The end of our beloved Buffalo Bills’ 2011 season was something that most #BillsMafia members would like to forget.
What started out with great promise, and for the first time, a legitimate hope that we could accomplish something we have not done in this millennium (making the playoffs) ended in another disappointing 6-10 record. It is almost heartbreaking that the Bills have annually been a cellar-dweller, no best than middle of the pack, team after the dominance of the 90’s. The Bills have just not been a legitimate title contender since then, and most of the time the punch-line of the league.
The accomplishments of the Bills have limited their coverage on a national scale to almost zero. When was the last time you heard SportsCenter on ESPN talking about the Bills throughout most of the show? Hardly ever. It is dominated by big market teams and of course the savior of the NFL, Tim Tebow. Although it does not matter to the extremely loyal (to death) members of #BillsMafia how much coverage the Bills get, it does matter to free agents. Free agents want to go to a team that wins, as well as a team that commits to winning.
The city’s reputation as a sports town is one of failure, which is an immediate scratch-off for big time free agents. Players want to go to teams that commit to winning and to building a team no matter the cost (under salary cap of course). For the early part of this millennium that has not been a trademark of the Buffalo Bills. One might think that the best way to improve a team is to get the best free agent at the time. However, this also costs a substantial amount of money, something that Ralph Wilson loves more than his life. Not to belittle Wilson either for that as it is shown that just signing free agents is not the key to a winning team (ex. Washington Redskins). It is a combination of two of the biggest periods of the offseason. Free Agency of course, but also the NFL Draft.
The draft is one of the best ways to build a team for longevity as a team can get the best young talent available for free. However, the biggest risk of the draft is drafting a bust. A draft bust can set a team back for years as they wait for their #1 draft pick to pan out. By the time the team realizes that the player is a bust is normally around the time the team has been losing for years.
The drafts of the 2000’s have not gone the Bills’ way. Picks such as Nate Clements (’01), Mike Williams (’02), Willis McGahee (’03), Lee Evans (’04), J.P. Losman (’04), Donte Whitner (’06), John McCargo (’06), Marshawn Lynch (’07), Leodis McKelvin (’08), and Aaron Maybin (’09), have all been cut or traded within 5 years of them being drafted (only exceptions are Lee Evans who was on the team 7 years and Leodis McKelvin who is still currently on the roster). That is not a winning formula by any means. The coaching that you bring in won’t coach players that cannot meet expectations. Sure, some of that may fall on coaching, but it does ultimately come down to the player. Maybe one of the best free agents that we have brought in prior to this offseason is Drayton Florence, whom we have just recently cut.
So what does that have to do with the 2012 offseason?
Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are bringing in winners, and guys that want to commit to playing as a team. Players such as Mario Williams (#1 overall Pick in 2006) and Vince Young (Heisman Trophy winner, national champion, and #3 overall pick in 2006) are big name free agents that in years past may have never come to Buffalo.
Draft picks such as C.J. Spiller (2010), Marcell Dareus (2011) and Stephon Gilmore (2012) are players that I see the Bills being able to build a team around for more than 5 years. Recently re-signed Fred Jackson is getting up in age so having Spiller keep his legs fresh is crucial for rebuilding. The defensive line is anchored by Dareus and Williams and that front can give tremendous trouble in the pass rush to help players such as Gilmore and Byrd more freedom in the secondary. We have signed our most important player Stevie Johnson, showing that the Bills are now willing to spend the money necessary to have a good team.
For once we are finally seeing the Bills commit to excellence. Now we just need our team to prove it on the field. I just hope the Mayans aren’t right and that we get to see our beloved Buffalo Bills in the playoffs for the first time in this millennium.
Bills Mafia Blog