Times are changing in Buffalo. Once thought of as the laughing stock of the AFC East, and arguably of the entire NFL, this new look Bills team is ready to earn respect. Unfortunately, that laughing stock reputation did not come unearned. The Bills failed to reach the playoffs every season from 2000 through 2016, a 17 year draught. This gave the Bills the honor of the longest active playoff draught in all four major sports. The team cycled through a myriad of quarterbacks and coaches, and none were able to bring the Bills even into a wild card playoff round. I was born in 1997, and I long complained to my parents that the Bills were quite literally the worst team that I could have fallen in love with at a young age. But love is love, and often we cannot choose which team wins our heart over. For me, that team is, and always has been, the Buffalo Bills. And through all of those quarterbacks and coaches coming in and out, the question that stayed in the forefront of our minds remained “what is the problem?”
As we found out in 2017, the problem was the General Manager. During the playoff draught, the Bills cycled through 6 GMs. The last of whom was named Doug Whaley. Whaley acted as the teams GM from 2013 through 2016. His lack of success is depicted with accidental humor on Whaley’s Wikipedia page. It reads “his most notable achievements with Buffalo included trading up to draft receiver Sammy Watkins.” If your crowning achievement throughout 4 seasons is trading a litany of draft picks to draft a receiver who spent 3 injury filled seasons in Buffalo, it’s no surprise that the team did not sniff the playoffs. Whaley was relieved of his duties in 2017, and in came Brandon Beane. Beane came in and immediately dished many of the teams overpaid divas, including Whaley’s beloved Watkins and defensive tackle, Marcell Dareus. These moves built a stronger locker room by removing negative energy, while also stockpiling draft picks for the future. The team finished with a 9-7 record and made the playoffs on one of the most exhilarating moments in Buffalo over the last two decades. Ask anyone in the city how they feel about Andy Dalton or Tyler Boyd and you’re guaranteed a pleasant conversation.
Fans of teams from all around the NFL reached out to congratulate me on finally seeing a playoff game. I traveled 1,047 miles to EverBank Field to watch the Bills score 3 points and be promptly eliminated. The 2017 Bills were viewed as a feel good story. A team who used a miracle to sneak into the playoffs and probably wouldn’t be back for another 17 years. But Brandon Beane had other ideas. The draft picks that he acquired throughout the 2017 season were rolled into a pair of first round picks, that were used to draft (knock on wood) a franchise quarterback in Josh Allen, and a defensive anchor in now 21 year old pro bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. In 2019, the Bills won double digit games for the first time since Bill Clinton was the President of the United States. While the team suffered a heartbreaking playoff loss in Houston, Bills fans look forward to a future that gets brighter and brighter with every move that Brandon Beane makes.
The words heard around the city: “Tom Brady has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” Brady had been a source of misery for Buffalo for decades. He compiled a phenomenal 29-3 record against the Bills ranging from 2001 through 2019. From that 2001 debut vs Buffalo until now, the quarterback with the most wins in the Bills stadium is, you guessed it, Tom Brady. With him gone, it feels as though a dark cloud has been lifted from over the head of Western New York. Shortly before Brady departed, it was announced that the Bills had traded for Stefon Diggs. As Josh Allen continues to develop, and now has Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and talented young running back Devin Singletary to throw to, the Buffalo offense is looking as intimidating as it has in a long, long time. I would be remiss if I did not also give a boatload of credit to Bills coach Sean McDermott. McDermott debuted in 2017 as well, and has instilled a strong set of values in the team: hard work, brotherhood, and a sense of team chemistry that is appearing more and more to be unmatched throughout the NFL. All of these factors have led to the city of Buffalo being understandably excited for the 2020 NFL season. What now worries me most going into this season is not the Patriots, nor the Jets or Dolphins, but the coronavirus, and whether or not it will allow the season to carry on without obstacle.