If you ask me, it could not be any clearer that Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson would like it very much if his team picked a quarterback early in the 2011 NFL Draft. Wilson can't stop broaching the subject whenever he's contacted by media.
It started in October, when after the Bills' 0-5 start Wilson said that finding a franchise quarterback was his team's top priority. It seemed odd at that point that an owner would pay lip service to his team's draft plans, even half a year in advance of the event and regarding a plan that was very obvious - and months later, in late January, Wilson was much more politically correct about his quarterback situation and the team's draft plans.
"If there is not a quarterback at No. 3 we like, we're not going to reach and take him," Wilson told The Buffalo News on January 27. "We're going to take the player we like best."
On Thursday, however, Wilson was again championing the belief that the Bills wouldn't be a playoff contender until it had a new quarterback in an interview with AOL Fanhouse.
"I've made a lot of mistakes with my team in the last 10 years," Wilson told Thomas George. "I think I'm rectifying that. We'll see. We almost won some games last year against teams that were certainly more talented than us. Buddy (Nix), the scouts, the coaches, they are working. I know it's not going to be an instant turnaround. I think it will take two or three years to have a playoff team -- and that's if we get a quarterback."
For good measure, George asked Wilson about Auburn's Cam Newton.
"Well, he's very athletic," Wilson said. "But it's the intangibles. We've had a number of quarterbacks that could throw the ball 100 yards and right into your stomach. But then they got into games and threw it 100 yards into the other team's stomach. There's time. We'll learn more about him."
Over the years, and particularly in the last decade-plus without a Bills playoff berth, Wilson has earned a reputation as being slightly meddlesome regarding his team's football operation. Fans should want this to be Buddy Nix's ship, even if he is ultimately the Bills' latest front office flop - if it's his ship, and he's running the operation unencumbered, then it's already progress from previous regimes. Wilson's continued commentary on the quarterback position does quite a bit to undermine the idea that Nix has final say.
As I said up top: it could not be clearer that Wilson wants his team to draft a quarterback, whether that be Newton or someone else. Wilson is not wrong on this in the sense of team-building philosophy: they won't be playoff-caliber until they have a QB that can win them games and make plays on a weekly basis. His is an opinion that many Bills fans share.
The problem comes if Wilson strong-arms his GM into drafting a quarterback that Nix and Chan Gailey aren't sold on. Forgive me, but I rather trust Nix's scouting abilities more than Wilson's - and more importantly, if Wilson's opinion is the last one that counts, nothing will have ultimately changed in the way this team functions up top. Knowing what we (think we) know about Wilson's desires, this year's draft will be an interesting gauge of Nix's true influence. If the team takes a quarterback, we'll wonder if Nix is truly sold on that player's upside; fans might actually be relieved if they don't, as it would signify that Nix has enough influence to sway his owner.