Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ixnay's Irstfay Aftdray

So this weekend saw the Buffalo Bills run their first Draft of the Buddy Nix era. Buddy Nix is the new GM that the Bills hired earlier in the offseason after an extensive search (a day or two) in which the Bills interviewed many (well, one) candidate(s) for the job. Now, in truth, Nix does bring a nice-looking resume to the job, as he's been in football virtually all of his adult life, he was with the Bills' organization as a scout during the 90s (when the Bills didn't suck), went to San Diego for most of this decade (when the Chargers went from usually sucking to being a really good team that probably should have been to at least one of the last few Super Bowls). Last year, Nix was with the team in an advisory role, and the 2009 Draft was actually one of the better ones (and it could become even better, if top pick Aaron Maybin blossoms after a really forgettable rookie season).

So, how did they do this year? Well, parts of it were nice, other parts were head-scratching. Most folks were agreed that the major areas of need this year were quarterback and offensive tackle, and while both areas were addressed, they were addressed via late-round picks after the Bills allowed a number of top prospects at each position to pass by them, in some cases, several times. Two of the top quarterback prospects, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, actually dropped to the fourth round, and the Bills had two shots at drafting each. Another top OT prospect, Bryan Bulaga, was available for the Bills in the first round, but they picked a running back.

That was a pretty head-scratching move. Poor play by a revolving door of offensive tackles was a major reason the Bills stunk the place out last season on offense, and a very good player was available for them, but they instead chose a player at a position they didn't need. By all accounts CJ Spiller, the running back they took, is a very good prospect indeed, and may even give the Bills some star power that they've lacked for years (last season's flirtation with Terrell Owens notwithstanding), but it still left them in need of a tackle. They eventually took two tackles, in the fifth and seventh rounds, and maybe those players will grow into good NFL tackles, but for now, they're just prospects.

As for quarterback, there were rumors flying all last week that the Bills were working on trades that would allow them to get a second pick in the first round and thus go after Tim Tebow. Now, I didn't want Tebow at all; for one thing, everyone agrees that his throwing motion is going to require a lot of work before he'll be an NFL-ready quarterback, and the Bills may not have that kind of time. For another, Tebow to put this...well, he's a particularly in-your-face, obnoxious kind of evangelical, and he did a commercial for James Dobson's organization for last year's Super Bowl. Tebow stood up to be counted with an openly homophobic organization, and I didn't want him on that basis alone. But anyway, the Bills didn't get any trade done (in fact, they insisted afterwards that there was never any trade in the works at all), and Tebow was picked by the Denver Broncos. The Bills eventually took a quarterback, Levi Brown, in the seventh round. Nobody at all sees him as a potential Quarterback of the Future for the Bills; he might develop into a serviceable NFL backup.

So the quarterback situation in Buffalo remains almost exactly what it was last year: Trent Edwards, a guy who was once promising but who was completely screwed up by the previous coaching staff; Ryan Fitzpatrick, a guy who will never be anything more than a backup; Brian Brohm, a guy of whom no one has any idea what to think; and Brown, a seventh-round rookie. Ouch. So why are the Bills content to move forward with this quarterback staff?

As I see it, there are two possible thought processes going on in the Bills' brain trust, and those thought processes aren't mutually exclusive, either. First, they may think that Trent Edwards can be salvaged. He's only entering his fourth year in the league, and he showed a lot of promise in his first season and a chunk of his second, before the last coaching staff pretty much started undermining his confidence, installing incredibly vanilla offensive schemes, and playing havoc with an offensive line that was already not very good to begin with. Edwards's football head is totally screwed up right now, but maybe the new coaches (led by head man Chan Gailey) figure they can put Edwards's pieces back together again and discover the potential that everyone thought was there to begin with.

On the other hand, Buddy Nix and the Bills' scouting department may have simply not been terribly impressed with this year's crop of quarterback prospects and elected to focus instead on building elsewhere, under the assumption that if Edwards doesn't emerge in 2010, the Bills can pick a new quarterback in the 2011 class (which I've read should be a better, and deeper, quarterback class anyway). The upside there will be that if the new offensive linemen -- the two guards taken last year and the two tackles taken this year -- come together to form a good line, and if the Spiller develops nicely into a fine offensive weapon, and if the Bills finally put together a decent receiving corps (they drafted a promising receiver this year in the fourth round), maybe a rookie quarterback stepping in next year won't be stepping into nearly as iffy a situation as a rookie would this year.

I think that may be the scenario after all: build the best team we can through the draft, and see if Edwards can play with that team. Otherwise, next year, put an even better team around our new rookie and see what happens. We'll see.

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