Do the Bills have a master plan? Let's hope so ...
From the outstet, I've perceived the Buffalo Bills like I view New York State lawmakers: I hope against hope they have a plan, but have a more-than-nagging suspicion they don't have Clue One.
At our draft party—to the extent four guys sitting in front of a TV in a sleepy little Lancaster subdivision, drinking the odd beer, constitutes a "party" (lo, what a wild bunch we are!)—we fumed at the team's choice of tailback C.J. Spiller at No. 9 overall as a wasted pick. We'd spent picks one through eight sneering and chortling that they'd take Spiller.
As is all too often the case, the joke was on us.
Indeed, the Clemson product with wheels of fire is a threat to sprint to paydirt on any given carry. But for a team brimming with critical needs at so many other positions, adding a third accomplished running back seemed at the very least curious; at the very most thick-headed. Ralph Wilson defended the pick the next day, spouting off about the Bills needing an "exciting" player.
I'd hate to think Wilson had too much influence in the war room on draft day, but his words at the post-draft podium all but confirm that's the case. Naturally, it's fair for fans to conclude Buddy Nix was promoted to general manager simply to serve as the aging owner's yes-man, his own personal Smithers, supporting his every whim, however foolish, and collecting an NFL paycheck.
Fans can appreciate excitement, and it's a good bet Spiller will bring that. But as 4 p.m. on Sunday rolls around, Buffalo fans are simple: if the Bills win, we're excited. Whether Spiller has rushed for 200 or two yards, if the team scored touchdowns and beat its opponent, the excitement is there. Go ahead and bore us; we're quick to forgive if we're celebrating a "W."
But if Spiller flashes and dashes without the team winning, we'll focus instead on what went wrong, as we spent the first decade of the 2000s doing. Any Bills fan who was alive in '70s knows where I'm coming from, having watched O.J. Simpson revolutionize the position only to see the team make the playoffs once during The Juice's heyday.
Mr. Wilson, you could argue that Frank and April Wheeler had an "exciting" marriage, but it didn't turn out all that positive, did it?
So, here we sit with a self-inflicted logjam in the backfield. Freddie Jackson will be there, although he can't be feeling too great that even after pouring his heart and soul into every rush and earning the right to be the No. 1 back, he'll have to compete with the new fish for touches. And of course, Marshawn Lynch will presumably still be hanging around. Terrific.
Do the Bills intend to deal Lynch? Good luck. The guy's viewed around the league as a bad apple who can't stay out of trouble, and now that teams know Buffalo's fortified at his position, why would they offer anywhere near value for him? Here's hoping they didn't try trading him before and during the draft, only to be laughed at and hung up on.
Yeah, the organization's poker face is about as effective as Kristen Wiig's way-too-excited/can't-keep-a-secret character on Saturday Night Live. It'll take nothing short of hiring Don Draper to sell anyone on Lynch now.
I'll give Nix 'N Pals the rest of the offseason to make sense of the Spiller pick, having passed over several young quarterbacks—you know, the organization's most obvious, glaring need—in order to draft a player at one of the few positions the Bills didn't have a pressing need to fortify.
On a positive note, there are signs the Bills brass have some semblance of a master plan. They're clearly committed to making the 4-3 defense work, taking nose tackle Torell Troup, defensive ends Alex Carrington and Danny Batten, and linebacker Arthur Moats. I could give a hoot if Mel Kiper thinks they're all reaches. If any two of them snag a starting job and become effective defenders, it'll be a step forward.
Taking tackles Ed Wang, albeit at 140, and Kyle Calloway (216) seems to be the continuation of a plan to rebuild a miserable offensive line that started with the 2009 drafting of Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, neither of whom looked out of place as rookies on the line last year. Kudos to the new regime for learning the harsh lessons of taking the free agent route: Hello, Derrick Dockery, Bennie Anderson, Eric Whittle and Langston Walker, goodbye untold millions that could've been better spent elsewhere.
Also, snatching Connecticut's Marcus Easley might address a need at receiver and also put James Hardy and Stevie Johnson on notice that their jobs aren't necessarily guaranteed. On one hand, I'd love for Easley to morph into a wonderful complement to Lee Evans, but on the other, that would mean Hardy's being taken so high in the 2008 draft was an utter failure. It means nothing to Nix and Chan Gailey, who have the luxury of saying they inhereted a bum prospect from the Dick Jauron-Russ Brandon era.
Looks like they're already doing that with Lynch, and lord knows who else. Guess we'll find out in August, when they're sure to throw up their arms and give up on any of Trent Edwards, Donte Whitner, Pau Poszlusny, John McCargo ... shall we torture ourselves by continuing this dubious list?
If one or more of Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Brian Brohm are sent packing this summer, I'm sure Troy's Levi Brown will step right in and be the next Gabril Hamdan. Sorry to be skeptical, but Troy's not even a Division I school. Surely, guys like Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Claussen, and Colt McCoy will have their difficulties acclimating themselves to NFL defenses. Where does that leave Brown, who's spent his college years facing defenders whose futures will likely involve physical education instruction, rather than playing in the pros?
Alas, we'll wait for September and hope the new front office knows something we don't, and make us skeptics look like alarmist clowns. But following this draft, forgive me if Nix, Gailey, and Tom Modrak are looking a helluva lot like David Paterson, Sam Hoyt, and Dale Volker.