Here’s the thing. I’m not sure that running a franchise in Madden ’08 is the same thing as running an actual NFL franchise, but they seem to have done a good job of adding enough of the pieces that it very closely parallels that experience. And, in that the Bills have languished in mediocrity for a decade or more now… wouldn’t you think they’d want some advice from a successful NFL owner/GM? I have managed to take the 2007 Buffalo Bills – a middle of the pack team – and turn them into the highest rated team, and a financially successful organization after just three seasons.
So, Russ, if you’re listening… here’s what I’d do.
Football Man at the Top
I really believe Russ Brandon has been good for the Bills, and will be good for the Bills. I think if he wants to keep the franchise moving forward, the first thing they have to do is bring in a “football guy” to make football decisions. Right now Tom Modrak and John Guy are making those decisions, and they are doing a 7-9 job of it. What I would do is bring in a guy who has proven to win wherever he has gone – and a guy who has been around – and put him at the top of the chain for football-related decisions. Not a business guy… that’s Brandon. A football guy.
My top pick? Mike Holmgren. He’s retiring in Seattle. Doesn’t want to coach for now. But he could perhaps be persuaded to continue earning a fat paycheck as the Head Direction Giver for the Bills, much like Bill Parcells in Miami. Turned them around in ONE SEASON. These Bills have much more talent than the Dolphins did last year.
Once Holmgren is here, he can evaluate the staff, the players, and maybe with a little pruning and a few additions… we’re right where the Dolphins are this year.
TRADE JASON PETERS
Russ… please… if you are listening… this is almost mandatory.
The JPs must go. They are both a cancer to this team. I didn’t know that about the larger JP until this past off season. But the way he handled his dispute with the Bills (which was interesting, in that he had THREE more years on his contract…) was just ridiculous, unprofessional, and revealed much about his character. Then the way he has played this year, coupled with his various public comments, and then sitting out the last two games… the man HAS to go.
QB JP is a free agent, and will be gone. But LT JP still has two years on his current contract. And, maybe his undeserved second invite to the Pro Bowl will actually benefit the Buffalo Bills.
Here’s the plan. Trade our “young, talented, two-time Pro Bowl LT” to one of the top three teams in the 2009 draft (Detroit, Kansas City, or St. Louis) and select Michael Oher or Andre Smith with that pick. Both these guys are super highly rated tackles in what is being called a rich offensive lineman draft class. Michael Oher should be amazing. He could easily equal (and hopefully exceed) what Peters did this season. So trade Peters for their top pick… straight up. They get a “proven”, Pro Bowl left tackle, and we get to dump Peters.
The Bills will have the #10 pick in this year’s draft. That’s a pretty good pick. If they do trade Peters for a top three pick, that would be two of the top ten picks in the 2009 draft. Theoretically… that’s amazing. And what they really, really need is a top-notch defensive lineman. A real play maker. Like a Bruce Smith. Oh, how we miss Bruce Smith. There seem to be some pretty good choices in this draft class, too. Athletic guys who can make things happen on the field. That’s what we need.
Also, we need to build depth. We should draft a decent QB prospect, as we’ll be losing one this off-season. (I have already said, I’d like to see University at Buffalo QB, Drew Willy as a Bill.) We also need to think about depth on both lines. Our middle round picks should be used for both lines, offensive and defensive. With the #10 pick (and hopefully a top three pick) the Bills could have three picks in the top 50. Maybe trade up with some lower round picks and get another high second round pick if that fits our needs. A few quality guys from this draft might be just what we need to break out of mediocrity!
Free Agent Signings: Defensive Play Makers!
A lot of people have their sites set on Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans. He is definitely a force, and a good player. But he is not the type of guy the Bills generally go after. In the news too often for the wrong reasons. However, there are a couple other guys who may be worth the Bills shelling out big bucks for.
Terrell Suggs is my top choice. He is a defensive end/linebacker who makes lots of plays. He could be much like Cornelius Bennett was for the Bills in the 1990s. Bennett was just all around great. All over the field, making big plays when we needed them, covering, tackling, and especially, getting pressure on the QB. Imagine a Bills team with a healthy Aaron Schobel, Marcus Stroud, one of those top DEs from the draft, Terrell Suggs, and the current playmakers, Poz, Mitchell, and the secondary. That is much improved right there.
Another guy they may take a look at is Julius Peppers. Peppers has always been a force on defense, though he is getting older, and perhaps losing a step. But if they can not get Suggs, I would think Peppers has enough left in him, teamed with some guys already on the field here, to make a difference for Buffalo.
Give Dick Jauron an Ultimatum
It is quite obvious that the players like to play for Dick Jauron. That’s a good thing. Should rally them to play their best football. But so far… that has only equaled 7 wins. Three years in a row. That’s not good enough. Russ, if you’re listening, you really need to say to Dick… this is it. You either make the playoffs, or we are going to bring in someone else who can. The NFL is a very short season. While good plays, and players who are happy are all good things… winning is really the bottom line. When a team has not made the playoffs for a decade… that’s really inexcusable. (Reference again the 2007-2008 Miami Dolphins… worst in the league to AFC East champs in ONE season.)
So, early in the off-season, let Jauron know that he is in fact playing for his job this next season. Whatever that means… hiring new assistants, letting them have more game day decision control, bringing in better players… whatever. The ultimatum is: playoffs, or pink slip.
That’ll Do It!
And, Mr. Brandon, if you are listening, and if you heed most or all of this wise counsel… our Buffalo Bills should be once again, not only competitive, but perhaps even champions.
Please do whatever it takes to get President Wilson to authorize these moves, and you’ll be the smartest GM in town.