In the spirit of the New Years, I wanted to take a look back on positive aspects of the franchise since 2000. Considering we haven’t been to the playoffs since January ’00, that list quickly became me trying to identify the moves that earned us that distinction.
Here is my top ten (or bottom ten depending on your perspective) personnel decisions since 2000.
10. Chris Kelsay extension
Kelsay is a team leader and blah, blah, blah. He’s played much better the 2nd half of the season, but he just doesn’t have the athleticism to play zone coverage and he wasn’t a great pass rusher in the 4-3 to begin with. To invest that much money into him, not only will throw off our salary cap, but will affect our negotiations with future negotiations. Despite differing positions, players like Donte Whitner can point to Kelsay’s contract and say, “I make more of an impact than him.”
9. Erik Flowers
Being drafted 26th overall in 2000, the Bills has high hopes he could fill the void of the departed Bruce Smith. Instead, Bruce tallied 1.5 more sacks in his rookie season than Flowers racked up his entire career (5). He lasted only two years in Buffalo, before being released before the 2002 season. Anytime you miss on the 26th overall pick, there will be a ton of players missed. Just for relativity’s sake, the Bills passed on DE Darren Howard (62.5 sacks) and DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (74.5) for Flowers.
8. Willis McGahee
While Willis had his moments as a Bill (pretty much just his impressive ’04 season in partial duty), the pick itself was a bad move. In 2002, Travis Henry was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he amassed 1,438 yards and 13 TDs. McGahee was thought to be a Top 5 talent before he blew out his knee in the Fiesta Bowl, which allowed for him to drop to the 23rd pick in ’03. After being annointed the starter in 2005, Willis underwhelmed and was traded to Baltimore after the 2006 season. It would be pretty nice to have CB Nnamdi Asomugha, OT Jon Stinchcomb, CB Rashean Mathis, or some Iowa tight end named Dallas Clark, who was snagged by the Colts the following pick at 24.
7. Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker
On March 3rd, 2007, the Bills destroyed their salary cap for years to come. They signed Derrick Dockery to a 7 year, $49 million deal (matching Steve Hutchinson’s contract) and then added Walker to the tune of 5 years, $25 million. Both players were unable to make it through their respective contracts before getting released. Both were extremely disappointing to say the least.
6. Jason Peters
I know there are lots of people out there that say Peters stinks, but that is over dramatic. He’s an overrated player, but he’s a franchise left tackle. I didn’t feel that he was worth the contract he was asking for (and eventually received), but the thing that bothers me was what we got for him. The Eagles fleeced us, plain and simple. Starting Pro Bowl LT in the league for three picks: 28th, 121st, and a 6th rounder in 2010. That’s Eric Wood, Shawn Nelson, and Danny Batten for an above average LT. Doesn’t seem fair to me.
5. J.P. Losman
All arguments aside about whether or not the Bills ruined him, he definitely failed to fit into what the Bills did offensively. Usually a team either takes a QB that fits what they’d like to do offensively or they tailor their offense to best fit his skill set. It was clear that we needed to look into grabbing a QB for the future with the aging Bledsoe at the helm. While I wasn’t in the draft room, I would’ve given up a relatively high ransom to move up from 13th to take Ben Roethlisberger (he went 11th) if I identified him as a franchise QB. You can’t settle with taking the next best QB that’s on the board if you don’t feel the two players are close. You have to conclude we didn’t feel there was that much of a difference between Ben and J.P. if we were willing to give up so much to grab him 22nd. The logic of taking Lee Evans wasn’t wrong, considering he was the one of the best WR prospects in that draft, but his stock was falling anyways due to a positive drug test and a torn up knee. Losman was not the right pick for the offense he was about to be thrown into.
4. Drew Bledsoe
QB was definitely a position of need (recurring theme?) heading into the 2002 off-season. Tom Brady had just supplanted long-time Patriot Bledsoe as the starter and Bill Belichick and company had a situation on their hands, wanting to find value and not wanting a discontented backup. Their division rival, the Buffalo Bills, were desperate enough to ship a 1st round pick in 2003 (14th overall) for a 30-year-old QB with his best days behind him. He only played 2 games in ’01 before getting knocked out by Jets LB Mo Lewis, but his QB rating in ’99 and ’00 were less than spectacular, 75.6 and 77.3 respectively. He had a good season in 2002, but it was all downhill after that. I guess having that having AVP, Travis Brown, and David Dinkins as your starting QB options would be disconcerting, but that gave a division rival an easy out from a tough situation.
3. Aaron Maybin
Maybin is an athlete, not a football player. He had one good year of production at Penn State and he just doesn’t have a skill set that translates to the pros, especially 3-4 outside backer. He gets lost in space, he’s too tall to get leverage with a bull rush, and too lanky to hold up against the run. He’s a liability when he’s on the field. Clay Matthews, Michael Oher, Brian Orakpo, and many other rising young stars were passed on for Maybin. He’s already set us back.
2. Minnesota Bills?
The Vikings were able to woo away Antoine Winfield and Pat Williams in consecutive off-seasons. The team felt that Nate Clements was the #1 and were not overly concerned about Winfield leaving. While he hasn’t gotten the recognition nationally in terms of Pro Bowls, Antoine has been a very solid player for the Vikes. I still maintain he’s the best tackling corner in the league and he can be a handful blitzing (as evidenced Tuesday night). Williams was the biggest loss, however. One statistical category says it all: run defense. In 2004, his last season as a Bill, the Bills were #2 in total defense and #7 against the run. From 2005-10, the team’s ranking against the run has been the following: 31st, 28th, 25th, 22nd, 30th, 32nd. I think even the casual NFL fan knows how dominant the Vikes have been against the run since ’05. We’re still trying to replace Pat Williams.
1. Mike Williams
Taken 4th overall in 2002, the Texas product was supposed to be that cornerstone pick for the Bills. Williams struggled to establish himself as a right tackle, let alone a blindside protector. I wonder now whether or not we would have taken Joey Harrington if he had not been selected by the Lions the previous pick. I suppose that could have been even scarier. Bryant McKinnie has had his rough moments, but he is still protecting the Vikings blindside this many years later. As 1996 was the year of the WR, 2002 was the year of the bust so the Bills weren’t the only ones who didn’t get a great return with their 1st pick. That being said, Dwight Freeney would’ve been a nice piece to the puzzle.