Commenting Monday afternoon on the state of his offensive line, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey used the "five best guys" rationale for his experimentation at left tackle and left guard.
"My job is to get the five best on the field," Gailey told reporters. "Maybe that's our five best, is playing Chad (Rinehart) at guard and Andy (Levitre) at left tackle."
This is a valid, if cliched argument - and it leads to two lines of thought for me. One is a question, the other a rationalization. Let me know if you agree with either stance.
The Question: Seriously, how is 28-game starter Geoff Hangartner not counted among the five best blockers at One Bills Drive right now? Last season, Gailey repeatedly expressed his desire to get bigger and more physical up front. He's clearly trying to achieve that now, and Hangartner is not the type of physical lineman that the Bills seem to prefer. However, it'd take a lot to convince anyone that Hangartner doesn't at least deserve a shot at a starting job -particularly at right guard, where Kraig Urbik has been passable at best, and awful at worst. Beggars can't be choosers. Hangartner deserves a look through the lens of the "five best" philosophy, if only because of the inconsistencies of the players in front of him.
The Rationalization: I've never seen fans scour a waiver wire (outside of fantasy football, anyway) the way that Bills fans have kept track of every available offensive lineman this off-season. Y'all have heard that Bryant McKinnie is available, right?! Fans are obviously not happy at the lack of attention that the offensive line has received in two years of the Buddy Nix regime, but they shouldn't be surprised, either. And I don't say that in the usual sarcastic manner reserved for our comments sections; there's legitimate history here.
Back in February 2010, when Bills fans were discussing the merits of 2010 NFL Draft prospects Anthony Davis and Bryan Bulaga, our very own 'kaisertown' pointed out that the San Diego Chargers lacked a strong history of investing in the offensive line while Nix was their Assistant GM. Read it, then don't be surprised when further investments resemble previous investments like Urbik, Ed Wang and Chris Hairston. That's just how Nix works.
Even if you disagree with that philosophy - and I certainly do - Nix is not a stupid man. You don't stick around this business for decades, plural, without being competent. If he's scouring the available linemen every day and not making a move, then I trust that he's not impressed with what's out there. Frankly, I'm not either.
I also have to believe, based on my belief that Nix is not a stupid man, that he'll be looking long and hard at the list of roster casualties once cuts start coming down in early September. It was in that fashion that the team added Urbik last season (and later Rinehart and Mansfield Wrotto), and it doesn't seem like a stretch at all that Nix could find a young player or two that fit the "five best" theory - if not now, then at some point in the future. They clearly feel that way about Urbik right now.
Thus, the rationalization: I don't expect any imminent signings up front, even given the current state of affairs, but I also believe that Nix's eyes are very wide open looking for reinforcements. As they should be. Gailey seemed to imply that they'd explore other avenues, as well.
"You'd rather not look at those options at this time, but you have to," Gailey said Monday. "Sometimes you don't get to do it exactly like the book - kind of like quarterback last year. We didn't get to do it exactly the way we wanted to. You have to be smart and use all the things at your disposal to make good decisions."