The mail came in a torrent in the aftermath of the Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby trades. The prevailing reaction from Buffalo fans was a conflicted unease over whether they should maintain hope for this season.
When you think about it, that could have been the question in August for the last 18 years. Should people invest their emotions into another Bills season when mounting evidence screams otherwise, telling them hope is futile? I’ll have to ask Rex Carr next time I’m out at the bar.
This week’s Mailbag. I made the first three an entry:
Denny Nells asks: Jerry, should we be hopeful or are the Bills going to mail it in this year and hope for the next? Is the the same ole B.S.?
Rick McGuire asks: Brandon Beane has denied that the Bills are tanking this season. However, would you agree that they have at least conceded a losing season even though playing to win, thus the reason for the trades?
Richard Hilbrecht asks: With No. 1 LT (Glenn) injured, No. 1 corner (Darby) and WR (Watkins) both traded, am I supposed to think we have any chance at a wild card?
Sully: It seems to me the players are having some of the same doubts. Coach Sean McDermott sensed the guys feeling sorry for themselves last Monday and lit into them. They responded with a spirited, contentious practice. But there still have to be lingering doubts about management’s intentions. They certainly played like an incompetent, deflated team on Thursday night.
Beane was animated in his presser on the day of the trades, insisting that he would never throw in the towel. The guy is a competitor. I found that out playing golf with him. He feels this team can make a playoff run. He said he wouldn’t have traded for Anquan Boldin if he was tanking, a fair point.
Still, it’s clear that Beane is looking down the road. He has a long-term vision, same as the Sabres’ new GM, Jason Botterill. In that sense, it’s not “the same ole B.S.” There’s an actual plan. It might be hard for fans to accept, but it’s better than making rash moves to appease the masses.
They’re not a real playoff contender. I felt they were a five-win team before the trades. Yes, the Glenn foot injury and the departures of Watkins and Darby make things even tougher. The roster is thin and will be further compromised by the injuries that are inevitable in a season.
Be realistic about it. Don’t invest a lot of hope in this year’s team. Leave room to be surprised. Enjoy the journey and evaluate the new regime with a critical eye. Hope that Beane and McDermott are patient and competent enough to lead a rebuilding plan and get it right for once.
@ecseps asks: Tyrod rips it up this year and the Bills make the playoffs, do they still go into the ’18 draft looking for a QB?
Sully: Yeah, and there’s a chance Trump could transform himself into a statesman with the combined qualities of Churchill, Lincoln and FDR. If Taylor plays the way he did in Philly, there’s a greater possibility that the Bills start 0-4 and turn to Nathan Peterman.
The team is rebuilding. As I’ve said for two years, Taylor isn’t the answer. He’s a borderline NFL starter and the Bills are almost surely going to draft a quarterback in the first round next season. He’s gone next year.
I’ve had other versions of this question. Joey Zanghi proposes a dilemma where Tyrod leads them to the playoffs and the Chiefs wind up with a top five pick. Would they still take a quarterback in the first round? Anything is possible, but it’s an extremely unlikely scenario.
John Benkovich asks: How do you not sign Colin Kaepernick? At the most important position on the field we have unquestionably the worst group of QBs.
Sully: It’s a fair question. Kaepernick is as good as Tyrod. As Mark Gaughan said the other day, it’s a travesty that he doesn’t have a job in the NFL right now. But the Bills aren’t signing him. They’re committed to Taylor in the short term and will turn to Peterman if he flops.
And let’s face it. Beane and McDermott are running a team for the first time. They have enough to worry about without dealing with the sideshow that would accompany having Kaepernick on the roster.
Herb Mosher asks: I like this kid Peterman and see some real potential. How long have the Bills got him locked up in his rookie contract?
Sully: Peterman, a fifth-round pick, signed a standard rookie deal. He got four years, $2.64 million with a $240,000 signing bonus. He’s on the books for $465,000 this season and it jumps $90,000 in each succeeding season.
Let’s not go overboard. He’s a rookie playing against backups in the preseason. Peterman isn’t ready to play against NFL starters in a real game.
Mark Simoncelli asks: Who would win the AFC East? This Bills team with Kelly, the Dolphins current team with Marino, or the Patriots?
Sully: That’s easy. The Patriots. Quarterback matters, but Tom Brady is the best of all time and still playing at a high level. New England has a clearly superior roster overall, and the best coaching staff in the NFL.
@Dad716 asks: Who’s the greatest Buffalo athlete? There was some debate recently. Many thought Hasek and some other pros. @JennSuhr should be in debate.
Sully: It depends on whether you’re talking about athletes who were born here or who played here professionally. Last year, the News did a series on the best athletes ever from Buffalo. Warren Spahn, the winningest lefty in baseball history, was No. 1 in the men. Suhr, who has won 15 U.S. titles and Olympic gold and silver in the pole vault, was an easy choice among women.
If you include athletes who played here, Hasek definitely belongs in the discussion. I think he’s the best Sabre ever. Then it’s a question of the best Buffalo Bill. Many would take O.J. Simpson. Others favor Jim Kelly or Bruce Smith. I’m partial to Thurman Thomas. Or how about indoor lacrosse legend John Tavares?
Sam Ruggiero asks: Is it too early to expect a Houston Astros/ LA Dodgers World Series?
Sully: They are atop their respective leagues. It’s hard to go against the Dodgers, who are on pace for 116 wins, equaling the record of the 2001 Mariners and 1906 Cubs. But postseason baseball is unpredictable. Remember, the ’01 Mariners didn’t reach the World Series.
The Dodgers have flamed out in recent playoffs, but I like them if Clayton Kershaw is healthy. He’s been out with a back injury, but should be back soon. Houston has been bad since the break and didn’t add a pitcher at the deadline. Their rotation has been a mess, but Dallas Keuchel is back and Lance McCullers, who has been out with back issues, should return in September.
Considering the volatile nature of October baseball, I’d say the odds are against both of them getting to the Series.