Personal Sports

Winning Is All That Matters!

Wins and Losses

Are you a sports fan? Do you enjoy participating in competition, or just watching other compete? There is often tension, drama, emotional highs and lows, and plenty of excitement. And in the end, there is a winner, and a loser. (Unless a draw is an option for the final outcome in the particular sport of choice.)

The outcome is usually the way we judge a game. Did you win? You were the best team out there! Did you lose? Tough break. They were better. If it’s a league, where you’re tracking your wins and losses, chalk one up in the loser column for you and your team.

I’ve always thought this was such a strange way to judge effort, ability, and even the result of a particular contest. First, there are so many things that go into a win or a loss, and often a couple bounces or calls that were a hair’s breadth from going the opposite way may have determined that final outcome. So did the better team win? Or, were they just lucky?

Honestly, it’s often a toss up—and can even be well argued that the better team ended with fewer points.

And yet, we even champion the phrase, “Winning is all that matters!”

Bottom line is, that’s true. The way we have set things up is based on wins and losses. The ultimate champion in any sports league—the best team—is the one who outlasts all the others by winning. It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, if the other team was better, or if they win by dominating their opponent—just win.

You don’t even have to win all of your games! The NY Giants won the Super Bowl a few years ago, after “sneaking” into the playoffs. In what might have been considered a sub-par season (9-7 overall, they were 7-7 after week 15!) they beat the New England Patriots (whom many considered a far superior team, for many reasons) … and THEY are the Champions.

Just because they won the right games, at the right times.

It’s funny to me, actually; how much emphasis we place on the final outcome. I don’t have an alternative, though. What else could you base it on? Everything else is simply subjective, based on opinion more than a measurable actuality. But still, there’s so much “luck” involved, and we base so much value, or “worth” on these ‘W’s and ‘L’s.

I think I may be more understanding of this as a fan of the Buffalo Bills. Did you know that this NFL franchise has not collected enough wins in any of the past thirteen seasons to advance to the post season playoffs? Thirteen! They have a record of 82-126 over that span of years. A win percentage of thirty-nine percent. That’s really incredible. I’ve watched most of those individual contests, and while it’s not really fair to say they “should” have won any of those games that they lost, there certainly were dozens that could have been flipped to wins by just one or two timely plays going the other way (and those plays being just a bad bounce, or a fraction of an inch from doing just that!)

And so, our team and its fans continue to be the butt of many a football joke. Just because of a few plays.

Overall, this usually is a good measurement. Those teams were not very good. But they weren’t maybe as bad as the W/L record would suggest. Nor are the winners necessarily as “good” as their record suggested. And yet, they are lauded as the best.

This is not a sour grapes post. 🙂 Yesterday my Bills won on a last second touchdown, in a hard-fought, back-and-forth game where either team could have won—and maybe the Carolina Panthers “deserved” the win even more. (Or at least, as much as the Bills.)

But the Bills won. They are 1-1. They feel better about themselves. Just because they finished with one more point. (Thanks to a penalty, and a few other beneficial moments.)

In the previous week, the Bills may have actually been the “better” team, but they lost. There were dropped passes, bad calls, penalties (which were correctly called) and in the end, the Bills lost on a last minute field goal.

I still say, wins and losses are a funny way to gauge the overall worth or ability of a team.

I guess that’s just a strange part of “sport”. In the end, winning is probably not all that matters. At least, not to me. Playing hard, good sportsmanship (whether winning or losing), competition, dealing with adversity, and just the enjoyment of physical activity and exertion… leaving everything on the field, as they say—all of these are great parts of sport, win or lose.

A famous quote, attributed to Thomas Edison, reminds us that winning and losing may not be the best measurement of any particular outcome:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.[1. Note: This quote is interesting. I found several versions of it, usually differing on the number of failures (700, 1,000, and 10,000 being most common). But also the subject of the failure differed at times (battery storage vs. the carbon filament for light bulbs) and also there was some stated doubt regarding the attribution to Edison at all! Interesting.]

So I contend that whether your final result is a win or a loss, the ‘W’ or ‘L’ does not determine the worth of you, or your team, or even your effort on that occasion. People say there are “moral victories” (meaning you can take something good from a loss) and then others strongly object, saying there are NO moral victories. Wins are all that matters. That’s just silly … it’s a GAME! So many things go into it, and the final result can go either way. That’s what makes it fun!

Enjoy the competition. Play hard, win or lose. And even enjoy watching and cheering for your team, win or lose.

We Bills fans certainly know how to do the latter! 🙂


The Bills Win! The Bills Win!!

What if the Bills won the Super Bowl??Since today is Super Bowl Sunday, I thought it might be an appropriate day to “talk football”.

Mind you, I am still quite loyally a Bills fan. (In truth, I’m really only a Bills fan, not actually a fan of football or the NFL in general. I know… weird, right?)

So, if you’re a Bills fan, too, or a general football/NFL fan, you’ll likely enjoy this post. If you’re not (and likely there are many of you) … I’d recommend drilling down through all the related links and category tabs here for something else to read today.

But really, how can you escape football on the first Sunday in February? It’s really quite crazy how much this day has become one of the major US—and even global?—holidays. Everyone has a party they are hosting or attending. Big food plans… friends, family, and even lots of non-football fans. (I’m the one at the Super Bowl parties enjoying the food and conversation.)

Today is football day.

So, in light of that reality: WHAT is the deal with the Buffalo Bills?!

The Big Story

Folks are tempted to say that the Bills are just either horribly managed, or under-whelmingly under-talented. (Or would that be overwhelmingly?) And a quick look at their draft pick success rate over the now twelve seasons in which they have failed to qualify for the post season would lead most astute fans of the game to that easy conclusion.

But the Great Collapse of 2011 was actually a result of more than just a lack of talent, or a poorly managed organization.

Throughout the season, the Bills were “playing hurt”. Whether their guys were actually on the sidelines (or not even in the stadium) or if they were in the game but not fully healthy, the Bills were one of the teams hardest hit by injuries this year.

You might say, “But every team has injuries! Man up!” And, actually, most of the players said that throughout the season. It was frustrating me a great deal to not hear the coaches, the GM, or the players saying anything about the insane amount of injuries that this team was having to deal with.

In 2007, the Bills had 17 players on IR. That was just ridiculous. That was the year that Kevin Everett suffered a spinal injury in the very first game of the year. (A game we were privileged to attend.) In 2011, the Bills ended the year with 15 players on IR. Interestingly, an article near the end of the season similarly pointed out what I was seeing and saying… losing key players matters! I have sadly lost my reference to that article, but the gist was that the worst teams had the most injuries and the best had the fewest. Seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked, or downplayed as an “excuse”.

These weren’t just a bunch of players. They were the core. Kyle Williams went down early in the year. Most people say he’s our best player on defense, and he’s definitely a leader on the team in his play and “in the locker room” as they say. Then we lost Fred Jackson, likely our best player on offense. (Oh, and don’t forget that the offensive line lost Eric Wood, it’s best player—and leader—fairly early in the season, and really never fielded the same five guys. A few games featured third and fourth options at center, playing a position they’d never played before!)

And it doesn’t stop there. Just yesterday the Bills published news that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played the last ten games of the season with cracked ribs. This is something that can affect your throwing accuracy. And a ton of guys never were injured “enough” to be put on IR, but they were less of the players they could be each week… it was just a mess.

Starters were out for many games, or most or even all of the season. Promising rookies were injured for games or the season. Even the kicker was hit with a season-ending injury!

There’s more that could be said here, and it’s certainly not the only reason the Bills finished with such a horrible record after such a promising start. But I contend unequivocally that it was the major reason.

But… Who Are Their Players?

A fine question if you’re not an avid Bills fans. Even casual Bills fans would likely have a hard time naming anyone on this current roster.

That was one of their strengths out of the gate in 2011. They were a team of “cast-offs” and otherwise overlooked players. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Ivy League perennial backup QB was right at the top of the QB stats while the Bills soared to a 5-2 start. Undrafted-free-agent-from-Division-III-Coe-College RB Fred Jackson was on a torrid pace to perhaps rival Thurman Thomas’ best seasons as a Bill, leading the league in rushing and overall yards from scrimmage on several occasions. Seventh-round pick Stevie Johnson finished the year with over 1,000 yards receiving, becoming the only Buffalo Bill ever to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. (Yes, really!) And no-name TE Scott Chandler took the league by surprise with his “unstoppable” production in the red zone, leading the league in TDs by a tight end when the Bills had their early success.

Add to that some equally unknown, but pretty talented young players from the Nix/Gailey regime’s first two drafts and this team felt they had something to prove. And they were doing it.

(Until the injuries caught up with them… see “The Big Story” above…)

One thing many of the players have said, looking back at last season, is that they were not ready to handle success. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it has some ring of truth to it. They are all young. They have very little experience in meaningful games (and even less as the division leaders that they were at week eight). It could be that. And if so, that’s something they’re going to have to figure out this offseason. Because, if they’re not injured… there’s not much reason this team of “nobodies” can’t get out to the same great start they had last season.

Looking Ahead

One thing that could really hold the 2012 Buffalo Bills back is the amount of potential turnover this team faces. Stevie Johnson leads a long list of fairly “high-profile” players (for the Bills, at least… again, see above re: how there really are no high-profile players in Buffalo) who might be free agents come March 13th. The Bills and he both say they are attempting to negotiate a contract, but no agreement has been reached just yet.

If the Bills let a lot of players go, and bring in a lot of new players via the draft and free agency, that will be at least a moderate challenge. They are already going to be working with a new defensive coordinator as Dave Wanndstedt took over that role right after the close of the 2011 season. There has been a little bit of shuffling in the coaching staff as a whole as some guys were let go, some left, and new coaches have been hired.

There are still some needs on this team (and no, it’s not starting quarterback…) that will definitely be addressed. Here’s a short list:

  • DEPTH. That’s easy. Hardly any team could have withstood the freakish injury list Buffalo dealt with last season, but they clearly need to have talented and/or experienced depth at many positions going into next season, maybe especially offensive line.

  • SECOND WIDEOUT (AND FIRST??) If Stevie stays, then we need a second wideout. If he goes, we’ll need two. Three of the guys Buffalo was counting on this year were out for most or all of the year (Donald Jones, Marcus Easley, and Roscoe Parrish). There’s no guarantee any of those guys are even the player they want anyway. The Bills will almost definitely go after a free agent WR, or address that position in the draft.

  • PASS RUSH. With Shawne Merriman still a BIG question mark, the Bills need to figure something out re: their putrid pass rush. When you take away their 10-sack game against the Redskins—which turned out to be a bit of a mirage, I suppose—they really produced almost no pressure at all on the opposing QBs. Marcell Dareus looks to be a good player, and we know Kyle Williams is, but they need more here (DL, LBs) so this spot will likely be addressed, too.

  • BACKUP QB. With the revelation this week that Fitzpatrick played the last ten games with cracked ribs, you have to think that was at least partially because the coached didn’t/don’t trust their backups. Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith (whom they were forced to use as a WR for much of the last half of the season, again, due to injuries) are not the answer. Plus, a little competition never hurts. Expect the Bills to add at least one quality QB option. (But again, NOT to start.)

What the Bills most need to do is figure out why they can’t stay healthy! If it’s not a curse, I really don’t know what it is! 🙂

Early Predictions

Yeah… right!

With so many options in front of them, there’s really no way to predict what will happen with the Bills in 2012. But I will say this… they are not as far away as some think. Really.

Of course, most will say, “Ahhh, he’s just a Bills fan! AND an optimist! Don’t listen to a word he says!” But, if you say that, it’s rather odd that you’re ~1,600 words into something you shouldn’t listen to…

That aside, I must say the core of the young guys on this team really do show signs of life (and longevity?) that the Bills haven’t had for a while. The amount of free agents to sign seems a foreboding task, and certainly some of these guys are still hoping to fully recover from some devastating injuries in 2011. But still… the Bills are at least going in the right direction.

Poor Mr. Wilson (who is rapidly nearing his turn at joining the centenarian club) must be so tired of hearing that phrase though. He needs them to “go” a bit more quickly in the “right direction”.

Better still, he needs them to reach the right destination.

Could 2013 be the February we hear or read the words, “The Bills Win! The Bills Win!!! Buffalo has WON the SUPER BOWL!!!”

Probably not. But this Bills fan can dream …


Tim Tebow: The Power of Belief

Tim Tebow is really not that good. At quarterback. Have you noticed?

Before his 80-yard TD pass on the first play of overtime in his first NFL playoff game, Tebow was a “magical” 9 for 20 for 236 yards and 1 TD. (That yardage total is actually pretty impressive on only 9 completions!) The best part about his 300-yard, two-touchdown game was that there were no turnovers. When he played against my Buffalo Bills he was nearly the sole reason that Denver was blown out by the Bills second and third string replacement players. (Yes, it was that kind of a season for Bills fans… but we did celebrate a win that game!)

To be fair, I only watched maybe 10 game-minutes of the game, but what I saw was Denver’s defense making it almost impossible for a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger to do anything on nearly every down, and I saw Tim Tebow throwing the ball off-target, or even in the dirt more times than not.

So what gives with this Tebowmania?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really do think he’s a great kid. And if you listen to anything he says in interviews, it’s top-notch. He’s not some crazy cliche-spouting Christian who just likes to say, “Thank you, Jesus!” and “Praise the Lord!” any chance he gets. Yes, he might say stuff about Jesus a bit too much for the liking of some, but he’s really not obnoxious about it.

AND, the best part is, he never gives Jesus the “credit” for the win. Nor does he imply that God wanted him and his team to win more than the other. I believe he’s said the opposite. (That God doesn’t really care who wins the game.)

He’s a super team player, always crediting his teammates, and you can tell he just loves playing football.

But why the Tebowmania?

The one thing that Tim Tebow brings to his NFL team is… no, it’s not just “winning”. If we’re crediting just him—one player—with wins and losses, he did lose some games this year. (Again, to be fair, he was actually 7-2 this season, after taking over full time for whoever Denver had starting ahead of him at the beginning of the season. So he did win many more times than he lost. Except against the Bills.)

What he brings is his attitude. Not only a never-say-die, competitive attitude. It’s a positive attitude. And the part that matters is, it doesn’t just affect him and his play. His teammates believe in him, and somehow, his positive attitude—his belief in himself—is so infectious that they believe more in themselves.

The Denver Broncos players believe that they have a better chance to win games because Tim Tebow is their QB. Not necessarily because he’s going to Drew Brees someone with a 500-yard, 6 TD game. (They probably know that is not going to happen.) And not just because they know his will to win never quits. No matter the score, they’re never out of it. (Except in that game in Buffalo! Ha!) 🙂

Tim Tebow is a positive person. He gets his strength from his belief and trust that Jesus is who he said he is, and that that is the most important thing in life. So from his core, he exudes a confidence and a positive, others-oriented attitude. That is something that his teammates pick up on, and start to think inside themselves.

When 53 guys are thinking that way on game day … a win is a very likely outcome.

So it’s really not what Tebow does on the field. (Though you can’t deny that he usually doesn’t hurt their chances… except against Buffalo! Sorry… that was the last time.) 😉

It very much is who he is off the field. Good for you, Mr. Tebow. My boys definitely look up to him (as aspiring football players themselves) and I’d say he’s certainly worth looking up to.

Even if he is a pretty awful NFL quarterback. 🙂

Entertainment Sports

So Cliché

It’s football season, and this year’s campaign is no different than any other. Each team is going to be taking it one game at a time, giving 110%, and leaving it all on the field, hoping to come away with a victory.

When the game begins, when the chips are down, if you’ve put in your time in the film room, studied your opponents tendencies so you know what they’re going to throw at you, and you’ve got your game face on, even though the outcome is always up in the air, chances are you’ll have the upper hand. Plus, if you’re playing in your own back yard, you’ll have the aid of the 12th man!

Once the game is underway, you’ll have to keep your head in the game. Stick to your gameplan. Your best defense is a good offense. Let your backs pound the rock, or your QB air it out, and get a jump on your opponent by getting on the board early. Then get ready for the ensuing kickoff.

On the other side of the ball, you’ll need to just pin your ears back, step up, and play a full sixty minutes. Make sure you cash in on your takeaways, and whenever possible flip the field on special teams. You have to win in all three phases of the game.

At the end of the day, when the final whistle blows, the better team always wins the game.

And that’s why we love this game.

Note: I didn’t “scratch the surface” of the breadth of terms employed by football players, coaches, and especially media personnel “week in and week out” in the world of NFL football. So, if you have some to add, “throw your hat in the ring” in the comments below. (What does that really mean, anyway?)


An Open Letter to One Bills Drive

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.


  1. 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!
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


The Buffalo Bills’ Strategy

C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills

I am a big Buffalo Bills fan. Yes, believe it or not, there are still some of us out here. Though I may be ridiculed, though I may see little reward for my undying loyalty and eternal optimism, yet to do persist.

Many have puzzled over the operational decisions of our team in the past decade or more. I think it started when then head coach Wade Phillips decided to start QB Rob Johnson instead of the city’s favorite quarterback, Doug Flutie, who had been a huge part of a mid-to-late-season surge to get the Bills to the playoffs. The fans were in an uproar, and the Bills did lose the game—although, of course, that’s debatable, since the win for Tennessee came by way of the infamous “Home Run Throwback” play in the “Music City Miracle” game… IT WAS A FORWARD PASS!!!! Ahem… Ironically, that was the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

More recent years have seen several wasted 1st round draft choices—Mike Williams and J. P. Losman being chief amongst the busts. A slightly below average, mundane (and disappointing in the end) coaching choice: Dick Jauron. (Of course that followed several mediocre choices the years prior who amounted to almost nothing.)

Another piece is that the Bills rarely make the moves that seem necessary to build a championship team. They do alright in the draft overall, but there remain large holes to be filled on the roster. There are very rarely any “big moves” in the offseason, or otherwise. Likely the biggest splash the Bills made in the decade of the 00s was signing free agent wide reciever Terrell Owens. (And, other than setting the Buffalo Bills record for longest TD catch, Owens did not really amount to much either.)

So what is this team’s plan?

After a fairly encouraging pre-season, where Bills fans saw their team actually moving the ball and scoring points (as well as glimmers of brilliance from a few good players on defense and special teams) we have once again been jolted back to reality by an offensive offensive performance in game one against the Dolphins last week: this team is not that good.

And it gets worse. Today the Bills will play in Green Bay (not an easy place to get a win!) and then the next four opponents are New England, New York Jets, Jacksonville, and Baltimore. Ouch.

There are some really encouraging signs, still, despite the high probability that our favorite team might go 0-6 to start this 2010 NFL season. (Again… ouch.)

Young players like Buffalo’s new favorite running back, C. J. Spiller, our defensive backfield including Terrence McGee, Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin and even Donte Whitner… not to mention a few players who have been around and whom we already know are capable of big plays: Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans, and Fred Jackson.

The biggest questions are still our offensive line (they are, in general, VERY young an inexperienced still), our defensive line, our wide receivers, our line backers, and our quarterback(s).

Wow. Guess we’re still at the beginning of this rebuild, eh?

If the offensive linemen actually do have the talent, then the Bills will be set for years to come. Three of the five starters have only 1 or 2 years of NFL experience. (And not full seasons, due to injuries.) I think they still need to bring in more talent, but if most or all of these guys develop, then they’ll be in good shape. The problem is, it’s still a very big unknown.

Defensive line, line backers, and wide receivers are all positions where the Bills just need to bring in more talent. They still don’t have a reliable #2 receiver. I’m not even sure they have a reliable, game-breaking #1 receiver. Lee Evans is very talented, but I’m not sure he’s a #1 guy. The line backers have potential, but are also unproven. The Bills did bring in a few veterans at this position in the off-season (and recently added Akin Ayodele due to Kawika Mitchell’s injury) but again, this unit does not strike fear in their opponent’s hearts just yet. The defensive line has heart, but they may be lacking in talent, and surely the team is lacking depth there.

That brings us to quarterback. Bills fans were outraged when the team decided to keep the three players from last year’s team who all failed to impress, given a good number of opportunities to do so. Why not get a free agent like Jake Delhomme? Why not trade for Mike Vick or Donovan McNabb? Why not draft a hot-shot rookie like Jimmy Claussen (who was available at the #9 pick this year…) I think the answer is that the Bills wanted to add talent and depth at other positions, and wait for the 2011 draft to grab their QB for the future. (Hoping against hope that one of the three guys they already have might flip some magic switch and be “the guy” before they have to start over again.)

Blame the QB (Trent Edwards) if you want, but QB is not the team’s biggest issue. Trent Edwards has talent, toughness, and football intelligence. He just lacks that intangible piece: the insatiable desire to win. More of the blame for poor QB play should be placed on the broad shoulders of his offensive line. They were awful in week one.

If the Bills can get their running game established this year, they’ll do alright. They have some play makers on defense and special teams. And if they get the other team on their heels with the running game’s success, then they can also have success in the passing game. Unfortunately, this team has way too many “ifs”.

Bills fans wonder “if” that will ever end.

The Bills strategy seems to be very long-term. The best we can hope for this season, fellow Bills fan, is that our team is competitive (technically, even in a dismal performance by the offense last week, they were competitive right to the end of the game) and that we sneak out a couple of wins en route to a high draft pick for the 2011 NFL Draft next April.

Till then… grab some pizza and wings… maybe some beef on weck… and…

Go Bills!


The Buffalo Bills are Bad! (But How Do We Know?)

Jairus Byrd, Braylon EdwardsThe news from One Bills Drive yesterday was that starting Pro Bowl safety, Jairus Byrd is out “indefinitely” with a nagging groin injury. That is not good news for the Bills, but it is definitely consistent with the pattern of recent history.

If you only follow the Buffalo Bills from a distance, it’s easy to just laugh them off. Their ten straight seasons of missing the playoffs, and their consistently mediocre-to-bad records, along with no superstars to speak of (save for Terrell Owens in 2009, of course) makes them more often the punchline of an NFL-related joke than a respected NFL franchise.

But if you’re up a bit closer, as a long-time fan of the red, white, and (used-to-be) royal blue… you’re apt to think that you don’t have any idea what to think about this team.

That’s because, in three of the past four years (including this one, 2010) the Bills have been ridiculously “snake-bitten” by injuries. (I haven’t officially heard that any of the players are out due to snake bite, but honestly, it wouldn’t be that surprising…) We have no idea if this team is good or not, because we have never seen this team play!

In 2007, the Bills finished the year with 17 players on Injured Reserve. And you’ll probably recall it started off in week one with Kevin Everett’s career-ending—and very close to life-ending—neck injury. It was all very downhill from there. After only suffering key injuries in 2008, the Bills bested their 2007 “performance” in 2009 by finishing the season with 20 players on the IR.

Now, as they prepare for their second preseason game of the 2010 season, they only have two players on any sort of injured lists, but there will be a handful (or two) of players on the sidelines.

In their first preseason game, last week against Washington, there were 13 players out at kickoff, and two more injured on the first drive! That was followed by a few more felled fellows this week in training camp… what is going on with this team?!?

Thankfully, the Bills will get a few players back tonight.

Starting offensive linemen LT Demetrius Bell and RG Eric Wood will be seeing their first game action since being injured last season (they were two of the 20 players from last year’s IR list). Also returning tonight will be LBs Paul Posluszny, Chris Kelsay, and Keith Ellison. So it’s not all bad news for the Bills.

But really, what gives? How can there be so many injuries to key players on one team?

What looked like one of their strongest positions—running back—with Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and rookie C.J. Spiller is now somewhat suspect with Lynch out with an ankle injury, and Jackson hoping to be back in time for the regular season opener. And what was a deep position for the Bills—wide receiver—is now a tad more questionable with James Hardy still trying to get healthy enough to play, rookie Marcus Easley out indefinitely, and free agent hopeful David Nelson going down this week at practice.

Speaking of rookies, along with WR Marcus Easley, Buffalo is also minus several other 2010 draft choices, including OL Ed Wang, DL Alex Carrington, and LB Danny Batten. Wang and Easley (two rookies Buffalo was hoping to get some production from) are the more serious injuries, and thankfully, Carrington was back to practice this week, otherwise, four of Buffalo’s 9 draft picks would be out by the second preseason game.

It really is incredible.

Football is a team sport. Probably the team sport most reliant on the team being a team. Individuals do not succeed in football without the full support of everyone else on the team. And really, one of the key positions is usually one of the least noticed: Offensive Line. Sadly, that is where most of the Bills’ injuries have been. And continue to be, though starting tonight, the Bills are hopeful they can actually have a solid, starting unit together for a good string of games. (Minus RT Cornell Green, who is questionable for tonight’s game.)

I’m really not making any excuses. Certainly there are other factors involved. (Remember Dick Jauron?) But, if the Bills were ever able to field their best players, all at the same time… they actually might be not too bad.

But it sure seems like we’ll just never know!

For an up-to-date Buffalo Bills injury tracker, check out this page at


NHL Top and Bottom

NHL LogoWell, not really bottom, but I’ve just been thinking how strange (and, in a way, cool) it is that while the Western Conference finals features the two teams who finished first and second in 2009-2010, the Eastern Conference finals are upside down, featuring the #7 and #8 seeds, both of whom were questionable to even make the playoffs!

Montreal (the #8) has beaten the overall #1 team this year (which, everyone thought was impossible…) and they beat the defending champion Penguins in the second round (which, everyone thought was impossible…) by winning the last three games of the series! (Which… IS impossible!!) 🙂

Obviously, as is so often said, the teams are really very equal. Not sure how or why that is, since the Capitals really ran away with the top spot this year. And, not sure why it ended up #1 and #2 in the West, when there were some really good teams that those two clubs had to eliminate. Nice job, top clubs!

In the meantime, my team continues to flounder in near mediocrity. Hmmph. Well, at least they aren’t as bad as these guys… 🙂

The NHL Conference Finals continue tonight, two games on Versus! Here’s the full schedule


Olympic Hockey: National Personalities?

Ryan Miller - Team USA
Team USA, on the strength of Ryan Miller’s shut out, and Zach Parise’s two goals, advanced to the Olympic “final four” yesterday. It was a fantastic day of hockey! The Canadian team looked super impressive, beating up on the Russians, 7-3… but making it look even easier than that. (And Russia is loaded with NHL all-stars!) Actually, all of the teams—not just the Russians—are loaded with NHL all-stars.

(Except for the United States team. Fascinating.)

Team USA has had superb goal tending—much like the Buffalo Sabres—and are the only undefeated team left in the tournament. They are also “scrappy” and physical, and they just play like they won’t accept losing. Aside from the Canadian players, it was interesting to see the “personalities” of each nation’s players. The United States players are as I described above. Mostly second and third-line players who are the “heart and soul”, the “grit” of their teams. You can’t win without them. (But usually, you can’t win if they are your whole team… So, we do have Patrick Kane and even Zach Parise, who are more “skilled players” and natural scorers.)

Then there is the Russian team. If you look at their roster, it’s just staggering how much fire power they have. Alexander Ovechkin is the leagues top goal scorer. And right behind him—sometimes in front of him—is Evgeni Malkin, and right behind them in the scoring column is Ilya Kovalchuk. All three are members of the Russian team, along with a handful of other amazing, all-star players.

But what I noticed about these guys was, they almost looked inept. They were definitely not the offensive machines that they are each night in the NHL. Yes, Canada had a good defensive scheme and some pretty talented defensemen (and a talented goalie) but, they face that from most teams in the NHL.

What they were missing was their teammates.

They needed the guys who are on Team USA. The grit guys. They needed the guys on Team Canada, the guys who set up their scoring. They need the skill and experience of the Fins and Swedes… the savvy veterans who set up their amazing scoring plays. Sadly, even their goalies (who are equally amazing) just looked silly, as all these highly skilled scorer try to play defense in front of them.

I just found it really intriguing to see how a country could have a hockey “personality.”

It’s certainly why the Russians lost. For the most part, every NHL team would want any of those top 6 or 7 guys on the Russian’s team… but with a few guys sprinkled in to help them thrive.

The four remaining teams seem to have a bit better balance. (Though, as I mentioned, Team USA is the most unbalanced, with hardly a “star” player on the roster.)

Really fun hockey being played these days. The semifinals are tomorrow. USA vs Finland, and surprising (but talented) Slovokia vs the homeland favorite, Canada. A rematch of USA vs Canada (which team USA won 4-3) would be a fantastic Gold Medal game … but all four of the remaining games should be fantastic. Can’t wait!


Hit-N-RunShawn Lynch

Now, I’m not one to make light of others’ misfortunes (usually) but I have to share a funny line regarding Bills RB Marshawn Lynch and his alleged involvement in a recent hit-and-run accident resulting in a minor injury of a pedestrian:

“All his life, he was taught to hit people and keep running. Now it gets him into trouble.”

Thanks, Chi. 🙂