Bills Offseason Strategy


Posted Feb 28, 2004


Going through my usual ritual upon arising yesterday morning, I was treated to an e-mail from the Bills alerting me to the fact that they do in fact have a plan for free-agency. Gosh! Golly gee wiseacres! That's great, they're really getting it together now! I?m so relieved. The Bills have a plan. Oh Goodie!

I proverbially scratched my head and have pondered this for a while. Not to be overly facetious, but what's next? An e-mail telling the fans that Tom Clements will actually have a playbook and system for the offense to use this fall? Or that they actually plan on showing up on in New York on draft day?

Moreover, I wonder what this plan includes? So far all we as fans have heard is that we are actively pursuing Drew Henson, a quarterback who hasn?t played organized football for what will have been four seasons and then only through approximately half-a-season with no "big games" and while prior to that only having taken a full season worth of snaps in high school in 1997. I suppose this is part of that plan.

As well, Mularkey is currently assessing whether or not Reuben Brown fits into the team's "plans" as a player. What on earth is to assess and consider? Without Reuben Brown, an issue-laden offensive line drops to a 2 on a 1-to-10 scale and leaves the current OL in absolute shambles and totally unviable!

Sure, freeing up $1.8 million brings some cash, but getting the level of play that Brown has brought to the table will surely cost that plus or minus a little. The Bills certainly are not going to realize that level of play from another player like Tucker who would be earning an average of just over a million dollars if he were to start there this year. Brown has not played to the level that he has been getting compensated, but he has certainly played to the level of a $1.8 million guard to be sure.

Releasing him would also remove what precious little chemistry and continuity remains at the interior offensive line and therefore the line in general. If releasing Brown were to free up $3 or 4 million then his release would be perfectly understandable. Following this upcoming season it may be worth revisiting pending his play at age 32.

Last season it took six games for the line to reestablish some chemistry after replacing a well-playing Marques Sullivan from the season prior with Mike Pucillo to start the season. When Pucillo got hurt, that chemistry took another hit and dropoff in talent with the introduction of Ross Tucker to fill in for Pucillo. That chemistry was never reestablished last season with Tucker in there.

Reuben Brown has taken his lumps for consistently making the Pro Bowl when his play to those who have seen him play has clearly not been at a Pro Bowl level. He is appropriately lambasted for his "one a game" holding and illegal procedure calls which seemingly occur at the most inopportune times. Yet, he is an anchor on the Bills? offensive line and perhaps whatever little glue there is that holds this unit together. Furthermore, he has openly expressed an interest in remaining in Buffalo and is an altogether stand-up good guy and a fan favorite! So what is the consideration?

He was chastised by the organization last season for stepping up and criticizing some of the most bumbling play-calling, coaching, and poor and heartless play in the history of the organization when exactly that should have occurred by some of the players at midseason, not in week 16. In the absence of any fortitude and leadership from Tom Donahoe, Greg Williams, or Kevin Gilbride on a team without a head or any gumption, Brown stepped up to fill the void and did what any person sick of sitting down for the folly of last season would have done, namely step up and be vocal about it. For this, his value and worth to the team is being evaluated? I am not sure that the Bills are deserving of Brown's winning attitude and concern to be competitive! I can certainly feel his pain in trying to pass block for Bledsoe.

Again, releasing Brown results in a cap gain of nearly $2 million which for a similar level of play would be required to sign a replacement. Again, what would be the cost of such an enormous disruption in chemistry and continuity be however? This is a concept that seems to elude Tom Donahoe altogether. As well, releasing Brown would leave the team with Pucillo, Teague, Tucker, Sullivan, and Sobieski as the interior linemen to choose from barring signings in free agency or a guard or center taken with the 13th pick overall in this draft. Sullivan was replaced by Pucillo last season, Sobieski has never started a game in the NFL and was a backup at Iowa, and Tucker, Teague, and Pucillo all have significant issues regarding their play and none have demonstrated that they can play as well as Brown has played.

Salary cap aside, if Reuben Brown does not "fit into the plans of the Bills", then I am quite curious as to what type of linemen the Bills are seeking and more specifially, exactly what those "plans" entail!

John Guy, the Bills? Director of Pro Personnel indicates that "Our plan in free agency comes from Tom Donahoe?" Boy Howdy! Is this supposed to excite anyone? We are talking about the same Tom Donahoe who has almost completely ignored the plight of the lines entirely last offseason in spite of glaring questions and issues there. We are talking about the same Tom Donahoe who smugly insists that he and incoming coach Mularkey along with accompanying staff can do what Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick could not do, namely "revive Drew Bledsoe", aren?t we? We are talking about the same Tom Donahoe who cut of Coy Wire's development as a 4th round draft pick by paying Milloy nearly ten times as much with only marginally improved results? If anyone wants to know why the line is in such dire disarray at present all they have to do is to look at the "plan" from last offseason.

And we are talking about the same Tom Donahoe who is now considering expending even greater resources on a quarterback who if lucky will amount to anything and without question and barring a minor miracle would not help this club until at least 2006? The same Donahoe who will presumably go to any length to make sure his personal choice at quarterback succeeds whether that is in the best interests of the team overall or not? Somehow I am not getting all jittery with anticipation here. The word "disaster" comes to mind however.

Correcting the poor play of the Bills is not an exercise that only a handful of general managers and high level NFL officials can accomplish. It is largely a very simple exercise in common sense, logic, and reason. If the failures of the past few seasons do not emphasize that then nothing will. Find those aspects of the team that were the weak links and correct them. Part of the "plan" apparently includes completely ignoring that and instead insisting that the single biggest player issue on the team really was not as bad as all that. One down! Next!

A quarterback to "fill in behind Bledsoe." Well, while that point should be now, yet while it clearly won't be, so why not sign a QB who likely won?t be ready for at least two seasons and one who will consume precious and scarce resources away from players who can more appropriately make an immediate impact! Next!

The offensive line is in a shambles. I thought last season reflected that. I will have to review some of my game tapes apparently to see whether or not I taped the right games and whether or not the players I was watching actually had Bills uniforms on. Oh well, in any case, let's release the single best player on an already problematic offensive line! The only player who had the stones and fortitude to stand up and see the "emperor with no clothes on!" Another marvelous idea I suppose. Next!

By all means, given all of that, and given the as-of-yet totally unmentioned vacuum at left defensive end and depth for aging interior defensive linemen, let's draft a wide receiver or tight end in round one. Here's a better idea, how about a running back. Next!

The Bills have a plan. The big question is whether or not they have common sense, reason, and can apply some logic to their current situation. The Bills currently have the talent on the roster to achieve success as a team this upcoming season at every single position except at quarterback, left defensive end, and interior offensive line. Other issues exist regarding aging players, but for this season, and barring injuries, the talent is there at all other positions to at least make the playoffs as a wild card.

It really is that simple. Fix the lines and find a quarterback other than Drew Bledsoe, and this team is a success this season in one way or another. Ignore those things while addressing other positions all around a player who is incapable of the required play regardless, and this team is toying with a similar or even worse season than that of last season. The 4-12 Raiders also had a plan last season prior to finishing 7 games below where they had finished the season prior. What matters is what this "plan" produces, not the fact that one exists.

E-mail: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net

Discuss this on "Thursday Night Bills" live on Thursday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. at 877-913-9739. The program can be heard at http://broadcastmonsters.com/BillsReport/billsreport.asx.



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