page 3:

"People can tolerate only so much emotional upset and, when information we receive is different from that which we accept or with which we are comfortable, our mind seeks a balance by rejecting or modifying the dissonant information."

In other words, denial and ho-humming past the graveyard.

But every now and again, we are presented with information that nabs our attention in a new way.

While we know the Bills have the NFL's longest playoff slump, a graphic of each team's last postseason appearance recently posted on Twitter was jarring.

Another jolt occurred today, when Buffalo News colleague Mark Gaughan and I discussed the last time another team hired a Bills assistant to be its head coach.

The Cleveland Browns hired Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine this afternoon. Pettine is the first assistant plucked and promoted from the Bills' coaching staff since the Indianapolis Colts hired Ted Marchibroda in 1992.

That's 22 years of Bills coordinators and position coaches no other NFL team found deserving of a top job (Wade Phillips was promoted from within when Marv Levy retired).

Children were born, graduated from college and have given birth to their own kids within that span.

But five Bills head coaches between Levy and Doug Marrone couldn't find an assistant the rest of the NFL considered worthy of their profession's peak.

The trend was heavily influenced by the Bills' playoff drought. Bills owner Ralph Wilson has been notoriously frugal with support staffers. The most upwardly mobile assistants -- those with options -- simply didn't find the organization appealing.

Beyond that, who's interested in a coach from a losing organization?

The Browns were desperate to fill their vacancy after other candidates rejected them, and Pettine was unusual in that he enjoyed immediate success here. His defense made noise around the NFL.

Pettine's departure will sting. The Bills must hire their fourth defensive coordinator in four seasons and their fifth coordinator in six seasons. They'll likely need to find new defensive assistants, too.

But at least this one's leaving on his own terms and not because he'd been fired.

For the Bills, that's progress.