Now that the 2010 season is over, the Bills fans are discussing why the Bills defense was as bad as it was last season and how the seven defensive players drafted last month could improve the Bills defense. One thing not being discussed is the impact Aaron Schobel’s long, drawn out decision to retire had on the Bills defense. At the end of the 2009 season, Aaron Schobel stated he was contemplating retirement. Both Bills GM Buddy Nix, and Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey, were fully expecting Schobel to play in 2010 and planned on switching him from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB. Schobel contemplated retirement for over 7 months, did not show up for any OTA’s, mini-camps and training camp. Buddy Nix felt he was patient long enough with Schobel, and felt he could no longer wait for Schobel to make up his mind about playing with the Bills in 2010, so Nix made up Schobel’s mind for him. On August 2nd, Nix announced the Bills were moving on without Schobel and released him from the Bills roster. How much of an impact did the absence of Schobel had on the Bills defense in 2010? Let’s take a look at Schobel’s stats from 2009 and the Bills defensive stats from 2009 (Schobel’s last year on the team) and from 2010:
Aaron Schobel’s 2009 stats:
16 GP; 56 Tackles (34 solo, 22 Asst); 10.0 Sacks; 1 INT; 1 TD; 3 FF’s
Bills Defensive stats from 2009:
Overall: 340.6 YPG (ranked: 19th); 32.0 Sacks (18th); rush: 156.3YPG (30th); 184.2 YPG on 519 passing attempts (2nd)
Bills Defensive stats from 2010:
Overall: 361.6YPG (24th); 27.0 Sacks (27th); 169.6 YPG (32nd); 192.0 YPG on 470 passing attempts (3rd)
Without Schobel in the lineup in 2010, the Bills defense gave up 21 more yards a game, had 5 less sacks, gave up 23.3 rushing YPG and gave up 7.8 passing YPG. Granted, there were many other factors that were involved with the Bills defense having worse stats. In 2010, there was a new defensive coordinator; a new scheme to learn: going from the Tampa 2 to the 3-4 defense; not having the right players to run a full-time 3-4 defense. But, the Bills were fully expecting Schobel to show up and play in 2010. If the Nix and Gailey knew that Schobel wasn’t going to play prior to the start of free agency and the draft, they could have addressed his loss during that time period. Instead, the Bills went with what they had on the roster and also picked up OLB Shawne Merriman, who only lasted 15 minutes on the practice field. The Bills shuffled the OLB position from Chris Ellis, Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin, Arthur Moats and Antonio Coleman.
When Schobel was healthy and played a full-season, he was very effective. With only having one elite player on the team (Kyle Williams), Schobel’s presence would have been big for the Bills last year. In 2009, Schobel had IMO, the best play of his career, when he had a leaping one-handed INT on Tom Brady, in which he returned 23 yards for a TD. Schobel was the only Bills player on defense that could get consistent pressure on the QB, as evident by Schobel’s 78 sacks in his career as a Buffalo Bill (2nd to Hall of Famer, Bruce Smith). Schobel was also good in defending the run, which was absolutely horrible last season. If Schobel played last season, he could have had an impact when the team switched back to the 4-3 defense. Schobel is happy to be retired and not having to constantly stay in shape and have to lose 30+ lbs to get down to his playing weight (in the mid 240’s). It’s a shame during Schobel’s time with the Bills, that the Bills weren’t a better team. IMO, if the Bills made it to the playoffs at some point during Schobel’s career, Schobel would still be playing for the Bills.