On Wednesday, USA Today published an article that is the embodiment of "offseason writing:" A list of the 100 "most important" people in the NFL. As a subjective piece with nebulous criteria, this list naturally sets up an ambiguous ranking that is sure to generate hours of debates and discussions. I mean, honestly: Cam Newton as the third-most important person in the NFL? Ahead of Bill Belichick, DeMaurice Smith, and every team owner not named Jerry Jones?
I have to be careful; I almost fell into their trap. You can read the full list and draw your own conclusions (there are some nice curveballs in there), but we pulled out the Buffalo-centric names for you.
Leading the rankings for the Bills is, surprisingly, special teams assistant Kathryn Smith, who was ranked 20th (behind Richard Sherman and ahead of Dean Spanos) for her barrier-breaking employment. At 49, ranking between Sashi Brown and Rob Gronkowski, is the paired ownership of Terry and Kim Pegula.
There are a number of ways one could measure the "importance" of a person to the NFL. Is the person crucial for keeping the business operational? Do they generate revenue or publicity? Are they helping with litigation? Is their on-field product valuable? The full list doesn't just include players, coaches, and executives, it also features doctors, lawyers, sports agencies, and fantasy football CEOs.
If you had to rank the five people most important to the Bills (or the five people related to the Bills most important to the NFL), how would you do it? Smith and the Pegulas are valid options, but here are some more suggestions:
Surprisingly, Buffalo's bombastic head coach didn't make an appearance on the list, although only six head coaches found a spot. He talks big, but until his coaching record escapes "average" territory, he won't matter much in the grand scheme of the NFL. How important is he to Buffalo, though?
If he can stay healthy for the whole season, 2016 could be the year that Watkins enters his name into the "elite" category along with Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, Jr. It's been a long time since the Bills had a bona fide superstar on the team (no, Terrell Owens doesn't count).
Now managing the front offices of the Bills and the Sabres, Brandon is one of the most important figures in Buffalo sports.
When I get asked about questions like "importance to the NFL," I tend to slot myself into a more cynical role of "the players are replaceable because the owners are managing the billions of dollars." That said, Goodwin has a real value that other players don't: He could be a gold medalist in the Olympics while playing in the NFL. That is huge for Goodell's strategy of expanding the sport internationally. The catch is that Goodwin also has to hang onto his role through training camp; when Jeff Demps earned silver at the 2012 games, he failed to escape a practice squad.
A Buffalo icon with a powerful story, charitable contributions, and worldwide recognition. Kelly is the link tying together the 1980's and 90's, Buffalo's most successful years, and the modern Bills team. Outside of OJ Simpson and Ralph Wilson, he might be the most significant member of Bills history.