GREEN BAY WI - SEPTEMBER 19: C.J. Spiller #21 of the Buffalo Bills watches the replay screen from the bench during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 19 2010 in Green Bay Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bills 34-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Bills were ridiculed far and wide by NFL Draft experts when they selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller with the No. 9 overall pick this past April. In August, the Bills signed Spiller to a five-year, $25 million deal that guarantees the rookie $20.8 million, and also provides another $12.5 million in incentives to be earned.
Not counting kick returns - because no NFL team drafts a kick returner with a Top 10 pick, right? - Spiller has just 15 touches in his first two professional football games.
Chan Gailey's use - or lack thereof - of his star running back reached unfathomable proportions in Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Spiller logged just one carry in the defeat, and didn't get that carry until nearly 58 minutes of regulation time had passed. After the game, Gailey explained the team's thought process, saying that the idea was to utilize Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson to keep the team out of third-and-long situations and try to control the clock.
"We didn't put C.J. in there as much," Gailey said. "We were going to use him on third down, and continue to work him back in slowly as time goes on."
That, my friends, is about as unacceptable as it gets.
It's hard to fault Gailey's logic as it pertains specifically to the Green Bay contest. Spiller has not played well in his first two NFL games, and one of his biggest problems - one of the biggest problem for any speed back - is his tendency to take negative plays on runs. Spiller got 11 touches in his NFL debut, and took losses on five of those touches. If the idea is to keep the Bills out of negative plays, then it makes sense to give Spiller fewer carries. Maybe they shouldn't allow Trent Edwards to settle into the pocket, either.
Here's the problem with the logic: it's absurdly conservative. Gailey's an old-school football coach. He'll play things close to the vest to try to win games. That's precisely the wrong approach to take with his young, developing football team, and with his most valuable offensive threat.
Though it will surely depress Bills fans world wide to read the following sentence, it nonetheless holds great merit: right now, the Detroit Lions are exactly what the Buffalo Bills should strive to be. Their own rookie speed back, Jahvid Best, has 268 total yards and five touchdowns in his first two NFL games. Detroit has attempted 79 passes in their two losses. That's a team that has many of the same problems the Bills do - a reputation for losing, a patchwork offensive line, and a moderate talent pool. They're a year ahead of the Bills in the re-building process, but even in defeat, their exciting brand of football is something the Bills should aspire to.
There is no good excuse for giving the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft one carry in a football game. I don't care that Spiller leads the team in receptions (eight), and that he's being used as the primary kick returner. C.J. Spiller is a running back, and potentially an excellent one. As we said a month ago today, as Spiller was dominating in the preseason, you take the bad with the breathtaking with Spiller. Buffalo has got to find a way to get the breathtaking back into Bills football - even if they lose - and Spiller's their best shot by a country mile.
Let the kids go out and take their lumps. Use the illogical draft pick you've so ardently defended for the past five months. You might like a lot of what you see while you lose your football games - and your fan base might actually care to tune in to your product.