Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins alienated himself with fans over the first six weeks of the 2015 regular season. There's no way to circumvent that fact. He missed three of the Bills' first seven games due to injury, and posted an Instagram message criticizing fans that proved to be a big PR hit for him at the time.
Watkins also called out his coaches at one point. His season changed when he did, although not immediately.
Prior to the Bills' Week 6 home game against Cincinnati, on October 15, Watkins put his coaches on blast, demanding more targets in the passing game and dropping this gem of a quote: "You're making me look bad, and you're making yourself look bad. Why not make both of us look good?"
In the next game, he caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but left that game with another injury and didn't return until after the bye week. The injury in the game after making his public comments earned him more criticism. But now that the 2015 season has concluded, there's no denying that the team finally figured out that he was right.
Here are Watkins' numbers on the season, broken down before he called out his coaches and after.
His targets per game nearly doubled after making his public complaints, and to the surprise of no one, his production skyrocketed, capped off by his 11-catch, 136-yard masterpiece against Darrelle Revis in yesterday's win over the New York Jets. For two months, Watkins was a major issue to be addressed; once it was, it can very reasonably be argued that Watkins became the team's best player at any position, and every bit the Top 5 talent that the Bills traded up for in 2014.
The Bills enter the offseason with an established identity on offense, assuming coordinator Greg Roman isn't picked for a head coaching gig elsewhere. Tyrod Taylor will be back under center at the start of the 2016 season; he and Watkins have finally established a good rapport. Watkins will be just 23 years old this June. It's safe to say that after torching defenses for the last two months of the season, expectations for Watkins will be much higher next season, despite his playing in a low-volume passing offense.