A Tale of Two Draft Picks

The day was Thursday, April 26, 2012. Six or seven men in their mid-to-late twenties had just finished inhaling a feast of fried food that would make Thanksgiving Day look like a hunger strike. Empty bottles battled for space with sauce-stained...
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My 5 (And Twitter’s) reasons to hate the Carolina Panthers

It has been a while since I've taken every single one of my human particles that are deemed to be nice and turned them into full rage in order to write a post dedicated towards the hatred of the Bills' opponent. I think Mick Foley coined the phrase "Going to Promoland" when he morphed into the sadistic Cactus Jack. Well, I'm feeling like going to that mystical land of venom today and Carolina is about to feel my wrath. Here are my five reasons to hate the Carolina Panthers...

5) The 1995 Carolina Panthers- For about 15 minutes, the Panthers were pretty much the Bills of the mid-south. After Ralph Wilson fired Bill Polian [Shakes fist at the sky] in 1993, he ended up going down to Carolina to head up the expansion team. He brought in Frank Reich, Carlton Bailey, Don Beebe and Pete Metzelaars. I'll always remember that 2nd game of the 95' season when it was just weird to see so many familiar faces across the sideline. It kind of symbolized in a way how NFL FA was here and that the Bills were being poached by other teams.

4) Dickhead rich owners- I hate rich people. Especially old rich people. From Jerry Jones having his glasses cleaned on national TV by one of his minions to Dan Snyder defending the use of the Redskins name. All NFL owners can get off my lawn.This guy in Carolina who owns the team goes by the name of Jerry Richardson. Just by looking at his photo this clown is cut from the same cloth of too much money and too much of a Mr. McGoo persona in him. He is also on par with Ralph with making dubious personnel decisions like firing Bill Polian a year after he Panthers went to the NFC Title game. Also, he reportedly was a dick during the lockout to Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in a meeting. I mean, how can you be dicks to those two guys? On top of that, this jack off told Cam Newton that he didn't like him having tattoos or piercings. Seriously? I wonder how he threatens to throw people off his lawn...does he hose them down with water coming from his moat or pour hot tar on them from his castle balcony?

3) Charlotte...Next to Atlanta, The 2nd worst big city sports town ever- Everyone knows for every 6 Charlotteans, there are like 10 ex-pats from Buffalo living there. Maybe the influx of ex-pats has a lot to do with the city being such a giant yawn when it comes to their professional sports. You'd think it would be better when you consider that Charlotte is ranked as the 23rd largest city in the country, but the region just has this stench of carpetbagging when it comes to their teams. You got teams leaving (Hornets) and then you got teams returning (Bobcats). Then you got their neighbors in Raleigh stealing the Whalers from Hartford (More on them later) and rumors about the longterm future of the Panthers. Also, who is like the Mr. Charlotte when it comes to their professional sports teams? Kerry Collins? Larry Johnson? Jake Delhomme? Whoever the hell is the best player on the Bobcats? I don't even wanna bring up Rae Carruth. You thought OJ was an asshole, this guy takes the cake. They have no one! At least we have some professional sports HOFs who spent their whole careers here. It is all about Coach K and Ric Flair's drunk ass. Oh, and fuck NASCAR.

2) Fucking up our draft plans- This is probably the only football related item to get worked up about with the Bills/Panthers. I remember being a sports intern at WGRZ in 2001 and having the God awful responsibility to log the highlights while watching the Bills take on the Panthers. If you were to combine the record of both teams heading into this game, it was probably the worst winning percentage (Both teams were 1-11) of any matchup at that juncture in the regular season ever!!! The game was surprisingly entertaining as the Bills pulled off a 25-24 win. However, they doomed themselves when in came to the draft. Because of the win, the Bills had the 4th pick instead of the 2nd pick. The Panthers selected Julius Peppers and the Bills went with Mike Williams. UGH!! Talk about a GIANT what if?!! How about the 2011 draft? The Bills had the 3rd pick while the Panthers had the 1st, I know it is still early, but wouldn't you rather have Cam Newton over Marcell Dareus? It always seems like when the Bills are trying to suck for a top pick, the Panthers are doing it better by sucking more!

1) Carolina Hurricanes- This happens to me at least once a month while living in NYC. I get one person always thinking that Buffalo is like an hour away from NYC or is a part of the NYC region. They are just so inept when it comes to their geography. So, even though Raleigh isn't a part of Charlotte, I'm going to use the idiotic mindset of the dumb ass people who don't know that Buffalo is 8 hours away from NYC to destroy the Carolina Hurricanes. I mean, fuck it. The Panthers and Hurricanes are stupid enough to not have their team name be after the city they play in...AND can't even have the geographical sense to even mention what stupid Carolina state they are in! North, South, East, Flair country, NASCAR COUNTRY?! WHY AM I YELLING?!. Anyways, let's bottom line this: When I say the world "Carolina"...9-10 Buffalonians will finish it with "Carolina Hurricanes can fucken go to hell." Reason enough for me. 

Now for Twitter's finest:

@buffalowins Hate Carolina because of all the OBX stickers on cars around here. I have no idea if this is close to Charlotte, but still.

— The Lonely Haikuer (@BuffSportsHaiku) September 12, 2013


— Korey D. Carlson (@kdcarlson15) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins SEKERA

— Cody L (@c_lampman) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins they have a lot more good bbq joints than buffalo, that's all I got for now

— Timothy Then (@TimNThen) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins 60% of the time they work every time. #sex #panther

— Dave (@davekellywny) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins They didn't beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl when I really wanted them to. That's all I got.

— Jeremy Kornbluth (@Truthbluth) September 12, 2013


— charles_lexner (@lexnercj) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins Because they tried copying #BillsMafia with #PantherMafia. Was very weak.

— Rob Tuning (@Buffalo_sauced) September 12, 2013

@kdcarlson15 @BuffaloWins that ring was the year pats cheated, btw. Cheats shouldn't have even gotten that far. Panthers should've won tho

— Go Bills (@loyal2buffalo) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins @BradleyGelber 2005-2006 Carolina Hurricanes.

— Andrew Farrell (@andrewj_farrell) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins all anyone cares about down here is college football. Plus, have you seen their "lazy-eye" logo?

— Dyson Enthusiast (@tom_j_lee) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins He Hate Me

— Andy Provin (@AndyProvin) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins because it's the prime destination of every ex-Buffalonian not tough enough to make it here

— ace (@emjay716) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins They stole Polian, Metzelaars, Reich, Beebe, and Bailey from us!

— ces715 (@ces715) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins my carolina chops are weak. astounding amounts of confederate flags in western blue ridge mountains. i could hate that.

— Sports Rock Gods (@jambrones) September 12, 2013

@jambrones @BuffaloWins they have the worst BBQ sauce style bar none. Also I am currently stranded in Raleigh so fuck this place.

— boner shorts (@Boner_Shorts) September 12, 2013

@BuffaloWins charlotte lost their shit when delhomme got cut, not because of football acumen, but because WHO WILL BE THE NEW BOJANGLES GUY

— Frank (@fgif) September 13, 2013

It’s not how it looks, unless you saw nothing.

Look at all of those pretty blue seats. Whaddya know? Another season with disappointment on tap and people are already done caring about going to the games. As we’re all amply aware, if the team doesn’t sell out, the game can&rs...

Are we enabling Stevie Johnson?

I've been blogging for this site for about 3 years and during that time, if there is one thing I've learned in regards to formulating my takes, it’s that the angles from the fans' perspectives are always the same. Maybe that means I'm a shitty writer trying to develop the same story arcs, or this just happens to be how we are. To me there's like 10 Buffalo sports fan commandments I can come up with...

Thou shall always expect the worst to happen...

Thou shall be emotional when someone calls the city out....

Thou shall always be pissed off.....

Thou shall not like players who are perceived to be greedy and not blue collar...

Thou shall feel privileged to have sports teams....

Thou shall want to feel loved by athletes and national folks....

Bingo...that's the one I'd like to focus on.

It is a narrative that I've used before, about how Buffalo sometimes goes into self- deprecation mode where they are in constant need of reassurance. They want to be loved. They resemble some sort of insecure wonderer whose ears always perk up whenever they hear their name mentioned. It is why most local outlets blast front page "News" of Tom Brady dissing our hotels, or how Buffalo was ranked friendliest city in the North East, and folks eat it up.

At the same time, I think Stevie Johnson is almost a clear-cut copy of us. Think about it...The guy gets criticized for blaming God for a drop against the Steelers and what happens? He gets upset when people make a big deal about his tweet. Same thing happened when Mike Schopp and the Bulldog criticized him for admitting he doesn't work hard in the offseason and in turn he goes on Twitter to berate them. There are so many other examples of it.

The guy wants to be loved and gets so emotional whenever he's called out, or thinks he is letting us down. And in turn, what does he do? He tries harder to entertain us by saying things we wish we could say without having some sort of fallacy to it. He tries to ensue confidence by acting like we belong in the football world by calling out the Pats CB’s or just believing in the Bills' abilities.

He embraces the #Billsmafia. I saw it first hand on Sunday when he made his entrance and he did that little Vulcan bird symbol (Editor's note: Been told that he actually started this symbol in college and it isn't any sort of universal greeting by the #Billsmafia. I can't believe I just typed that). It is a main reason why fans (myself included) are constantly sticking up for him.

He's a fun, engaging guy who acts like everyday is his first day of fame and is enjoying the attention. And that may be the problem here. He is trying too hard to appease our sad fan base, who are begging for a dance like a girl sitting in the corner at prom by herself. He knows it. It isn't his fault. It is just sometimes people try to hard too be entertaining in order to get a good laugh out of others.

Well, I wasn't laughing on Sunday.

That's really the reason for me writing this piece. When Stevie dropped that pass in the 4th quarter, all that fun, super fly guy shit that we find endearing went right out the fucken window. I was pissed off. I was pissed off that he even ducked the media, which I normally never do, because the press corp. usually makes it all about team accountability when it is more about their dumb ass notebooks. But I was still angry at him. On top of that, 72 hours earlier Stevie was saying no one could cover him on NE. I'm totally fine with some banter as long as you back it up tenfold. Stevie didn't do that on Sunday. 3 catches for less than 40 yards and a cool TD? Nice, but I can't let go of that drop.

WHY! WHY GOD? Why does Stevie for whatever reason have to have the biggest drops ever? I mean, I can't recall Andre Reed or Eric Moulds having game changing drops, do you? That's three times now (Pittsburgh game-2010, NY Jets game-2011 and this past Sunday) that Stevie's drops really threw a wrench into the outcome of a game.

I know it isn't all his fault… and there it is… the enabling part. It is NEVER Stevie's fault. Just keep doing what you are doing and have fun. Football is entertaining. Live it up. Fuck old people. And I'm always the first person to say so. Yes, it isn't always his fault, as I think he's a byproduct of being a big fish in a small pond with 55-year-old "get off my lawn" reporters/columnists who cry every time he does something that is considered self-centered.

However, after a while, I have to sit here and wonder if fans’ giving him a pass is what always leads to him being involved in some sort of BS. Maybe he thinks it is OK to say he doesn't work out in the offseason, or that NE can't check him. I mean, he ain't listening to the shitty press when it comes to judging himself, is he? Like a child looking for reassurance from their parents, he wants to appease us... the people who really matter to him.

Maybe he's right. Maybe no one in the NFL can check him, except himself. It just never seems we can close the page on whether he's -excuse me- WE are right about him. It becomes a reoccurring chapter that after a while you get tired of reading. It ends the same way.

We are on one side with Stevie and on the other side are a bunch of haters. Except the side that matters ends up being the losing side because the Bills always seem to suck. I'm just sick of picking one side. I'm sick of sticking up for him when winning matters more to me than finding a player that I can relate to. You can only do it so many times without thinking we are following our hearts instead of our smarts.

I think Stevie is a really good WR and a great guy, but I think it is time for him to walk like a man and not walk like a man leading a flock of sheep.


No Huddle or Burn Clock?

The Bills started their final drive (I’m ignoring the final play of the game) with a one point lead in the fourth quarter and 5:51 to go at their own twenty yard line.The defense just stopped the Patriots and the reality that the Bills mi...

Recap: Bills lose to the Pats, 23-21


I'll make this quick because I'm pretty drained after yesterday and I'm also going on about 4 hours sleep. So, here it goes...

It was pretty ironic that prior to tailgating, most of the crew I was with thought the Bills were going to get pulverized.  And with that, I thought to myself..What would be worse, if the Bills got their asses handed to them or they kept it close and lost in #becauseitsBuffalo kind of fashion? Most said keeping it close and why wouldn't you want that? If you keep it close against one of the best in the game, it is obvious progress, right? However, heartbreaks are what really leaves us the most drained after a loss like that. You are more angry if the Pats beat you by 30 than if you lose in the final seconds.  

When you lose in the waiting seconds it is way more deflating because there are so many emotions you go through during the game. I had extreme highs during it and just some devastating lows during the course of the game. It is feels like Michael Corleone telling his family, "Just when I was out, they pulled me back in." You aren't vested into the game at first because you expect the worse. Then they keep it close and you turn from just hoping to keep it close to doubling up on wanting to win. That's why it sucks more when you lose like that.

Give the Bills credit, they played their asses off. I didn't think they had it in them. I was shocked how well their defense played. I mean, at one point in the 4th quarter Tom Brady had completed only 50% of his passes.  When the hell was the last time I was excited about Leodis McKelvin on defense? How about EJ Manuel not barfing all over the field?

And yet..they lost. 

It gets a little tiring having these moral victories against the Pats, doesn't it? I'd like to sit here and tell you we are going in the right direction and maybe they are...However, I've seen this movie before against NE. I remember before the opener against the Pats in 2006 and 2009, no one gave the Bills a shot in those games. Yet, when the final gun sounded, had Leodis not fumbled the kickoff or JP Losman didn't get sacked for a safety, the Bills would have won.

I remember the same narrative being written afterwards by fans and media...MORAL VICTORIES! They kept it close with the Pats and were this close to winning. Grey sky were going to clear up and the Bills were going to be on the right track. Oh, they got on track alright, as there was a locomotive heading towards them.

So, while there are things to build off here, I think it would be smart not to have some sort of epiphany in saying the Bills are going in the right or wrong direction. No one is an expert after week 1 of any NFL season.   It is a very long season and dare I say I'm not sure if this is a stepping stone game or just another stepping stone that falls on our face. Playing the Pats tough has never been the hardest part for them, it is trying to build off those moral victories which has escaped them.

---I couldn't be more wrong about the Bills defense than yesterday. Yes, they gave up over 450 yards in total offense and at times couldn't get off the field. However, when you hold Brady to a QB rating of 76.4 and the only other times you did that against him was in 2009 and 2003, you have to give them credit. They were in Brady's face for the majority of the afternoon and the DBs looked great. Pettine's hype almost lived up to the lofty expectations. They showed a number of different looks with going 3-4 or 4-3 and disguised their blitz packages on numerous occasions. I know Mario Williams didn't get to Brady, but don't tell me he doesn't make the likes of Jerry Hughes look better because of his presence. Maybe my excitement has to do with me expecting the Pats to drop 40 on them and just the lowering of my expectations, but McKelvin, Rogers, Searcy and some guy named Robey looked good. Searcy was a fricken beast yesterday. I think if you don't have him covering and instead have him play close to the line of scrimmage most times, he can make some good plays.

---Fred Jackson will not die! I swear, when he runs and looks good doing it, you may not be able to find a happier fan than I. Yes, we can all act like CJ Spiller is the next OJ and 2,000 yards are coming to a theater near you. However, I still have a small part of my heart that is still dedicated to Fred. The underdog story and just the way he runs..HARD. He outplayed CJ yesterday, who seemed to try and kick too many runs to the outside, where NE defenders were waiting for him. Fred, on the other hand, was running hard between the tackles and he looked like vintage Jackson. So, don't kick dirt on Fred's grave yet. The guy still has game and he always brings his best against NE. In 8 out of his last 10 games against the Pats, Fred has gained over 100 yards in total offense.

---EJ Manuel played a great game for a rookie. Yes, my expectations will always have the asterisk of being a rookie next to it, but 2TDs and a 67% percent completion percentage? You take that for a debut. He showed a lot of poise and didn't try forcing too many throws. I mean, he had a better debut than Wilson and Luck did last year. In fact, I kind of wish the Bills would have gone more through the air than trying to run CJ into a brick wall.

---Mad props to the Bills for playing the Flash Gordon theme whenever Marquise Goodwin is set to return a kickoff. Too bad kickoff returns never seem to happen anymore. BTW, I was shocked to say I didn't see any punches thrown or shitty Pats fans ruining the day. Everyone seemed on their best behavior. 

---I'll make this quick: I'm totally fine with the Bills being aggressive and going no-huddle on their last drive. Everyone and their mother knew that when the score was 21-17, the Bills were going to have to score more points. Everyone in the building knew that. You needed first downs, not an extra 30 seconds to kill the clock. The Pats were already slowing down and milking the clock with about 1:30 left because the defense couldn't stop them, so it wouldn't have mattered if we kept the ball for another 30 seconds. So, shut up and find another thing to argue about. 

---I love Stevie and I'll probably have something later this week about his performance and no-show with the media, but that is a killer fricken drop. No excuses. Just awful on so many levels.

Final word: It sucks to lose but sometimes you just have to put things in perspective and realize the Bills are rebuilding. They aren't going 10-6 this season and sadly  moral victories matter matter when you are rebuilding. Hopefully they will build off this valor effort and fix some of things that plagued them yesterday (Penalties, drops and CJ's ineffectiveness). I mean, hey...I'm picking them against Carolina and I wouldn't have done that 24 hours ago. Progress?


Sabres miss the mark with jersey unveiling

For a team with such a widely celebrated crest and color scheme, the Buffalo Sabres manage to do an incredible job finding ways to disappoint when it comes to uniform design. Today officially marked a new chapter in Sabres uniform history w...
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Second Take with Brad Gelber – Why Deadspin Has The Bills All Wrong

As it does every year, Deadspin published its “Why Your Team Sucks” series over the past couple of weeks. If I’m being honest, the Buffalo Bills edition had me in stitches. Between the “Amarillo Slim” line and Buffalo being a place where QB’s go for their lives to end, the satirical humor was right up my alley. Being a Bills fans and furthermore, fans of Buffalo sports in general, most of us have learned to laugh at ourselves (it beats crying anyways.) As funny as this year’s edition may have been, Drew Magary and the folks over at Deadspin got it wrong. You see to truly understand the Buffalo Bills and their fans you have to be one of them. Don’t worry Deadspin I got you.

Your team: Buffalo Bills

Your 2012 record: While we did indeed finish 6-10 after going 2-1, us Bills fans gets excited about a win regardless of the whether we’re 1-0, or 3-13. As Bills fans it is virtually impossible for us to hope for a loss. As the playoffs become less and less of a reality on a yearly basis, we all begin to debate with one another on whether the team should tank for a higher pick, or continue to play hard to salvage some sort of faux-dignity. We don’t need to be “suckered in” because we’re already onboard for next season, before the current season even ends. That’s what missing the playoffs for 14 straight years will do to you. “Lab rats getting shocked by electrified cheese?” Naw, more like Seabiscuit of the NFL (at least in our own minds.) Plus everyone knows if you’re going to equate on of the guys over in Bristol to the 716, it has got to be Boomer: “No one circles the wagon like the Buffalo Bills!”

Your coach: Doug Marrone is… average? Ha! Listen Deadspin, you have to remember the guys we’ve had coaching our beloved Bills of late. Between Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron & Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone is a godsend. Sure he may only have four years of coaching at a college where basketball is far and away the most popular sport, but it doesn’t matter. He’s an upstate NY kind of guy and he has a bright future, got it? Plus if we can get a tenth of the magic that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have manufactured over in NOLA, I don't care if he was their water boy. O and a less impressive Greg Schiano? Because Rutgers is certainly a shining example of collegiate athletics… right Mike Rice?

Your quarterback:  Ok, so maybe Deadspin kind of had a point on this one, but I’m not going to concede just yet. Sure we were ransacked by injuries, but if you rewind a couple months things were looking pretty damn good after years and years of uncertainty at the Quarterback position. I mean we finally booted the nimble-armed Fitzpatrick in favor of a tandem of a talented veteran Free Agent with something to prove and the first-round, “franchise savior” that many of us thought may never come. Fast-forward to today and obviously things worked out a little differently, but very few teams are successful without being flexible… Right?

Even if we did “reach” on EJ, what matters is he’s here now. I’d take EJ Manuel & Jeff Tuel, or whomever else is behind number 3, over Ryan Fitzpatrick & Tyler Thigpen any day of the week. Progress my friends, progress. PS: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Labbat Blue. Drink responsibly.

Your fantasy player everyone will hate: I tend not to draft Bills players in fantasy because I can’t take any more pain during football season. I did however select CJ Spiller in the first round this year. Yeah I know that’s not really a stretch, but outside of CJ, SJ, EJ & maybe FJ in the later rounds, not sure who else will really get much consideration. That’s fine though. Two words, team game.

Why your team sucks:

This is the part of the article that had most people crying tears of laughter. I agree that the “Chan Gailey era” isn’t something most of us are very found of, but guess what, IT’S OVER. As for the ancient Buddy Nix, who doesn’t love a southern gentleman? I understand he doesn’t have the best numbers from the point-of-view of being successful at the job at which he was hired for, but you can’t tell me whenever you’d hear that warm & fuzzy southern drawl, you weren’t immediately comforted and reminded or some lovable TV character from your childhood.

Doug Whaley may be Colonel Sanders’ “hand-picked successor,” but he’s younger so that’s a great start. While Whaley had some technology issues himself back in Pittsburgh, chances are he won’t wind up having his phone conversations recorded and exposed around the trade-deadline, which is another huge plus.

While WNY may not be NYC, or LA the latter doesn’t even have an NFL franchise, so there. Folks here are proud of the place they call home despite how little sense it may make to outsiders. “Buffalove” is as real as it gets and the #BillsMafia is perfect proof of that. Sure they may get a bit carried away at times, but that’s just overwhelming passion mixed with years and years and years of disappointment. Maybe 2013 isn’t the year the Bills are going to turn the corner, in fact it probably isn’t, but I’d rather be apart of a fan base that is partly delusional yet relentless, than a team that has won a title or two, but is only relevant in town when it’s time to hop aboard the Bandwagon Express. Say what you want about our team and our fans, but we may be one of the only franchises that has guys live tweeting about OTA’s and training camp scrimmages for fun…

As Thurman Thomas talked about this week on ESPN, the Buffalo Bills have the best fans around. When asked what the party would be like in Buffalo if the Bills finally brought home the Vince Lombardi trophy, he started giggling like a schoolgirl. That reaction, from a HOF guy, who use to eat pain and toughness for breakfast, pretty much sums up what it means to be a fan of the Buffalo Bills.

Why your team doesn't suck: Aside from all the points I just made, there’s one large factor that prevents the Bills from totally sucking… The NY Jets. Now while it is certainly possible to have more than one sucky team in the same division, with just how much of a god-awful train wreck the Gang Green are destined to be this year, I can’t image anyone truly sucking when they have to play them twice. Thanks Mr. Butt-Fumble.

In Conclusion: No I am not one of the people who takes the annual “Why Your Team Sucks” series seriously, but someone had to try to defend our fans and more importantly Amarillo Slim himself. By the way, New York state ranks 5th in terms of the Amish population based on the 2012 census, so the chances of finding an Amish cave in these parts is actually rather high. So thank you Deadspin, I’ll take that one-liner as a compliment.

Perhaps I’m just one of the delusional fans that Deadspin attempted to highlight, but if that’s the case I’m proud of it. Bring on the 2013 season. Bring on another year of likely heartbreak. Being a Bills fan isn’t easy, but as Thurman’s giggle showed, someday, it’ll all be worth it.

Tweet of the week!

Bills fans baby!

Have your own opinion on this week’s column or a topic you want featured in next week’s column? Get at me on Twitter: @BradleyGelber


Fake takes on a fake game: Buffalo/Washington

WARNING: This is preseason. Preseason football is a scam. It is crap. Don't read into it at all. Even folks in the media know it is crap sandwich, but they have to find something to talk about.  Just realize I'm blogging about it because preseason football is better than no football and I'm bored. Also, if you think I'm a hypocrite for blogging about something I totally hate and want to shit on me for it, by all means, I have a hat that will shield me from most of the crap. But other than that, this is crap.

CJ Spiller's heavy heart: Pretty ironic that after I wrote about Dareus playing last year with a heavy heart after his brother was killed, CJ Spiller would be doing the same thing in of all games, a fake one. Spiller played with a heavy heart after learning that his step-father had killed himself after shooting three other people. That's straight up crazy. I don't know how someone can play a football game after learning that. Everything about CJ's actual play today is just 2nd fiddle because of him just being able to suit up while much more pressing things were on his mind. I guess we could use the narrative of him playing the game he loves as being his safe haven to ease the troubles on his mind. I just can't believe he played.

Kevin Kolb still sucks: I'm not the rightist guy in the world, but you don't have to look too far in the BW archives to know I hated the Kevin Kolb signing then and especially now. The Bills should have just kept T. Jackson, who had similar numbers and actually started for an entire season while gaining playoff experience. Kolb never should have been signed. He's terrible and I don't buy into the notion of "Well, he's a veteran presence". Pleeeeeeease. If EJ starts every game this year, that will be 5 less starts than what Kevin Kolb has for his career.

The guy has zero pocket awareness. All you have to do is check out Washington's first sack, as Kolb pretty much ran into the defender when all he had to do was step up in the pocket. Instead, he panicked and tried running to the outside where a defender was waiting for him. Kolb finished just 2-4 for 16 yards and almost had as many rushing yards (12) as passing. Yes, he only played two series and the injury bug bit him once again, but the guy is just not good and the thought of him stealing this job while EJ was hurt was silly to begin. Now it is nothing more than a formality for him being the 2nd QB. Also, let's stop with the stupid Jeff Tuel commentary. The guy is nothing more than a camp arm and if Kolb had been slightly average, the Bills would be sending Tuel to the Arena League by now. I say fire everyone who said they were impressed with him during training camp.

BTW... Get well EJ.

Oh, and outside of CJ..the starting offense still stinks: Yes, EJ Manuel and Scott Chandler aren't playing and Stevie is just coming back after a few weeks off, but just 1 TD by the starting offense in 3 games? That's not good. You are talking about three defenses that aren't exactly world beaters either. On top of that, these aren't even nice drives that stall after gaining a few first downs. They are 3 and outs. Like I said in my QB/WR preview, they are very young at those positions and it is going to take a lot of time and patience.

Rex Grossman and Pat White still play? This is why I don't put too much stock into the preseason. I assure, you will be chasing after your own tail no matter what kind of fan you are. You should always go by what your gut says prior to training camp or when meaningless angles get diluted by fans and media folks.


Now, you know we are going to get an earful of apologists and pessimists killing each other for the next few weeks. Some may say that the Bills didn't really show much in terms of game planning. I mean, they didn't really blitz all that much in comparison to last week against Minnesota. Maybe the Bills were happy with their play during the first two games that they decided not take the defensive playbook with them to Washington or show too much. up 299 yards in total offense and four passing plays of 20 yards or more..IN THE FIRST HALF!? Against Rex and Pat White? I mean, yuck. Optimistic fans are now repeating the following while staring at a mirror: It is only preseason. It is only preseason. It is only preseason.

Who sucked on defense? I think you have to start with the secondary. As I've said since March, this secondary is going to be the Bills biggest weakness on defense. They were drilled unmercifully today. Their CBs played way off on the WRs and they took terrible angles against receivers in the open field. Da'Norris Searcy better be good at special teams, because that's the only way he's getting on the field or making this team. He's just lost back there and has zero ball awareness. In a way, he's the safety version of Leodis McKelvin. As for Stephon Gilmore? He's a nice player, but he's not a #1 CB yet. He played alright for a rookie, but some folks are acting like he's awesome. Maybe he's awesome in comparison to the rest of the Bills CBs, but if you think he's where he should be and teams are going to shy away from him, you are nuts. He needs to get better and he's still going to go through growing pains.

As for the front 7, I think the Bills are very susceptible when offenses run stretch plays. They use the Bills quickness from their ends against them because they over commit to the inside and just the OLBs aren't fast enough to cover sideline to sideline. Plus, they are kind of light in the weight department on the outside, which makes it easier to run on.

The good: Besides CJ Spiller averaging almost 5 yards a carry with zero help from the passing game, I was actually happy that the Bills dialed up 3 deep passes in the first half. That's three more than what they did the previous two games. Two of those throws resulted in defensive pass interference calls. Keep doing that please. I think we can give the title of training camp hero to Jerry Hughes. The guy chipped in with a sack and has like four sacks this preseason. The Bills certainly don't lack for edge pass rushers on this squad, do they?...and that's all I got for the good stuff. This game really was the shits.

Final words: I stopped watching at halftime.

Marcell Dareus

Training camp stories: Marcell Dareus

I will never consider myself to be a wordsmith. I'm the stereotype of a venomous message board blogger who can sometimes pull a decent piece out of my ass.

Just a fan who writes incoherently off just raw emotion and not exactly thinking before I type. I don't bother with using $5 words or breaking out the thesaurus to sound smarter than I am. I talk how I write. I write like I'm at a bar telling folks how I feel. I want it come off as natural as possible or just me being me.

I'm telling you all of this because the written word isn't my strongest suit, but I think what sets me apart from others is that I'm always willing to admit I was wrong. When you make a mistake, you are taught to not dwell on it for that long. Just look forward to the future instead of looking to the past. However, mistakes can be lessons of wisdom. And while the past cannot be changed, the future is what will defy you.

In a sports sense, I'm not talking about being called out for a wrong take and saying "My bad. We all make mistakes." Normally, sports guys never cough up to being wrong unless it is begrudgingly brought to their attention by a fan or caller, in which a flippant response will probably follow.

I use being wrong as an example of trying to figure out why I was so wrong. To analyze myself and learn from it. To learn to be a better blogger or even a better person. 

Wait? How does being a better person occur after writing about Xs and Os or rage storms of diatribe about the Bills or Sabres?

It happens when you call out a player while wrongly detaching their emotion to it.

That's what happened last year with Marcell Dareus and myself.

At some point, I had Tweeted out that Dareus had been a disappointment and trotted out the stat at how like 7 players drafted in the top 10 or whatever, made the pro bowl, while he didn't.

At that point I got a few tweets back calling my a jerk or critiquing my stance because Dareus had lost his brother a month earlier. I don't exactly remember how I approached being called out, but I'm pretty sure I was defensive about it.

Looking back, I don't even know what the fuck I was thinking. How could I just call the guy out and not really acknowledge what the guy was going through. To be a football guy instead of an actual person with feelings like that was just stupid on my part. Just a typical dumb fan who only cares about the results on the field and thinking athletes are just robots who wear no emotions on their sleeves. 

While a lot of times I don't care what athletes do off the field, I need to sometimes realize those outside events do affect them and I should be a bit more sensitive about it and not worry about a player being great. The fact that the guy didn't miss any games because of the death is pretty remarkable. I should have talked more about the guts he'd shown to keep on working while he was grieving for his family.

Now that's greatness. 

Obviously, I hope Dareus becomes a great player, but more importantly, I hope he's at peace and a stronger person because of his loss.


Return to Relevance – The 2013 Bills

Definition of RELEVANCE: 1 – a : relation to the matter at hand b : practical and especially social applicability : pertinence If you are a first time reader of the Return to Relevance series, I’ll bring you up to spee...

My 2013 Bills Preview: Wide Receivers


That's the number of receptions Donald Jones had last year. It also ranked 104th in the NFL .

443 yards.

Those are #19's yards receiving, which ranked 107th. Those numbers also ranked 2nd on the Bills for most catches and yards by a WR.

That's your #2 WR.

That's not good.

That's why the Bills let Donald Jones and David Nelson go.

The Bills are going the youth route with Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods. It is about time the Bills invested a 2nd round draft pick towards the position. Before last year's draft, the Bills had used only two picks on WRs within the first two rounds since 2003 (Lee Evans, 2003 and James Hardy, 2008). Last year, the Bills were the only NFL team to not have a TE, WR or QB on their roster dedicated to the 1st or 2nd round.

Within a year, they shattered that stat with the drafting of Woods and EJ Manuel. I've written before that this year is all about the development of EJ. After him, the young WRs are next up in terms of desired development.

We know what we will get with Stevie Johnson (80 catches, 1,100 yards, and 8 TDs), but we have zero idea what we are going to get with the kids. On the surface, Graham and Goodwin are going to be burners while Woods seems to have some speed but is better suited as a possession guy who can make the tough grabs in traffic. That's good diversity. You don't want too many 1-trick ponies.

Hopefully, between Graham, Goodwin, and of the 3 can become a legit #2 WR option for the Bills. I just don't think we will know until next year at least.

Our Hero
I've used this metaphor before, but fuck it, I'm doing it again. In one of my favorite movies of all time, American Beauty, Kevin Spacey plays a 9-5 businessman who is completely bored with his life. Mix together the repetitiveness of his job and his lackluster marriage, and you have a recipe for apathy and sadness.

However, once Spacey saw a particular high school girl, he was mesmerized. He started seeing the world in color instead of the black and white he had become used to. Welcome to The Land of Oz. Now when you look at the girl he had a crush on (the chick from American Pie who liked that Oz douche bag), she's really nothing special. However, because everything around him was caving in, her good qualities were accentuated.

Stevie Johnson is playing the role of the high school girl, Kevin Spacey is playing your typical Bills fan, and the crashing world around him is reflective of the recent state Bills. Maybe Stevie Johnson isn't as good as most Bills fans want to think, but because of the sadness of the last 13 years, we need to find something to believe in.

Stevie represents the fan in all of us who only wishes they could put on the uniform and get their 15 minutes of fame. He acts like his 15 minutes are ticking away and he just has to savor the moments he gets of being cool with the fans. Arrogance never seeps into his demeanor. There's a humble, down to earth quality to his approach. I could never imagine Stevie turning down an autograph or a photo.

It never gets old for him.

He'll be the same big kid going forward and I have zero issues with giving him a pass when he says something that is considered controversial. He's just a young guy battling The Man who wants him to get off their lawn. In certain elements, he could be viewed as a renegade who doesn't bow down to authority. God knows most NFL fans hate the NFL's tactics for killing the joy of the game. He's just a guy having fun with his friends and telling The Man to stick it.

Stevie the player
All right, now that we got the cool guy stuff out of the way, let's dive into Stevie Johnson the player. Anyone who says he's an average WR (cough* Jerry Sullivan cough*) is an idiot. He's a good WR who, if he's surrounded by a decent QB and an outside target who can at least help him, can become a great WR in the NFL.

Stevie was 9th in the NFL in targets last year with 148 which was over 25% of Fitzpatrick's throws. He also can lay claim to being one of only a handful of guys who played particularly well against Darrelle Revis. Additionally, he became the only Bills player in history to have over 1,000 yards and 75+ catches for three straight years.

Stevie's best attribute is his footwork. He's fricken Michael Jackson with the way he moves. It seems he can break out into a moonwalk or a black swan pirouette any time he plants his foot to make a move. It is about time the Bills moved him into the slot. He should really do wonders there because he'll have more room to run routes. Now, I wouldn't start thinking of him as our slot version Wes Welker, mainly because Welker had Tom Brady and Stevie has God knows what, but he should really fit in.

It will be interesting to see how Johnson handles going over the middle since most of his routes didn't go along those hash marks last year. He only caught four passes last year over the middle. Welker, on the other hand, made 26 grabs over the middle. So look for Stevie's over the middle numbers to take off and for him to take some pounding.

Another thing Stevie has gotten better at is lowering his drops. Last year, he dropped only 4.73% of passes thrown his way which was the 18th fewest of the top 25 WRs in catches. In 2010, that number was a shade under 6%.

Now, Stevie isn't going to get away with being unscathed. I believe Stevie can a bit inconsistent for a #1 WR. Consider that in his last 32 games, Stevie has 17 games of 5 catches or more but also has 7 games of 3 catches or fewer. He can also be a player who doesn't stretch the field enough. He only caught 5 passes last year that traveled through the air farther than 20 yards. Of the top 20 WRs, only Wes Welker caught fewer.

Of course, I can't put all of this on Stevie. His QB couldn't throw deep and the offense was geared around short passes. However, I'm reminded of that game against the Colts last year, however, when Stevie caught a deep ball with no one around him and it looked like he'd waltz in for a TD. Instead, he was caught.

Speed isn't going to be the name of the game with Stevie this year, especially if he's going to be in the slot and he has Graham/Goodwin helping out on the outside, and I wouldn't count on Andre Reed-like breaking of tackles. His 381 YAC ranks 23rd and when you consider how most of his routes put him in position to rake up yards, you'd want him to be a bit more elusive.

Any hoot, I'm just picking on Stevie's negatives. I think he's a decent player. I am curious to see how he will do this year. I've been on record that I think the passing game is going to struggle with Kolb/Manuel and will be less formidable than last year so it wouldn't shock me if this season is a  "Lee Evans would have caught 90 passes if Brady was his QB!" kind of year for Stevie.

Let's hope it doesn't get to that point. 

22 for 298 yards and 17 for 198 yards
Those numbers represent the output of rookie WRs drafted in the 2nd and 3rd round respectively since 2003 (2nd rounders) and 2007 (3rd round). While there were some guys in the group who played well during their rookie years (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Brandon Lloyd), none of them had over 1,000 yards receiving. In fact, of the 65 guys I looked up who fit this criteria, 50 of them had 30 catches or fewer.

That doesn't exactly sound like #2 WR material, does it?

Look, this isn't to say Woods, Goodwin or any of the guys I've mentioned won't blow up at some point, but there's been a lot of "The WR corps is soooooooo much better than the last few years" going around and I'm not ready to go there with rookies. Is there more up upside to them because of where they were drafted? Of course. But upside in football is like a maturing stock. It takes time.

Last year at this time, it wasn't out of the question to ask David Nelson and Donald Jones to catch 100 balls between them. Heck, Nelson has a 60-catch year on his resume. I think if the Bills can get that out of Woods, Goodwin, and Graham, I'll be thrilled. However, the numbers suggest that it is going to be a tall task.

Marrone factor
As I wrote in my running back piece, Marrone's time in Syracuse shows that he likes to go with a 50/50 run/pass ratio. When it comes to pass distribution, it seems Cuse called a lot of plays to their WRs. Last year, their top 3 pass catchers were all WRs and they combined for 179 receptions and just over 2,500 yards. That's a hell of a lot better than what we've seen from the top 3 wideouts for the Bills over the last decade. In fact, their leading pass catcher from the running back position only chipped in with 33 catches which was 5th on the team.

In 2011, Cuse's top 2 leading receivers were wideouts with the starting TE rounding out the top 3. Their leading receiver out of the backfield chipped in with only 29 catches. Of course, we could go to Marrone's New Orleans days, where Reggie Bush had over 160 catches in a 2-year span, which would indicate he can get the RBs involved.

Lastly, if there's one thing I hope the Bills do more of, it is taking chances deep. They have two guys in Graham and Goodwin who are supposed to be speedsters. The Bills didn't take a lot of chances last year and it showed, as the Bills were ranked 28th in the NFL in yards per reception with 11.1 yards. As for Cuse? Eh. Their leading YPR receiver was ranked 91st in the country.

In other words, I'm not holding my breath on the team taking more down the field shots.

The Scott Chandler portion of this piece
I say this every year and I'm not going to bother to rephrase it: I an not a big fan of Scott Chandler. I think he's a byproduct of suddenly seeing something out of a position that's usually not noticeable. All of a sudden, "Oh, look. The tight end position. It exists. Hooray! Let's overrate."  In 2011, his 38 catches for 389 yards and six touchdowns ranked 23rd, 27th, and a 5-way tie for 7th in the NFL for tight ends. In 2012, his 43 catches for 571 yard and 6 touchdowns ranked 25th, 14th, and 8th.

I'm just underwhelmed by these numbers. Those numbers in comparison to his peers sound somewhat pedestrian. Dare I say, below average. The TE position has been booming for the last 5 years now. I'm sick and tired of the Bills only having two guys in club history with over 50 catches in a season (Jay Riemersma and Pete Metzelaars). On top of this, he's coming back from an ACL injury and we all know it takes a while to return from this unless your name is Adrian Peterson or you are a freak of an athlete. Chandler + athletic freak doesn't really add up, does it?

As for the Marrone connection, the best a TE has done in his offense at Syracuse was 51 catches in 2011 and 33 catches in 2010.

Training camp battles:
Without going on a diatribe rant about how silly training camp battles for the 5th or 6th WR spot are,  I'll just say that special teams play normally outweighs skill when it comes to the 5th or 6th WR spot. 5th WRs don't get on the field unless an injury takes place. If we are basing the Bills offense from the K-Gun of the 90s, the Bills will look to be a team that will run more 3-WR formations than the 4-WR spread. So, I don't think they will value it as much as Chan did.

Now as it stands, I don't think Brad Smith makes the team, even with a pay cut, because he's just too pricey in comparison to the younger guys and I really don't see the purpose of him being on this team. Also, I don't know where it came from that Smith was this awesome coverage guy. According to Football Outsiders, he wasn't even ranked in the top 30 for special teams tackles. This can be replaced and yes, I hate Brad Smith because he stole money from the team over the last 2 years and was a bust. 

I think with the young safeties the Bills drafted, they could easily play the gunners on this team. Forget the Da'Rick Rogers stuff. He's nothing more than niche underground cult movement that doesn't mean much. He was not drafted for a reason and if you think it is all on behavior, you haven't been reading many police blotters for NFL players. If you can play, you will be drafted even with a record.

It is between Easley and Hogan. To me, Hogan feels more of a slot guy than someone how can play on the outside. Because there's only one slot position that a WR can play at one time on the field, the numbers game will go against him. The Bills could place Chandler or Woods or even Spiller there if Stevie goes down. Easley is more of an outside WR and you just need more outside guys than slot guys. Also, Easley at one point was suppose to be the 2nd WR (2011-Training camp), but he went down with that weird heart aliment. So, he still has that upside that the team at one point believed in. Anyways, if the Bills keep 5WRs, I think it is Easley. I don't see them keeping six. 

Final word:
Outside of Stevie, the WRs are a giant mystery. While the Bills do have some of the best pass-catching RBs in the league, I'd really like for one of these young guys to take the reins. When you look at the Bills over the last 13 years, outside of 2002 with Price/Moulds, they haven't had much of a 1-2 punch with their WRs. It is usually one guy carrying the load with everyone else just riding that guy's coattails.

You guys know by now how I treat 1st and 2nd year guys who aren't drafted in the 1st round. I'm the blogging version of an old school coach who wouldn't even let them wear the Buffalo on their helmet until they prove they belong. I think there will be some growing pains with this crew. The are just too many young guys being counted on to be contributors. Plus we don't have Tom Brady back there. 

Like EJ Manuel, I wouldn't be too quick to judge these guys based on this year. It is going to take 1-2 years for the younger folks to really take the next step.