OK, I have a feeling this fanpost is going to get EXTREMELY long, so please proceed with caution. Don't crucify me too much. It's just a whole bunch of thoughts that I've been meaning to post. It's probably 3 fanposts worth of thoughts, but I didn't feel like clogging up the right side with 3 or 4 separate posts. It'll probably end up with a mock draft in there somewhere too....
Anyways, I've been busy working and with the New Years holiday last week, I haven't been able to really comment a whole lot on the team's situation.....It's been a week since the season ended in typical Bills fashion with a major stinker. It's also been almost a week since we heard there will be no changes other than to the roster. I don't know which has made me sicker. The team played scared, super dee duper conservative and had no chance of winning despite only losing 13-0 to the Pats. Simply put, it was disgusting and sad. Two days later, the "Inner Circle" of ineptitude deliberates for probably 5-10 minutes (a hunch) before deciding to keep Jauron AND the coaching staff. No doubt this was motivated by Wilson not wanting to eat the contract, but probably more for not wanting to admit so soon that he made a mistake giving him a new contract. Wilson is as stubborn as a mule, so you can bet he didn't want to admit to that one.
When I heard the news, I was initially floored. Letting it sink in for a week and I really feel no anger. Instead, I have a mix of sadness, disgust, fear (of it getting worse), and most damning (to me) a hint of apathy. I've never felt that about the Bills before except to minor roster changes and whatnot. I think it finally reached a tipping point for me, maybe a boiling point, when my family came to visit for Xmas. Not once did my father and I discuss the Bills, something that's never happened during the holidays. We talked about SU basketball, but despite my latest copy of Bills Digest sitting on the coffee table, we didn't talk about our Bills. He's just as upset as me. I hope that never happens again and it's uphill from here. Feeling as if it doesn't really matter is really sad and painful to me. I don't know what it is, but I think it's mostly due to how little I believe in this front office, personnel evaluation, coaching staff and Ralph Wilson. In a sense, I almost feel very little excitement about the offseason because I just envision this upcoming season going absolutely terribly. Who am I kidding? I'll be ramped up for FA and the draft in no time, probably even by the end of this post. But right now, I just feel like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler, all beat up and weathered after years of pain. We're becoming immune to losing whether any of us want to admit it or not. I just have no faith right now, someone needs to remind me why I need to have hope!
I think where I've been disgusted the most is with how the rest of the league reacted after week 17. We saw the Jets fire Mangini, probably somewhat unfairly, after he was crippled by a crappy QB who he never wanted. He had 2 winning seasons and a playoff berth in 3 years, but was let go even though I'd place a lot more blame on the washed up POS that ruined the season for them. Yet, that team had no problem trying to make a change and head in a new direction. Sure, that organization is dysfunctional in its own way, but sometimes you've gotta step up and at least TRY to shake things up. Teams like Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta have all proven change can work immediately. We saw Denver fire Shanatan despite all his success there because they just couldn't get over that hump recently. A guy like Shanatan loses his job, while Dick Jauron and his 7-9 candy shop special keeps his job.
I just don't understand how his body of work can be worth bringing back no matter how big the contract extension. 2-21!!!! That's Teflon Jauron's record against teams with winning records here. 0-7 this year, 1-7 last year, 1-7 in 2006. Like whoa. Against teams at .500 or below, Jauron's Bills are 19-6. I don't feel like looking it up, but I'd imagine that's pretty high up over the past 3 years. You know what that signals to me? We have some talent, obviously not enough, but just horrendous coaching. You can't convince me that a better coach wouldn't have gotten more than 2 wins in 3 seasons against winning teams. Throw in the weekly game mismanagement, horrendous decision making, lack of halftime adjustments, etc, etc, etc and I just got myself worked up again!!! Really, sticking with the status quo and the joys of mediocrity is just bizarre. When people question Ralph's desire to put a winning product on the field, I'm not sure how he or the FO can have a retort. It's sickening guys.
Beyond keeping Jauron, which we probably all knew would happen no matter how much we protested and hoped for the best, keeping the rest of the coaching staff in place is ridiculous. Continuity, shmontinuity. Turk Schonert was as clueless as they come this year. Why was he putting the game into a young QB's hands over and over and over? How could he drop Losman back 30-40 times a game? JP LOSMAN for crying out loud!!! How about we play to our strengths with a strong RB duo? His bizarre playcalling and extreme predictability never changed, and is why I was not wiling to give him another season. There were no signs of understanding the issues and trying to correct them. Instead, he kept trotting out the same tomfoolery every week. WTF!!! And now he'll be getting another year, unless some surprising change occurs. Sure, turning over the coordinator position every year isn't the wisest idea, but keeping a guy who was AWFUL is probably even dumber.
Perry Fewell escaped much scorn this year because of Jauron and Schonert's coaching deficiencies, but he's also problematic, at least at times. I do think he's handcuffed by a lack of talent on the DL and a lack of speed at LB and a lack of playmakers at S, BUT he also played it too conservatively this year. At times we'd see some quality calls by him, but most of the time we just sat back and let teams toy with us. I want a more aggressive coordinator who can get the most of out his players. Maybe he did, who knows....
Sean Kugler, I'm coming for you! Not really, but I think we saw such a preciptious drop in the OL's play for most of the year because of McNally's departure and Kugler's appearance. Get more out of these guys, Coach!
I love you Bobby April. You're indestructable in my book.
Going beyond keeping this staff as is and sticking with the obvious continuation of mediocrity, is the impact this had on the NFL scene as a whole. Or lack there of. The news of Jauron's retention barely registered a blip on the radar around the league and that shows just how irrelevant this team has become. Really, nobody cares outside of Bills fans, and that's just awful. I hate being laughed at for the team I love!!!!!
Heading into next year, even before adding new players and seeing what happens with the rest of the league, I'm just so lacking in confidence for next year. I know I'm probably too pessimistic for many of your liking, but I am really being realistic. Normally, I"ll be heading into the offseason somewhat excited and optimistic we'll get better and be a good team the following year. Right now, not so much. I just have this sinking feeling that Jauron is a lame duck coach, and that NEVER turns out well. We HAVE to make the playoffs next year, and maybe even win a game, if he is to keep his job. With such a brutal looking schedule (at this point, I know who knows 9 months from now) and Jauron coaching on a seat that is ready to set his chinos on fire, I have trouble envisioning much success next year. We've seen how teams respond when they have a lame duck type coach, and very rarely is that positive (see Holmgren, Mike and Crennel, Romeo). If the season starts slowly next year, I fully expect a complete team folding. I'm not sure blaming anyone would make much sense either, because it's the situation. I know that all sounds a wee bit ridiculous, but this is really my major concern with how next season will play out.
One final thought on the "inner circle"'s decision....Good luck selling nearly as many tickets this offseason. What exactly is Russ Brandon supposed to promote? There has been litte improvement, if any, and there are so many Bills fan fed up with Jauron and his retention. I liked the article by Larry Felser in the Buffalo Snooze today:
Woe to the person in Buffalo Bills’ management who is assigned to write the annual letter to season-ticket buyers about renewing for the 2009 season.
How would you start? “We have re-established our commitment to mediocrity?”
Or, “We promise we won’t mangle game management in ’09?”
Or, “Our players will no longer get into a fracas 20 seconds before halftime while the clock runs out on a probable tying field goal?”
How about, “Our coach is already practicing how to throw the challenge flag without worrying that he might disturb the concentration of the zebras?”
He's right on.
OK, that was more than enough on that subject. Guess what? I ain't done!!! Let's talk about players, shall we?
Overall, we have some talent, but really need a bigtime infusion soon. More size, definitely more speed, and more than anything, some playmakers are necessary. I like some things we have in place, as I'm sure the rest of you do too.
Trent Edwards scares me though. The way the second half of the season went was about as bad as it could go. Trent played scared and lacked confidence. I understand the mistakes and can attribute those to a young QB who's still learning, but his overall demeanor was discouraging. The best QB's don't dwell on the mistakes and really don't let it effect their game. Trent against Cleveland was what really concerned me. After a few INT's, he was in a shell for the most part. I was almost convinced he was the guy, and after some growing pains before that, ready to back him completely. Now I'm not sure, though I want to believe. I still think he'll be a good player, though I'm not sure he's going to be the guy to lead us for the long term. His injuries concern the crap out of me too. I will believe in him because of the 4th Q comebacks he had early, and the later season games against the dreadful KC and Denver defenses. I just don't want to see him afraid to throw the ball downfield anymore, especially when receivers are open. We can't win with a guy who does that. And we need that vet backup more than ever.
I love the RB duo, especially the Fred Jackson December to remember. If Schonert really does continue on as the OC, he has to be a whole lot smarter about using them. No more 12 carry games for Lynch or 2 touch games for Jackson. Use them Turk, USE THEM!!!! Let them lead us to freedom, or a winning season! I would like to try adding a fast twitched, change of pace type back. I don't think Omon will be anything and would love to add a guy with speed who can make some big plays back there.
We need a FB that can block, plain and simple.
WR concerns me as always. Evans is still a borderline #1 at best for me, but has yet to be utilized to his talents. Why no quick slants? Why no bubble screens? Why so few deep balls? I love Reed's ability to move the chains and work the middle. I'm happy for him for having a quality season this year and being our most reliable receiver. He deserves it after all the scorn he's received. I just hope we can find a more explosive player to allow him to be that slot guy full time. Hardy was a major bust this year, not because of his stats, but because of the way he looked out there. Slow, stiff and totally unable to get open. That's my concern with him, along with his inability to play big. That ACL tear came at the worst possible time for him and his development. I can't see him making a big impact next year as he'll be spending all offseason rehabbing instead of working on his game, his routes and his timing w/Trent. I love Steve Johnson's potential and hope he continues improving. He can really help us if he keeps getting better. I won't anoint him a stud yet like many Bills fans have, but I do like his future here. Roscoe, eh. If we parted ways with him this offseason, so be it. He's not a good WR, and definitely not the playmaker he thinks he is. A good punt returner, yes. But we saw Fred Jackson have plenty of success returning punts this year, so it's not like Roscoe isn't totally replaceable back there. If some team offered a 4th or higher, I'd jump on it. It's probably not happening though. We probably need a vet WR this offseason.
TE needs a true threat. That doesn't have to be a high pick though. Jermaine Gresham looks great, but I don't like the idea of taking him #11, nor do I expect him to be around in the low 40's. After that, Chase Coffman would be a nice pick in the 3rd, or a couple of the mid round pass catching TE's could really help us. I'm pretty much done with Royal,as the rest of you are. If he is indeed let go, we may need to look for a blocking TE in FA. Schouman does nothing for me. I like Fine though. He looks to be a very good all-around TE in the making, and getting another blocking TE and a pass receiver to go with him would make a nice TE trio.
OT is a position that probably is set. Just pay Peters, please. He's our best player and it'd be dumb to trade him and open another huge hole. I'd like to resign Chambers and let Bell grow. Should be a position we're set at.
I don't like Dockery and his contract. If he was making a lot less, I'd be much happier, but him having that huge deal and playing so underwhelmingly sort of stinks. I don't think he'll be going anywhere any time soon. Butler is a good, solid player. We're obviuosly much better with him healthy.
The Center position continued to be a revolving door of suck. Preston was probably slightly better than Fowler, but that's like saying Windex tastes slightly better than furniture polish. Both of them need to go and we need to get a much better player at the position. That doesn't have to be an Alex Mack though. Anybody who can walk and chew gum would be a significant improvement over what we've had. It may actually be wise to bring in veteran C like Birk, if possible, at this point, but I won't be mad if we use one of our first 3 picks on a Center. I'd be ecstatic if we could finagle our way into Mack in round 2. Luigs wouldn't be a bad pick either as he seems equipped to handle the 3-4's we'll be facing.
I've said more than enough about DE's the past 2 years. They all stink in their own way. Hopefully, Schobel can get healthy and return to the field next year, and play solid football. He's not a great pass rusher, but is good enough if we can add more talent to go with him. I like Ryan Denney as the #3, he played pretty well this year. Chris Kelsay is probably my most disliked Bill. I may dislike Dick Jauron and his coaching, but I hardly hate the man. Chris Kelsay, on the other hand, is almost hated to me. He flat out stinks and I want him gone in the worst way. What an utter waste of money. I want him cut this offseason and his ridiculous contract tossed over the Falls. I hope Chris Ellis can do something next year, please.
I like our starting DT's and Spencer Johnson is an allright backup. We do need another young guy, someone with some size, that can develop behind Stroud and help our run D next year. A midround pick is what I'd look at.
We need more speed at LB, a lot more. I'm not sure it'll happen though. Poz is a major disappointment to this team, although I never liked the pick in the first place. Kawika Mitchell was ok this year, though he's looked slow and out of place more than I'd like. At least he's made some plays though. I like the idea of adding a FA to this position over a first round pick.
Leo looks like a keeper, and I expect him to really improve into next year. McGee is much better on the line in bump and run, and that was pretty evident this past year. I hope Fewell finally recognizes that. He played pretty well at times this year, but looked ridiculous when playing 10 yards off the ball. I think Greer is gone unless he only commands $4-5M per year. If that is the case, we better resign the guy. He was our best cover guy this year. I think him missing the last half of the year or so could reduce his price tag. Let's hope so. Reggie Corner was ok, I guess. I wasn't overly impressed as he seemed to be a step late to the ball a lot. He should improve though. I'm really hoping Youboty comes back healthy and is the player we saw early. He's a good all around player and someone who really, really, really would have helped our secondary this season. I love his playmaking ability and tackling. If Greer leaves, we probably need to add a vet CB.
I want a safety that can tackle and make plays. Bryan Scott was our best player there this season, by far. I hope he's resigned (if he's a FA!), even if it's as a #3. He's solid. Donte Whitner is probably the most disappointing player on the team. If you're going to open your mouth and spout off a playoff guarantee, your play on the field better back it up. Instead, his piss poor tackling led to an injury and a major truck stick incident against Sammy Morris. He'll never be the player his draft status indicates. Hopefully, a better pass rush can enable him to be a better player, though I'm skeptical. I'm looking at FA for an upgrade at this position.
Love Leo on Kick returns. He was such a threat back there, and it worked out great when the opposition didn't even kick to him. Putting Fred Jackson short was a great move by April, all season. Keep it up guys.
There's a lot of work to be done to improve this roster, but I think it can be done with FA and the draft this year. I'm not hopeful though, especially after all the duds of the past few years. Hopefully, Ralph WIlson's comments lead to see significant FA acquisitions, though it's more likely we'll get 1 semi-big name and a few mid tier guys. I'll roll with that philosophy and pick a few guys I'd like to see us go after.
Bertrand Berry DE Arizona. I'd love this signing. He's getting up there in age, but he's still a good pass rusher, and a pretty solid well-rounded player. I'd really go hard after him and try to lock him up for 2-3 years. He'd be well worth it. I want this signing simply to get Kelsay out of here. Win-win I'd say.
Sean Jones S Cleveland, Oshiomogho Atogwe S St Louis or Jermaine Phillips S Tampa Bay. I'd welcome any of those three with open arms. They are all playmakers in the secondary and would be pretty nice improvements. If the staff plans on moving Whitner to FS full time, going hard after Sean Jones or Jermaine Phillips should be a pretty big priority. I'd love to add Jones, he of the 14 INT's the past 3 years. Both he and Phillips are very good players. If Whitner is to remain a SS, which may be his best position, Atogwe may be the guy to go after. 13 INT's in the past 2 years is pretty dang awesome. I keep mentioning INT's because we need guys back there that can create some turnovers for once. 3 good choices, IMO. And I think this is a position that will be heavily investigated in FA.
Free Agent LB X. I think this is the semi-big splash the FO goes after. I know Crowell wants to return, and if we do somehow retain him, then obviously we won't go after any bigger name. However, with the same staff and FO personnel here, I don't think they plan to welcome Crowell back after how disappointed they were in his decision making. I'd absolutely love to add Karlos Dansby and his size/speed, but I don't know if we'd spend that much. Bart Scott could be a possibility, along with LeRoy Hill and Channing Crowder are also available. Each would be a nice upgrade. We could also go with a Mike Peterson or Jonathan Vilma if we decide to move Poz outside, which could work out ok too. I just think we'll be adding one of the above in some form this offseason, at least I kind of hope so.
Panda WR San Francisco Zoo. I don't care. I like this guy and his ability. He'd still be a good fit here giving us that red zone threat we need, along with a somewhat dependable veteran presence. I really do think we need to bring in a vet this year, unless the staff really believe Steve Johnson will be taking a major step this offseason. I'm not counting on Hardy for anything, he wont' be ready IMO. Others have mentioned Jabar Gaffney, eh. Not my cup of tea. TJ Housh ain't walking through that door either, so I'm not even bothering thinking about him. Antonio Bryant made himself a ton of money, same thing as Housh in my eyes. Amani Toomer is probably going to stay a Giant with the Plax hoopla. At least they'd be dumb not to resign him. Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Jones or Nate Washington might be the other guys I'd look at.
Chaz Batch QB Pittsburgh. He'd be the veteran backup we're looking for. He's solid and pretty dependable out there. And he'd be pretty cheap. I don't expect Pittsburgh to resign him. Jon Kitna could also be a possibility. I'm not all that thrilled with the other options, though I'd take sireric at QB over Losman again.
FA Blocking TE. If Royal is cut, I'd look to bring in a short term solution to help in short yardage and other run blocking situations. Maybe a Jim Kleinsasser, Bubba Franks or Will Heller. There's others out there, but I can't remember who right now. This would free up the option to bring in a pass catching threat at TE with a mid round pick. This would be a nice cheap signing too.
Bringing in a vet Center to start is also a strong possibility. I don't really know a whole lot about all of the candidates, so I'll leave it at that for now. If we go this route, I just hope the guy we bring in won't be such a HUGE liability. Really, I'd be happy with a middle of the road starter, which is still much better than what we've had. Matt Birk or Jason Brown would be great, but I won't get my hopes up.
That's 4-6 somewhat significant FA acquisitions. Probably unlikely, but not unreasonable, especially if Brian's idea that big changes are coming comes to fruition. I do expect the FO to at least try to bring in a number of solid FA's. Whether they want to play here is another story, but we can hope, right?
I haven't done a ton of research yet, so don't get mad if you think I have a guy going much later than you may expect. But here's my super early, lightly researched mock draft:
1. Everette Brown DE Florida State - I love this guy. He's my 2009 Derrick Harvey, only he's better. Go watch some highlights of this kid, he simply knows how to rush the passer. He doesn't just rely on a ridiculously quick first step, though that's going to be extremely helpful. I love his killer spin move and his shoulder dip to get by OT's that worked so well for him this year. He reminds me a bit of Dwight Freeney and his array of moves. If he turned out like that for us, BOO YA! His weight is a concern, but he can work at that. You can't teach his speed and his already good looking repetoire of pass rush moves. I think Brian Orakpo will be a top 8 pick. I also think Michael Johnson will be a bust and George Selvie will return to school. And I can't get behind Mack at #11, no matter how good he is. We can solve the Center riddle in a more beneficial way, I think. We need multiple pass rushers, so adding him to Berry and Schobel (and maybe Ellis) would be what I'd do.
Alex Mack C Cal - Jonathan Luigs C Arkansas - Obviously, if Mack were to somehow fall this far, he'd be the pick. I like Luigs because he looks to be one of the only other C's in the draft that is stout enough to excel against a 3-4 front. He's also pretty good.
3. Ron Brace DT Boston College or Chase Coffman TE Missouri - I'm guessing Coffman will be a 2nd rounder, but if he does make it to us in the 3rd, he'd be a very nice pick. He's an excellent receiver and is 6'6", though he's a bit skinny and not that fast. Sort of Metzelaarsian, I suppose. I think he'd be a great receiving option for Trent. But I think he'll be gone. With that, let's add some size to our DL. Brace is an intriguing option, and would be a nice rotational run stuffer behind Stroud and Williams. He had a sore back all year, which would be a concern, and he may even be a 4th rounder, but right now I think he's hanging around in the 3rd. Dorrell Scott, DT from Clemson would also work for me here.
4. Dennis Pitta TE BYU or Shawn Nelson TE Southern Miss - Assuming a DT in round 3, I like these two guys as pass catching TE options. Pitta probably goes earlier though. I want to add a guy with some speed and receiving skills, I don't care much if he can block or not, since I'll be adding a veteran blocking TE as I say above. If Travis Beckum fell this far coming off his injury, I'd be all over that. Cornelius Ingram from Florida could work too, but probably later on as he's coming off an ACL surgery and not playing in '08..Jarron Gilbert DT San Jose State could work here if we got someone like Coffman earlier. He probably needs to add some weight to his 6'5" frame.
5. Jason Williams OLB Western Illinois - Developmental type guy that would be more necessary if we signd Crowell or another stopgap. If we sign a guy like Dansby, I would look elsewhere here, probably interior OL depth. I haven't researched that area a whole lot, so I don't know who to go with if I went OG.
6. Curtis Painter QB Purdue or Cullen Harper QB Clemson - Both had disappointing senior seasons and were benched, but both have talent and could develop into solid NFL QB's. I'd be more willing to give one of these guys a chance than a guy like Drew Willy who just doesn't have the same kind of talent. Time to try developing a backup QB, or even a guy who could be a starter down the line if Trent doesn't work out.
7. Brannan Southerland FB Georgia or Tony Fiametta FB Syracuse - This is a position that could be filled in FA, but regardless, we need to do something better than Corey McIntyre. I like Southerland more, but both of these guys are good lead blockers and would really benefit Lynch and Jackson.
I think we'll get some late round compensatory picks because of the net loss of FA's of -3 (Signed Mitchell and Johnson, lost Gaines, Stamer, Webster, Wire and Leonhard), or something like that. Even if we don't, I just wanted to throw in some more draft picks.
7a. Marcus Thigpen RB Indiana - Small dude, but fast. We need more speed on O, I'll leave it at that.
7b. Brandon Tate WR UNC - Tore his ACL, but is an excellent punt returner. If we were to part ways with Roscoe, a late round guy like this could be a good pickup.
Some guys I really like but doubt we'll go after include Kenny Britt WR Rutgers, Williams Moore FS Mizzou, Brandon Spikes MLB Florida, Dannell Elerbe MLB Georgia, Tyrell Sutton RB Northwestern (though he could fall to the 6th/7th)
WOW, this post got out of control. Like really out of control. I think I just broke the longest Fanpost record, by about 3000 words. Word says I have over 5100 words in this bastard, yikes! Have at it, I guess....