Here we are again…
The Bills journey to find a franchise QB continues. It has been 16 years since Jim Kelly walked out that door and we haven't come close to finding his replacement. It gets so fricken tiring. The names ring out like the prayer that Arya recites in Game of Thrones, the list of her enemies. Collins… Johnson.. Edwards… Fitz. All names that send hateful shivers down our spines. The Bills just haven't been able to exercise the demons of past QBs gone bad.
I really can't streamline my thoughts about the QB situation very well, but I'll be happy to bullet point this for your benefit:
— When it comes to drafting, I've always been all about selecting the best player available. My belief is that if there is not a franchise QB available at your selection, then you don't pick a QB. Simple as that. That's pretty much how the Bills have operated under Buddy Nix. You build up the team first and then you can add the QB last. But this is the 4th offseason Buddy Nix has presided over the draft and sooner or later, you gotta pick a QB, right? However the Bills still have so many holes to fill that they may not be in a position to do that. Four years later for Buddy, and the Bills still have the same problems they had in 2010. They don't have a QB. Their linebackers stink. Their secondary is too young and inexperienced. They don't have a #2 WR.
The only improvements they have made is on the defensive line. I don't even count running back because I was more than fine with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in 2009. Besides Spiller, the 2010 draft class still looks like a disaster. We all hate Aaron Williams on the same level as Derek Roy. TJ Graham sure didn't make us feel good about picking him over Russell Wilson. Some fans/experts are fine with the Bills not going for a QB or reaching for one because there are so many other holes to fill. That's an indictment of Buddy Nix. He should have sewn up half these holes by now and they haven't come close to it.
— This is just my assumption, but I don't think NFL teams really know if a guy taken outside of the first round is going to be a franchise QB. I mean, how do guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Montana and countless others make it past the first round? Don't you think if they were franchise guys, someone would pick them right away? It is about treating the players like stock in the end. They see an upside. They see someone who, with proper coaching, might outperform his draft slot. It is a risk, no doubt. I mention this because under Buddy, the Bills have never done that in the 2nd or 3rd round. They did it with Todd Collins and Trend Edwards, but that was about it.
— If Russ Brandon is really now the eyes and ears of this team, I don't think I can ignore that at his core, he's a marketing guy. He wants to get people buying tickets. He was the guy who wanted to sign T.O. and pushed hard for it to create that buzz. Right now, I don't think there are many guys in free agency they can market to the public like they could market Mario Williams. However, if the Bills draft a Geno Smith or Matt Barkley, I think fans would applaud the effort and get behind it, even with the experts being somewhat divided on them.
That 1st pick would be put on billboards, Cellino and Barnes commercials, and be presented like John Connor saving the resistance. You don't need much to excite this fan base. I mean look at how Grigorenko excited the Sabres fan base. There was really not much hoopla about him in the national mainstream prior to his selection. Sorry but NHL Network is the public access of sports TV. Still, people were excited about it because Buffalo fans are conditioned to believe in anything.
With Smith and Barkley, everyone from ESPN to WGR has been talking about them since October. The Bills fan base is more starved for a franchise QB than the Sabres fan base is for a playmaking center. I assure you, Barkley/Smith jerseys would sell pretty fast in Buffalo.
— As for what the Bills should look for, they need to find a guy who can read defenses first and foremost. I happen to think arm strength isn't as important as reading defenses in the West Coast Offense. Joe Montana never had a rocket arm. Neither does Drew Brees. Those guys relied on their smarts and the ability to get the ball out of their hands fast. The Bills aren't going to want some guy who is going to take sacks and has issues with reading defenses. Forget the classic drop back passer here.
— There has been a lot of talk about whether the Bills should draft a QB in the 1st round round or beyond. There's been a lot of generalized statements over the years from fans and media members about when you can find a QB. I remember a few years back, it was all about picking a guy early because players like Brady, Romo, and Warner were considered anomalies. Obviously, that is kind of crap now because of guys like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick, and Andy Dalton. I'd throw in Matt Schaub as well. You can find QBs within the first 3 rounds. Last year, 6 of the top 13 rated QBs weren't 1st round picks. In 2007, that number was 9. There is no black and white answer here, folks. There are a number of ways to skin a cat.
— Although I'm cooler than a cucumber when it comes to selecting a QB within the first three rounds, I wouldn't exactly say I'm on board with expecting a QB to come in and start ripping up the league right away. Yes, the last two years have brought us some kick-ass rookies (Wilson, Luck, RGIII, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton). I just think you need a bigger body of work than that to say the trend of rookie QBs having a lot of growing pains has ended. Consider this: From 1990-2010, 47 QBs were drafted in the 1st round and only 8 of them had more touchdowns than interceptions during their rookie years. None of those QBs had more than 18 touchdowns. I just can't ignore 20 years and declare that all of a sudden all rookie QBs can win in the NFL. In other words, if the Bills draft Nassib in the 2nd round, I don't want to hear anyone comparing him to Russell Wilson or going on about how he's gonna throw 25 touchdowns his rookie year. That's just dumb and you know it.
—DON'T LISTEN TO WHAT BUDDY NIX SAYS IN PUBLIC!!! I say this every year. He is going to say he loves every single player and then he'll sprinkle in some doubt to keep people guessing about what he wants. I get that he's gone on record saying that he wants to draft a franchise QB, but so does every GM. When it comes to drafting, don't listen to what GMs say. It is all BS. They are going to say they are interested in every position known to man. Buddy Nix said once that Jimmy Clausen was a winner in college and he'd be a winner in the NFL. He passed on him twice in the draft. Also, only read mock drafts for entertainment. Remember when the Walker kid from Notre Dame was going to the Bills last year for like two months? Then all of a sudden Stephon Gilmore came on two weeks before the draft? It is all BS. Everyone is a liar.
Also, the most important thing for a QB coming out of the draft is the ability to evolve. If Peyton Manning played the same way he played at Tennessee when he entered the NFL, he would have been an average QB. He got better. He learned the ins and outs of the pro game. There isn't always going to be instant gratification. You have to work at it. For most of these guys, it takes 2-3 years to become an NFL pro.
Final word: I think the Bills have to draft a QB within the first three rounds this year, but I wouldn't exactly fall for the whole "Gotta be a franchise QB" stuff. To me, a franchise QB is someone who is going to get you 30 touchdowns every year, someone in the mold of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. You can be a good QB and still win in this league. I don't think Joe Flacco is a franchise QB or even in the top 5 in the league, but I do think he's a good QB and he's proved it, you can win with that. That's what the Bills need. They need a good QB. Aim for that. I'd love a Hall of Famer, but I can live with a guy who can get you 25tds and 11 picks.