First up, I’d like to correctly congratulate Mr. Colter Carzoli and his Big Horn High School Rams football team on winning their 2A divisional state championship last FRIDAY (not Saturday as I originally posted last week). They won 47-22 in spectacular fashion. That turned out to be just the beginning of a whirlwind weekend of great things that happened in my crazy world of football.
Mind blowing things can happen as a result of social media and #BillsMafia in particular. Some of you may remember that I interviewed Mrs. Kiki Searcy a few months back for my blog. She was kind enough to allow me to write about her life story.
Apparently, she appreciated the article and how I was able to capture her firecracker personality (not exactly hard to detect). We have since communicated back and forth and I have become sort of a de facto mentor for her as she winds her way through graduate school at Canisius College. Social media can be a strange and wonderful adventure!
Kiki was kind enough to invite me (and a guest since my husband is allergic to the Bills) to come and sit with her during the Jets game last weekend. That invitation didn’t have to dry before I booked a flight to the B-LO. So, last Sunday I had the chance to sit a few rows up on the 50 yard line behind the Bills’ bench and watch the game vs. the Jets. It turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had as a Bills fan.
The reason I’m sharing this is because it was a life changing experience to be able to spend time with some players, and be welcomed into their lives on a more personal level. As a friend, I will never betray the trust given to me by those who welcomed me into their lives by talking about specifics. As a fan, I hope to share a bit of insight from what turned out to be a really incredible weekend.
So Saturday evening, a friend turns to Da’Norris Searcy and says “you’ve got to beat the Jets.” Mr. Searcy responded that they were fully prepared and intended to dismantle the Jets the next day. He said it in a very matter of fact and serious tone. He was prepared and so were his teammates.
So while the Jets were at Dave & Busters, Coach Marrone was in the ear of every player. He challenged all of them to step up to the plate and show why they are NOT the same team who folded up like a cheap suit at the first sign of adversity.
It seems that this coach is a man of his word. He has been quite blunt since his first day as head coach of the Bills last January. He repeatedly stated throughout the off season that he would not allow the culture of losing to exist any longer on this football team.
True to his words, he has not hesitated to pull the plug on any player who is not performing up to the standard he has set for them. Punter not punting well? Gone. Give up an egregious amount of yardage and put out one too many stinkers as a CB (Justin Rogers)? Gone. Wash, rinse, repeat. The Bills roster is no longer a static thing during the season.
Don’t look now but the Bills are managing a transformation right before our eyes. This team is no longer singing Richard’s “it takes so much to win a game” mantra. It’s more like Marrone’s “Now or Never” lyrics are being successfully “installed,” a term I still find a bit humorous to describe the concept of learning the playbook.
Having the chance to “observe” people in their natural environment can be priceless in terms of validating suppositions or inferences made from mass media. Sitting in a room full of players who were hanging out for me to observe was like handing a big rock to a crackhead. “It” was Mr. Searcy’s surprise birthday party after the game.
In no particular order the attendees included Aaron Williams, Arthur Moats, Leodis McKelvin, Marquise Goodwin, Robert Woods, TJ Graham, Nigel Bradham, Jeff Tuel, and of course the host and hostess Mr. and Mrs. Searcy. Other friends were in attendance as well.
I won’t go into any detail of the specifics of my visit out of respect for the privacy of those in attendance, but I can share some observations straight from the heart (and gut instinct as well). These young men and their wives and girlfriends do not resemble the 90’s Bills players who were known partiers in any remote fashion. They are family-oriented.
They care about each other. They are polite, respectful, grateful, and hopeful. When you see what comes out of their bonding time together, as a fan you cannot help but smile and reach for the sun glasses (future’s so bright we’re all going to need our shades again).
This team is in good hands and consists of good people. That was far more evident than I expected and should be reassuring to a fan base who is rightfully sick of feeling ripped off by the Bills.
One additional comment I will make with disclaimer. This is merely a gut feeling on my part and I have NO, NADA, ZERO basis in fact for feeling this way. It’s just a feeling based upon zero factual evidence. I believe without a doubt that this team is turning a corner and about to become wildly successful.
However, on the road to that destination, there might be some surprise players who aren’t on the train to ride it to its final destination. Jairus Byrd might be the most obvious. I think there will be another but I’m not ready to mention a name yet.
Again, with no evidence to back this feeling, I believe that only phase one was accomplished this season for the Buffalo Bills. The line in the sand has now been drawn by Doug Marrone. Now the focus will be on winning out strong, and if you aren’t down with that as a player, you might end up like Justin Rogers.
These Buffalo Bills are fundamentally very different than the successful Bills teams of the 1990’s. The current players have very different personalities than the “Glory Boys” of the 90’s. Less partying, more direction, but they share that same intense desire to win. Each one of these young men and women today are better directed with an eye toward their future after football.
That is a good thing from my perspective. I’m reassured now more than ever that this team is finally heading in the right direction. There is a sense of pride that is returning. Just look directly into the eyes of the players.
If you look at recent player interviews on video, you can see the “IT” factor growing by leaps and bounds. The tide is finally beginning to turn after what has felt like an eternity of collective despair.
Enjoy and relish this tasty Bills demolishing of the Jets for another week. The BillsModerator on the Buffalo Bills Message Board mentioned that this was the first time the Bills go into the bye WITH A VICTORY to celebrate since 1999. Hmm, if so… what could that possibly mean?