When a new owner takes over an NFL franchise there is usually a grace period where owners learn about the business and how it will integrate with other business holdings. Sometimes there is a bit of a lag time in terms of shifting resource allocation philosophies from one era of ownership to another.
The Pegula’s purchased the Buffalo Bills last September from Mr. Wilson, and they shot out of the gate firing on all cylinders ever since. While Doug Marrone’s odd departure could have proven to be catastrophic, they simply buckled down and quickly assembled an all-star coaching staff.
This new era in Bills ownership is a foreign concept for venerable Bills fans. The jaw-dropping moves made just since the free agency period opened are mind boggling for those of us still trying to come out of the coma induced by 55 years of frugality.
I’m still waking up convinced the apocalypse is looming around every corner because (as I’ve written many times), these are no longer your mother’s Buffalo Bills. Surely the end of the world must be near when your woebegone football team is now the talk of the sports world, and with good reason.
In a matter of days the Bills front office seems to have cranked out more high end contracts in free agency than Bills fans have seen over the last ten years combined. LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Jerome Felton, any of these guys alone would be great signings.
Since Rex Ryan was hired, my Twitter timeline is littered with comments about how strange it seems to bear witness to the revolution going on at One Bills Drive. After decades of refusing to pay top dollar for coaching positions, the Bills are now the darling of the league in terms of capital outlay, and bold move.
I’ve believed for years that a change in ownership would likely be the catalyst that would bring the Bills out of cold storage. And like many others, I am shocked at how quickly this has all taken place. When you read about and hear the players comments regarding the Pegula family, it becomes clear that this franchise is experiencing a moment of cataclysmic importance.
For older Bills fans, the feeling is surreal. There is a buzz in Bills land the likes of which hasn’t been seen for over 20 years. The draft is still about six weeks away, and the Bills have already plugged most of the gaping holes on the team, with the exception of the offensive line.
Ah, the offensive line. While Richie Incognito will undoubtedly help the Bills fill in the talent void at the guard positions, the team must also rehabilitate Eric Wood by upgrading both positions adjacent to him on the line. I’m confident that Rex has the right people in place to get the job done.
Of course the elephant in the war room at One Bills Drive remains the quarterback situation. However, the Bills have so aggressively addressed upgrading every other position that they have insured themselves the best chance of success with mediocre play at QB.
Count me in the legion of Bills fans that believe EJ Manuel will take that “maturation leap” that many young QBs struggle with, and run with it all the way to glory this season. I don’t believe he was in the proper environment necessary to learn how to play the QB position in the NFL under Marrone.
No one can predict with any certainty who will emerge as the starting QB for the Bills this season. However, with skill players like LeSean McCoy, Freddie Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, tight ends MarQues Gray +/- Charles Clay, this Bills offense is stacked with both speed and play-making ability. Any QB has a chance to be successful based on the players the Bills are putting around him this season.
If this incredible makeover on offense isn’t enough to cause heart palpitations for old Bills fans, the mere thought of this defense will send us all into a massive heart spasm. This defense is now stacked from front to back.
However, Bills fans should not let the bright lights and splashy moves blind us from the importance of depth positions being secured on the team as well. The Bills quietly re-signed Marcus Easley this week. The importance of keeping Mr. Easley on the team cannot be overstated.
If Easley played for a team that went to the playoffs on a regular basis, he would have at least one or two Pro Bowl selections on his resume. His heat-seeking missile skills are becoming legendary, and I expect with a new contract he will flourish even more.
Watching this Bills team be put together by Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan is like walking into a candy store with a hundred dollar bill to burn. It reminds me how far into old age I’m getting when I can hardly keep up with one “ooh” and “aww” moment after another.
For people that bled blue and red through the lean decades, the magical transformation of the Buffalo Bills is nothing less than completely stunning. Earth shattering. Paradigm shifting. It brings new meaning to the word “seismic”. Watershed. I could go on and on, but will spare you the wyobabble.
Perhaps the most stark realization of all as a Bills fan was how much word of mouth and reputation among free agents seemed to hinge on perception of ownership. By sending out the jet to fetch players is no doubt an honorable gesture of kindness, there is business to be done.
And, when business is done the Pegulas are front and center as the patron stewards of Western New York. How lucky are we that such good and kind hearted people are bringing so much joy into the lives of so many Bills fans?
However, as a final side note and in the honor of keeping it real, I’ll hold off on the Pegula accolades regarding their ownership tenure of Buffalo Sabres hockey team . After two years of chasing the basement, I’m ready for that team to start playing like an NHL team.
Thankfully, Tim Murray is the hockey equivalent of Whaley. The future is now, and change is in the air for both teams in Buffalo. The Sabres and the Bills reflect the energy and enthusiasm the Pegulas have for bringing a championship to Buffalo.
Kids, ‘getcha’ popcorn ready. Grandparents, get that cardiologist on speed dial. We are about to experience a football season like no other. Go Bills!