It’s a conflicted day in Buffalo sports.
I feel both terrible and good for long-suffering Bills Nation.
In the big picture, Friday’s trade of Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby is good news for die-hard fans. As The News’ Jerry Sullivan has said over and over the past decade (and no doubt will say again), the Bills’ management finally has stopped “middling it.”
Unlike so many of their predecessors, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane aren’t trying to build for the future with their right hand and see if they can sneak into the playoffs with their left.
McDermott and Beane never are going to have more clout and a longer leash than they have now in Year One (at least until some day in the rose-colored future when they’ve won a bunch of playoff games.)
Stockpiling draft picks makes perfect sense. Bills fans should be thrilled that the new regime has two No. 1s, two No. 2s and two No. 3s in next year’s draft.
Now is the most ideal time – maybe the only ideal time – to deal Watkins and still get pretty good return. Watkins might become an All-Pro for the Los Angeles Rams. But given his health history and the worrisome nature of foot injuries, I have no problem with the Bills deciding they do not want to fill Terry Pegula’s yacht with money and tie it to Watkins’ dock next spring.
Ronald Darby? You’ve seen it all before. New regime comes in, and a slew of guys don’t fit the system. Darby is a good man-cover corner (despite his iffy results last season). McDermott’s defense values zone corners, which is why Carolina let Josh Norman walk after 2015. Reggie Ragland, a 3-4 Rex Ryan linebacker, will be another victim of the regime change. Changing coaches causes short-term suffering. There’s almost no way around it.
So why feel bad? A lot of loyal fans are shelling out $100 a ticket and up. Can we have a moment of silence for them? Chalk up another season in which they’re going to games in order to catch glimpses that make them feel good about how the team is going to look two years down the road. That’s not McDermott and Beane’s problem. But it’s not something to just dismiss. It stinks.
Another person I feel bad for: Kyle Williams. He came back for another year at age 34 and surely realizes the new regime is playing for the future, if there was any doubt. Williams is a pro and will give his all. But one of McDermott’s challenges as a new coach now will be getting all the veterans excited and believing, even if the losses start to pile up.
Obviously, the new regime has seen enough of Tyrod Taylor on video to know he’s not the long-term answer. Newly acquired Jordan Matthews is a good possession receiver and a very high-character guy. Love him as a locker-room presence. Philadelphia deemed him expendable because of the emergence of slot receiver Nelson Agholor, who was going to eat into his snaps, at the least. Obviously, if the Bills had a fair amount of belief in Taylor, they would have kept Watkins around to give the QB more chance to show what he could do with an elite receiver. Matthews is not elite.
Will all of this planning for the future land a rookie franchise quarterback to succeed Taylor next season? Buckle your seatbelts and get ready for eight months of gnashing of teeth over that question.
The quarterback situation could play out a lot of different ways in next year’s draft, and no one knows how it’s going to turn out.
The “McBeane duo” deserve credit for giving themselves a ton of options and flexibility for the 2018 Draft. They will have a great chance to get one of the top three QBs in what everyone thinks and hopes will be a good class. It includes Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and maybe more.
Will there be four top-10 caliber QBs in the draft? Or will a few of them drop off upon closer NFL inspection, as happens sometimes?
There’s a good chance there will be three QB-desperate teams worse than the Bills this season – the Jets, the Browns and the 49ers. I think the Bills are better than those three teams, even without Watkins. I still believe McDermott is going to get a good amount more out of the defense than Ryan got last year.
So much can happen, it’s hard to worry about it during the season. Redskins QB Kurt Cousins could play out his contract and decide to reunite with new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. That likely would be good for the Bills, one less team ahead of them in the QB hunt. Darnold, a red-shirt sophomore, could decide he hates the idea of going to the Jets and could stay in school another year (unlikely, but something for obsessive fans to worry about).
There’s still 20 weeks to the end of the NFL regular season. It pains me to think our attention might increasingly be on the weekly stock market rising and falling of the college QB crop.