The biggest moment for the Buffalo Bills in last week’s draft was not the trade up to select Sammy Watkins but rather the Doug Whaley interview that followed.
In Whaley’s words, the trade proved valuable because it was worth a “low No.1 that we’ll be giving up next year.” Translated, Whaley was sending a message to the players, coaches, fans and league at large that he feels the Bills are playoff-bound in 2014-15.
That’s a huge statement from an organization that has missed the playoffs the last 14 seasons. Ever since hearing it, Bills fans have been jumping in and out of conversations about the Bills’ “win-now” move and mentality.
It sounds and feels good. The Bills decision to cut ties with Stevie Johnson doesn’t fly in the face of that mentality. Keeping CJ Spiller, signing Mike Williams and trading for Bryce Brown all back it up. The only blemish in the armor of the Bills’ win-now mentality is the decision to let Jarius Byrd walk.
Byrd has elite ability in the NFL. He made countless good plays in run defense and pass coverage. He had a way of finding footballs for interceptions on good and bad throws from QBs. His ball-hawking and toughness will be dearly missed this year.
Yes, Byrd wanted big money and the Bills didn’t feel his position was necessarily worth the dime. Still, if the Bills are in win-now mode, don’t you have to pay one of you very few elite players? Don’t you realize that you’ll miss his interceptions next year? Do the Bills really believe their secondary can win-now without Byrd? If I were a member of the Bills’ front office and I knew it was a must-win year in 2014, I’d have paid Byrd.
Still, maybe it was as simple as Byrd refusing to be here any longer. The optimistic Bills fan in me who has survived the past 14 seasons (and will always survive) has decided to believe just that. If Whaley and Brandon put good contracts in front of Byrd and it became clear that there was no realistic amount of money that would make Byrd happy, then what were they to do?
Teams need elite players to win in this league. But, teams also need players who want to be there, who invest themselves entirely to the team and the idea of winning. If Byrd was only the former, then it was his time to go.
Following an exciting draft weekend, the optimist in me chooses to believe the Bills’ hands were tied withByrd. And, as competitive souls, Whaley, Marrone and Brandon decided it was time to “win-now” with or without him.