It’s a travesty how long it’s taken me to post and for that I apologize. Lack of patience for a city cloaked in bad luck, failed divestitures, and a sports tradition that rivals the impotence of an 80 year old man trying to operate a motor scooter are collectively an effective enough excuse for my absence of content for the last month or so. There are few things I enjoy more in life however than sitting down and composing a piece on my beloved Bills or Sabres however. So what finally motivated me to pick up the proverbial pen (keyboard) and key in my first post since June 24th? Monday, August 26th.
The national spotlight typically casts a massive shadow over the city of Buffalo and our sports franchises. Whenever we’re in the media spotlight it’s typically for something heartbreaking or unfathomably frustrating. Tom Brady bashing out hotels, Marshawn Lynch running people over on Chippewa or OJ Simpson’s collection of felonies, just to name a few in a long line of on and off the field misery. Yesterday was unprecedented for me however. A four or five-for, depending on what you consider actual news, of injuries, roster moves and pouty players complaining about making $7 million a year.
The day started off with a lovely press conference featuring franchise player and, until a few days ago, training camp holdout Jairus Byrd pissing and moaning about not getting the “respect” he thought he deserved by being awarded a long term deal making him the highest paid safety in the game. His consistent response of “it is what it is” and “it’s just business” infuriated me more than a 30 minute round table discussion with a panel of Kim Kardashian, Kayne West, Miley Cyrus and Rush Limbaugh would. Granted, Byrd deserves a big pay day from the Bills. He’s been the most consistent player on a mediocre team since he entered the league in 2009. To steal a line (this may sound a bit harsh so I apologize) from the movie “Waiting”: “That’s like being the smartest kid with Down’s syndrome”.
Byrd deserves to be paid at the level that he was franchised at (roughly 6-7.5 million) which is a collective average of the top 5 players at his position. At this point in his career he probably ranks and the 3rd or 4th best safety in the league behind names like Earl Thomas and Eric Berry. To complain about being paid almost $7 million guaranteed this year is completely preposterous and to seem so discontent to the point where you can’t say you’ll be ready for the week one opener against the Patriots is unacceptable. Russ Brandon has made it publicly known that he intends to lock Byrd up long term in the off season and his avoidance of questions regarding being open to resigning with the Bills is childish.
The next bit of juicy info divulged yesterday was that Stephon Gilmore would miss anywhere between 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist suffered at the hands of roster-bubble player Da’Norris Searcy. Gilmore was set to be the centerpiece of Mike Pettine’s defense this season and his loss is catastrophic. Behind Gilmore stands a line of fringe corners who have done little-to-nothing to show that they’re legitimate NFL-Caliber starters. When the season starts you’re likely to see a contingent of starters that includes first round bust Leodis McKelvin, Crezdon Butler, Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers. If the Bills new attacking defense can’t make Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, he’s going to have a career day against the Bills’ back end.
The quarterback situation received a swift kick to the proverbial groin yesterday as well with news coming out that Kevin Kolb’s career is likely over due to a severe concussion. The Bills brought in all-time first round bust Matt Leinart and traded for some guy name Thaddeus Lewis to back-up undrafted free agent rookie Jeff Tuel. Doug Marrone announced yesterday that the team is planning on making history by making Tuel the first ever undrafted rookie to start a season opener. Don’t get me wrong, Tuel has been very impressive for most of camp and in two of the three preseason games but come on. Bill Belichick is licking his lips in anticipation of the opportunity to scheme around a kid who 32 teams didn’t feel was worth a seventh round flier.
Let’s just call it what it is, yesterday was a prototypical day in the lives of Buffalo Bills fans. Two preseason games full of excitement and optimism dashed by the reality that the lights don’t shine bright in Western New York. This is no time to stop believing that the team is moving in the wrong direction however. This is a completely rebuilt roster with a coaching staff and front office that finally seems to know what they’re doing. While yesterday can be the centerpiece for a season full of pessimism it’s important to remember that not one snap has counted for anything thus far. The Bills still have CJ Spiller, a defense that looks like it might be able to surprise a few people and a wide receiving corps that seems reborn. The day will come (and for some has come) to stop believing in this team but as Bills fans aren’t we used to this level of adversity? Until the bullets go live on September 8th try to keep that in perspective. The combination of Marrone, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon hasn’t truly been tested yet and while things look murky right now, try to retain some sort of faith in a team that just two weeks ago most people thought was heading in the right direction.