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To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing to you today on behalf of Bills fans everywhere. I feel both compelled and qualified to speak as a representative of this great collection of people scattered across the globe. First I am compelled by great frustration with what has now seemingly become the tradition of losing and mediocrity that surrounds and defines this once proud organization. The length of time that those under the Buffalo Bills’ banner have wallowed in this squaller of ineptitude, and a general mentality of losing has long since become too much for loyal fans to bear. Second, my qualification is simply that I have not met many other fans of any team quite as optimistically devoted to their home town team. (Though, admittedly, there are a good percentage more amongst Bills fans than any other team’s following.)
What is so perplexing to me is this annual routine that we seem to be mired in, which (understandably) produces the same results. First, following another below average (to downright dismal) season, we dip into the free agent market, but only manage to pull out a few lesser-known players whom you might designate “role players” on a team that already has its building blocks and stars. Then, as the draft approaches and all the professionals and amateurs discuss their various mock drafts, excitement builds for the possibility of landing even half of these future greats. Only, excitement wanes as the first pick is announced… then the second… then the third. And the draft comes and goes with questions like, “Why didn’t they trade up to get [insert great prospect name here],” or, “Who are these guys???”
Now, to be fair, there have been some gems in the past decade of drafts. (And some remain to be seen of course, since you really can’t fairly assess the success of players drafted until a few years into their professional career.) But overall, we still do not make a so-called “big splash” in free agency or the draft.
(Save the Terrell Owens experiment, of course. That was slightly out of character for our Buffalo Bills, and sadly, did not work out as hoped due to the previous methods for building the foundation of the team.)
And once the mediocre team is in place, Bills fans begin to see all the “up sides” of their new players. Certainly there are good things about each of these players, and they should be noticed. However, somewhere early in the regular seasons, our improperly inflated hopes surrounding these players that (rightfully) no one else in the NFL has heard of are quickly deflated … leaving us again in nearly utter sports-fan despair.
So this is my proposal. Please grab a pen and paper. (Or a laptop, or other note-taking device.) I will only say this once, so you must listen closely. And it can be completely trusted due to my impeccable record as a GM for two separate Buffalo Bills franchises in Madden ’08.
FIRST MOVE: Start at the top.
First, you need “football guys” running the show. You already did this! Good work! Buddy Nix has been a scout and an assistant GM and seems to know his stuff about football players. Chan Gailey has only been a winner everywhere he goes (though he’s slightly “off the radar” in terms of name recognition) and his toughness and hard work ethic will rub off on these young guys, as I believe it already is doing. So, nice job.
SECOND MOVE: Build the Foundations
The previous administration had begun doing some of this with the drafting of two rookie offensive linemen last year, but it is just not cutting it to have such inexperience in the most crucial part of the team. A great offensive line can make anyone a great running back, and even make an average QB look great. Right now we have a very poor (and porous) offensive line, and they are making our offensive play makers look, well… offensive.
Wood and Levitre may indeed be the answer on the interior of the line eventually, and I have no complaints about the center, Geoff Hangartner. But the cornerstones of an offensive line are its ends. Left and right tackle. You signed a RT in the offseason, Cornell Green, but I’m not seeing him as a brick wall, or a “House” (whom we Bills fans grew accustomed to seeing as a fixture during the 1990s in Howard “House” Ballard).
There are options. Bell may end up being a fantastic athlete and a great tackle. Why not move him to right tackle and make a trade for San Diego’s disgruntled LT, Marcus McNeill? McNeill was a Pro Bowl player last year, and is currently holding out. My proposal is that we trade Marshawn Lynch and either a draft pick or one of our generic wide receivers for Marcus McNeill, and immediately improve our offensive line.
Then, we need to deal another decent player for a first round draft pick in 2011 (so we have at least two 1st round picks) and grab a high-profile tackle in next year’s draft. The foundational piece of the offense is the line, and ours has way too many cracks and holes that need immediate attention.
On the defense, while all of our players have heart, it’s not clear that they have enough talent. Nearly every team that dictates play on defense has a play maker on the defensive line. If there is an option right now for a trade, make it. If not, then trade Chris Kelsay for as high a draft pick as possible. Then in 2011 or 2012 draft a play maker defensive end. Such as Mario Williams is becoming for the Houston Texans. (#1 overall pick a few years back.)
THIRD MOVE: Get Your Play Makers
Once the foundation is in place, then you add your stars. I believe that one was added this year in C. J. Spiller. That kid looks great. (Of course, no one can see how great he is, thanks to the defense being in the backfield with him when he gets the ball. See above.) And, Fred Jackson has proven to be quite a productive player as well. Nice job.
However, one position that once seemed a strength (if only due to the sheer number of roster spots taken by these players) is now currently a great liability. It is my belief that the Buffalo Bills have not only need for a #2 wide receiver, but also a #1 wide receiver. While I think that Lee Evans has incredible hands, and is equally incredibly fast, he can not dominate a game. He simply can not. He has had chances, and has never done it. Good teams have at least two threats, and we really have none. (Again, part of the blame must go to the lack of an offensive line—not giving Evans enough time to get open.) I’m not even sure that Evans is a good route runner. When there is any time for our QB to throw, the receivers are not open!
So starting right now, decide who you think are the top two game-breaking WRs in the game (pro or college level) and go get them. Spare no expense. Trade Lee Evans for a high draft pick if it’s a college player you want. Move Roscoe Parrish. Trade Brian Moorman if you think it will help! Great, game-changing WRs can make an offense unstoppable. And they need to be at least in pairs. Steve Johnson, David Nelson, and Donald Jones are all just fine. But that’s all they are. Fine. We need game breakers.
Then, I am sure you have noticed that other teams have game changers at the tight end position, right? How about last game’s performance by Jermichael Finley? Yes, you’re right. That was really good! Most good-to-great teams have a large, physical, fast, pass-catching TE who can change the game. Keep the chains moving, and put points on the board (to use a few football cliches…) Trade any or all of our current tight ends for one game-changing tight end. Throw in a few hundred chicken wings to sweeten the deal.
And lastly, quarterback.
I am actually a supporter of Trent Edwards. He is the best option on the roster currently, and he actually does (by my estimation) possess all the physical and mental skills of a good to even great quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw. He is accurate. He has the strong arm. He is intelligent, and knows and understands football. He can even (most times) read defenses and make the right call.
Sadly… he is not he answer.
I have seen it all through the off-season, and during these past two regular season games. He does not want to win. The one piece he is missing is an intangible, that all great QBs have. The competitive drive/fire to win. Just win. No matter what it takes, and don’t ever settle for less. Anything less is a complete failure. (Granted, there will be clashes between two great teams where one team wins and one loses… and that can still be the bitter/sour taste of a loss, but the reality is that one team does lose.) The problem with Trent is that he is too accustomed to losing (through his entire life of playing football) and it doesn’t seem to bother him. At least, not as much as it should.
So, there must be a shake-up, and it should come from the draft. One of the two (or more) first round picks we have and/or acquire via trade need to be used on a big-name QB, who has always won. Don’t get cute, just do what it takes to land the guy who will want to win, and has the talent to make it happen. The next Peyton Manning is out there. Find him. And get him. At any cost.
The 2011 draft is said to be a quarterback-rich draft. Study them, and with no preconceived limitations, decide who is the best and get him. No exceptions.
FOURTH MOVE: Add depth
Honestly, there will be some depth when the above moves are made and some of the current players take their rightful place as “role players” and roster depth. Aside from running back and defensive back, there are no stars on this team. (Poz may be, but we can’t ever know because he’s always getting hurt. In fact, he should be on the list of potential trade fodder.)
Depth can be added via mid-to-late round draft choices and free agency. But the first three moves must be made first.
- Make some moves! No one is untouchable. Build the foundation, and begin adding real play makers by trading players like Marshawn Lynch, Lee Evans, Chris Kelsay, Paul Posluszny, Roscoe Parrish… really anyone!
- Specifically, trade Marshawn Lynch and a draft pick (or a WR) to San Diego for LT Marcus McNeill (or if he’s not available, someone of a similar caliber)
- Stockpile draft picks by trading the above players—really anyone with any value—and then spend those draft picks on TWO game-breaker WRs, an all-star OT, and a QB that has a proven record of winning at all levels.
- Use later draft picks and free agency to keep adding depth and role players.
All of these steps can be made in a maximum of three seasons. It can likely be done in two seasons. So what is keeping you from doing it? Is it just that we loyal Bills fans keep buying tickets, despite the your apparent lack of commitment to excellence and a championship in Buffalo? Perhaps. And I’m not sure how to fix that, since we Bills fans are clearly loyal to a fault.
But for the sake of those loyal fans. For the sake of Ralph Wilson. For the sake of the great Bills teams of the past… make these moves!. Start this week. Use the tools at your disposal and build a great team starting now.
Then you, One Bills Drive, will make a name for yourself as the first to bring a championship to Western New York. Then the prestige that was once known by all associated with this team will once again return. Then there will no longer be a chuckle at the mention of our team or the sight of our charging Buffalo.
Then this team will once again be a proud representative of the most loyal fans in all of sports.
It’s within your power, within your reach.
Now get it done.
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