So, the Bills are getting ready to set a season ticket sales record, they have a new coach and a boatload of new few agents. The NFL network is proclaiming that “nobody has more talent than the Buffalo Bills” and the coach rode into town driving a Molly Hatchet sized pick-up with a Bills logo streaking down the side. What does it all mean?
For me it translates into a couple truths. First, it lays to rest the whole “lets move the Buffalo Bills to some shithole like LA or Toronto. Give the fans of Western New York something to legitimately get excited about and they will swarm like locus in a cornfield. Second, we have an owner who is really… REALLY serious about winning. Pegula has quickly established that the days of mediocrity will not be stood for.
Ok, Ok but what does this all really look like? Even with all the off season moves we still don’t have a franchise quarterback. No matter how much talent the Bills stockpile they still have journeyman Matt Cassel (in all likelihood) calling the signals in 2015. There is no way we can go deep into the playoffs with this guy at QB. Right? Well, most of the time that is true. Except… wait for it… in 2002. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers steamrolled to Super Bowl 37 and destroyed the Raiders who had the league MVP Rich Gannon as their QB.
The Bucs? They won the Super Bowl with Brad Johnson. Yep, journeyman Brad Johnson. Castoff from the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings. Mixed in their somewhere was a stint in the World League of Europe before landing with zero fanfare in Tampa. He did however lead them to a Super Bowl victory. He passed for a reasonable 3000 yards and 22 TDs. They had a pretty good running game and some nice receivers. Johnson started 13 games in 02 and his back-up was none other than former Buffalo Bill train-wreck Rob Johnson. This is not exactly Kelly-Reich or Greise-Morrall we’re talking about here. But, even with Robo-sack Johnson and Shaun King starting three games the Bucs made the playoffs and ran it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Looking at the ’15 Bills (and it being April and my imagination running wild) I see some striking similarities between our team that will take the field and the 2002 edition of the Tampa Bay Bucs that won the Super Bowl. Does anybody think that Cassel can’t toss 22 TDs next year? I think he can. He’s got Harvin, Watkins, Clay and Woods. Brad Johnson had Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell. Mike Alsott was their leading rusher. Their 3rd receiver? Joe Jurevicius. Their TE? Ken Dilger. This folks was not an offense that put the fear into anyone. I’ll take Robert Woods over Joe J. I’ll certainly take Sammy Watkins over Johnson or McCardell. I’ll take McCoy over Alstott!! The O-Line? Their best lineman was Romen Oden. If G Richie Incognito is anything but a shell of himself we already have a better offensive line than the ’02 Bucs.
Ah, but the Bucs didn’t win the Super Bowl because of their half-assed offense. They won with DEFENSE! An all-time great defense. One that sports two hall of famers in Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp and possibly two more in John Lynch and Ronde Barber. 4 great defensive players. They rounded this crew out with Simeon Rice at DE. But, folks this was also a defense that had some average sprinkled in among this greatness. They had Greg Spires on their line and Brian Kelly at CB and started Dwight Smith at LB. Who? Exactly! On paper we have a better defense than the ’02 Bucs. Yes, I know you don’t win games on paper. But here in April with nothing to do, who would you take? Jerry Hughes or Greg Spires? The Bucs had two pro-bowlers on their d-line and we arguably have four! Simeon Rice was a nice player but he’s no Mario Williams. Warren Sapp is indeed an all-time great but Marcell Dareus is getting close… very, very close. Then add Kyle Williams into the mix and I’ll take that over the Bucs in 02.
We don’t have Lynch is our defensive backfield but Gilmore is coming on and Aaron Williams is a star in the making. Our defensive backfield will be fine… just fine.
Then there is coaching. The ’02 Bucs were led by the ego-maniacal Jon Gruden who left the Raiders in controversy and made bold pronouncements about what the Bucs were going to do… and then did it. The Bucs of 02 had a history of near misses and heartbreaks. The Bills of ’15 have the equally ego-maniacal (and a hellva a lot more likable) Rex Ryan who has rode into town in that bad-ass truck telling us that the Bills are going to be bullies, will run the ball 50 times and are not backing down from anybody and I for one believe him.
Listen I know it’s only April but this winter has been long, dreary and is not even over yet. The Sabres suck and will suck just enough not to get the first pick so, what is a Buffalo fan supposed to do when it is snowing in April? That’s right, you dream. So I am dreaming of a 2015 in Buffalo that looks a lot like a season in 2002 way down in Tampa.
If it turns out that way it would make suffering through this past winter well worth it!