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Circling the Wagons of Hope and Optimism.
Does anyone circle the wagons like the Buffalo Bills? Does anyone actually know what this means? This phrase really applied to those great early 90’s Bills teams, which were full of veteran leaders on both sides of the ball. ESPN’s Chris Berman used the phrase to refer to any big game in which the division lead was being threatened (remember those Bills vs Dolphins games?). Even if the Bills had gone through a poor stretch of play, they pulled it together when it mattered most, better than any team in the league at the time.
Fast forward to the time when you realize that your lives didn’t turn out quite the way you expected, and most of you have pulled for a few different NFL teams at one time or another. Except for those pesky Bills fans. Any fan of the Buffalo Bills that’s around currently (in the real world, NOT the blogosphere) has seen the good and bad and is now tempted by the fruit of seeds being sewn by Doug Marrone (you may need to process the previous statement). And we’ve heard it all before about previously drafted QB’s by the Bills organization, but rarely with the full story and context to today.
So let’s not belabor the history lesson of Bills QB’s, but it’s easy to see the 2013 Bills isn’t “just another rebuild.” So yes you’ve got your JP Losman’s and your Trent Edwards, but the ore accurate measurement should extend back to Rob Johnson. Buffalo gave up a 1st and a 4thround draft pick to get Rob Johnson to start the 98 NFL season. New Coach Wade Phillips declared it a new era. Game 1 Johnson was concussed. Game 5? Cracked ribs. Enter Doug Flutie, skip to 1999, re-enter Rob Johnson and the Music City Miracle and wave bye bye to Wade Phillips a year later along with the last Bills playoff appearance.
Fast forward to new head coach Mike Mularky and his second draft pick JP Losman in 2004. Picking WR Lee Evans with their 1st pick at 13thoverall, Coach Mularky sealed his fate by mortgaging his 04 and 05 drafts to move back in and grab JP. As for JP? Broken leg in his first training camp, couldn’t develop and was held over through a confusing time when Mularky was fired, new head coach Dick Jauron was hired, and 3rd round QB Trent Edwards was drafted. Edwards started when Losman was injured, Losman started when Edwards was injured, each playing just good enough to not lose the starting job.
Now, back to 2013 and why we haven’t “seen all this before” out of the Buffalo Bills. Owner and operator Ralph Wilson publicly hands over control of day to day operations. New GM Doug Whaley replaces what was left of the old school mentality in Buffalo. They can and are willing to sign talented free agents now. New head coach Doug Marrone is brought in on the merits of his rebuilding efforts, grabs a respected defensive coordinator from the New York Jets and then reaches over the top of several draft prospects to grab EJ Manuel with his first pick. Does this previous paragraph guarantee success? No. Does it guarantee the revitalized attention of fans? Yes.
Through EJ Manuel’s first 4 games, he’s been a Rookie of the Week finalist twice. Week three of the NFL season was especially rough for the young QB who faced an antagonistic Jets defense. We watched a slight rebound this past week as the young QB faced the defending Superbowl Champion Baltimore Ravens and did enough for his team to win. A mishandled touchdown toss to Robert Woods could have been the difference between an “ok” game and a “good” game for Manuel, but to borrow from our friends from New England, “a win is a win.”
So while lesser minds chop away at optimism with blunt reminders of the past, we should be able to sift through dirt to find out if that potential is still there. So far? Absolutely.
*Fun Fact (for free)- Losman was drafted by the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL in 2009 and helped lead them to the inaugural UFL Championship.
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