Classic Bledsoe

Following this week's game review, my e-mailbox has been slammed with Humpty Dumpty apologists insisting that my rating of Humpty in this last game was not fair. The basis for the writing of this piece has nothing to do with the overall symptom of the response to my game grades, but rather, to the underlying premises and assumptions that those challenging that grade are operating under.

Fans and media alike this week seem to have given Humpty many kudos for this past game. My obvious first question is ‘why?' What did Humpty do personally, either directly or indirectly, that a) led to points at all, and b) few other QBs many backups included could not have done, generally speaking? So let's investigate my analysis and thereby the challenges issued in retort to find out exactly whether perhaps my assessment was off or whether it was right on with few of those challenging it having considered my arguments as stated in the game piece.

First of all, the reprint of the post-game piece regarding Humpty read as such:

QB: C This is about the best that the Bills can hope for from Humpty. Having received numerous phone calls and e-mails following this game alerting me to what a great game Humpty Dumpty had. It can only be said that many Bills fans have truly forgotten what it means to have a QB that actually contributes and provides something positive to the offensive fabric of the game. The Bills clearly do not have one. Humpty avoided mistakes and was relatively good at riding himself of the football. He also led the team on only two drives originating beyond the Jets' 24-yard line and that put up points.

I simply cannot understand the support for Humpty even following this game. It was an average game by any NFL standard from top to bottom, if even that, with only a handful of throws worthy of note. For Humpty it may have been above average, but this merely emphasizes the low standard of production that Bills fans have come to accept. Humpty had as many poor and over throws as he did good ones. Had the team had any one of 20 other QBs in the league they likely would have won by 20 given the "flatness" of the Jets.

Humpty did have a beautiful 17-yard run on the only long sustained touchdown drive of the game and contributing to it on a key 3rd-and-4. This was far from a stellar game for him however and one where he "filled in" nicely but did not add much to the offense at all. It will be refreshing to finally have a QB that can bring a reasonable baseline of normalcy to the team for measuring performance, whenever that happens to be. At this point in time it would still be very interesting to see what Matthews has.

There is nothing factually incorrect about that statement thereby asking what the beef is all about. As the assessment for this game states above, no mention is made of any "wrong doing" or errors, rather that Humpty simply did not contribute other than nominally in this game. So let's take a look at the support for or against that.

It first becomes necessary to ask what contributes to wins. Well, and understandably on Humpty led teams, yardage and all sorts of other meaningless stats have seemed to risen to the forefront with point production and overall and effective movement of the ball downfield in some sort of systematic and productive manner having usually taken a back seat to irrelevance.

As I see it however, and call me nuts, but it would seem that since it is points that win games, that drives generating points are where players would contribute to winning games. So let's take a look at scoring drives to understand the analysis undertaken, shall we.

There were four scoring drives in this game:

First, and in order, a 21-yard touchdown drive set up by a fumble recovery in the first quarter. Second, a 72-yard drive for a field goal in the 2nd quarter. Third, a 77-yard touchdown drive in the 3rd quarter. Fourth, a 24-yard drive for a field goal set up already in FG territory on an interception.

There were nine other drives in this game, none with any more than 35 yards generated by the offense and only two with over 30 yards generated. The average gain on the other nine drives was 21 yards. Six of those drives stalled within Bills territory and the other three ended at the Jets' 42, 40, and 37 yard lines with only one of those resulting in a significant delta in field position following the drive and after a punt.

On the first scoring drive, the defense set it up at the Jets' 21-yard line and Willis McGahee ran it in on four rushing attempts for 1, 2, 6, and 12 (TD) yards. Humpty's only contribution was taking the snap and handing it to McGahee. It stands to reason then that Humpty's actual contribution to gaining yardage and putting the ball in the end zone was negligible with any stiff QB being able to do the same.

Actual contribution by Humpty: None

On the second drive, Humpty was 6-of-8 for 62 yards not including the throw-down to stop the clock. He provided the majority of yardage on that drive but failed to be able to convert a first down pass from the Jet 2-yard line for a TD. On a side note, also pertaining to my game grades, Willis McGahee was also unable to convert for a TD on a 2nd-and-goal run from the 2 not even gaining a single yard. The bottom line is that drive two yielded only a field goal.

Actual contribution by Humpty: Much to 3 points.

On the third drive, Humpty's biggest contribution to winning on the day by a long shot, I fully annotated the key points in my game grades analysis.

Actual contribution: Significant although McGahee ran for three of four first downs on the drive on three carries for 30 yards as well. A 17-yard run on 3rd-and-4 for one of the four first downs on the drive along with a very nicely placed toss to Lee Evans, whom I also gave credit to for a great game and best of his young career, for a touchdown.

On the fourth drive, the Bills received the ball courtesy of the defense already within field goal range and netted a field goal after gaining 12 yards on four carries exclusively by McGahee and apart from any involvement by Humpty at all.

Actual contribution: None.

So in review, it is plain that the four drives involving the offense, other than the safety scored, Willis McGahee was the sole provider of 100% of the yardage and performance on two drives unless of course all of a sudden handoffs are enormous accolades, which given Humpty's presence I would not be surprised if it became the end-all-to-be-all in indicators this season in Buffalo.

But other than in two single scoring drives for ten offensive points, Humpty did not contribute a thing to further points or yardage resulting in any significant outcome otherwise. So why is it that that effort constitutes anything beyond an average grade! The worst quarterbacks in the league will provide that on a regular or semi-regular basis.

This leaves two drives for which Humpty shared in the effort to put points on the board. Given that he had numerous poor throws, why should the participation and the sum total of 10 offensive points as a QB in the NFL be considered anything short of average, which is the finding of the analysis of the game grades for this game for the Humpty at the QB spot.

In fact, many of the poor throws were simply throw-aways due to pressure on Humpty which while good, does not fall into the "production" category, rather the "avoidance of disaster" category. If that "avoidance of disaster" somehow translates into production subsequently, then great. But that was not the case on Sunday. The fact that Humpty was on the run/scramble all that much supports the OL grade in my piece as well and challenges some of the notions that the line played much above average on Sunday as well. For either Humpty's poor throws were of his own poor play or made in avoidance of sacks and dicey throws as a result of poor line play or some combination of the two. Fans can choose, but to draw the conclusion that the line played well as did Humpty, both, is illogical.

As well, the Bills should consider themselves fortunate that the defense and special teams has been so instrumental in setting up Bills' touchdowns this season. The Bills have scored 12 offensive TDs. Of those, six have been set up in the opponents' half of the field, three times within the opponent's red zone, five times inside the opponents' 30-yard line, and three times on the opponent's side of the Bills own 38-yard line. The Bills have had the fortunes of putting up the points that they have with only two sustained scoring drives originating within their own 30-yard line. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the offense or any part of it. One of those two drives was really two separate drives patched together by Moorman's 39-yard run on a broken down and lucky punt breakdown. The drive was a one-play 41-yard drive beginning at the opponent's 41-yard line otherwise.

I stand by my analysis! Participation in putting up 10 offensive points for a QB in this league is nothing better than an average performance. If that's all we get out of Humpty in every game down the road, then this team is in a world heap of trouble each week.

On a related note, I received an e-mail regarding the play of Willis McGahee that I thought I would include with this piece:

E-mail/Question:

Mark:

Stumbled upon your column a few weeks ago. Am a lifelong (30-plus years) Bills fan and enjoy your insights. For the most part I agree with you, however, I really think you're selling McGahee short. To compare his ypc numbers with those of other backs is unjust, based on the Bills' line as well as Bledsoe's abilities. Also, to compare him to Antoine Smith is a stretch. Yeah, Smith looked pretty decent for about a year and a half, but he never showed near the moves that McGahee already has. I think the only question surrounding McGahee now is his health.

You still seem to hold out hope for Henry - but I was very disappointed in his play this year, when he was given every chance to keep the starting job. He didn't seem to be breaking tackles like he used to. Was this part of an effort to hang onto the ball better that killed his running style? Was he afraid of losing his job because of his fumbling problem - an area where McGahee seems to have a clear advantage. I just don't get it. For the most part Henry has stunk this year - when you would think the pressure of McGahee would have driven him to his best season ever.

Cheers.

Ralph

Response:

Hey Ralph,

Thanks for the note!!!

I guess I'm not quite clear on what "moves" McGahee has shown. Flutie showed a lot of moves too, but a four-yard gain is a four-yard gain whether it take you 60 seconds and running sideline to sideline twice or whether it's a run UTM by the RB.

What have all these "moves" accomplished? He has a long run of 31 on the season and had a long run of only 15 yesterday. Both very Henry like. So I don't care "how it looked", but what the impact/result was. He also had 40%, as I pointed out, plays go for nothing or worse.

Could it be that McGahee has an advantage because he's played two of the easiest run Ds in the league an then a Jets team on a post-MNF letdown and on a team that has gelled somewhat with entirely new coaching on the season?

I agree that the line is an issue. But please, again, read what I said, not what I didn't say. I made no indictment of McGahee as a bust. I merely said that the results of his performances are nothing grand. To illustrate my point, consider how many other RBs in the league would have achieved 132 yards on nearly 40 carries for the Bills on Sunday?

If we go by yard-per-carry averages this past Sunday, seems to me that the answer is any RB that averaged over 3.6 ypc on Sunday. That would be at least 20 other RBs this week.

Let's see how he does vs. some real teams and teams not vs. poor ones or on MNF letdowns before annointing him the next great NFL running back and throwing Travis Henry out with the bathwater. If at the end of the season McGahee still stands healthy and can prove that he can put up "greater-than-Henry-like" performances against some good teams and without a mitigating circumstance, then I may be ready to suggest that he's da man going forward. But until that time, I simply think that most Bills fans and even media seem to have forgotten that Travis Henry has carried this team now for two seasons accomplishing at least what McGahee has in these past few games, twice vs. pathetic rushing defenses only vs. much better teams.

It is sad to be sure!

Willis McGahee reminds me very much of an Eddie George. Both had similar final seasons in college, both are build about the same, and both have very similar styles and skills. Yet, Eddie George has only had a better season than either of Henry's last two once! George never met his expectations, which are quite similar to those for McGahee. Food for thought.

I think many, many people are jumping the gun on McGahee. But it would appear that the proverbial boot out the door is halfway up Henry's colon, so it probably makes no difference at this point. I just hope that whatever decisions are made in the future are not made on the merits of pending emotions but rather sense, logic, and reason! Somehow I see Henry posting an 1,800 yard/16 TD season elsewhere as he enters his prime while we get stuck with an "Eddie George" who has had only had a single season of 1,400 yards or more, has had only two double-digit TD seasons, only two seasons with an average-per-carry of over 4.0 at 4.1 twice, and a RB with a career 3.7 yards-per-carry and less than superlative performance overall. To rephrase, Eddie George has only had one season better than either of Henry's last two! Keep in mind that Henry played on a broken leg through seven games last season as well.

It appears that this team has gotten so bad that in the wake of a couple of wins vs. very, very bad teams and one team coming off a MNF game where most teams regardless of how good they are struggle and lose the following week, that they are willing to begin discarding sound judgment and logic and begin grasping at straws in the interests of the simple hope that they'll pull out a gem.

Again, McGahee should start throughout the remainder of the season to be sure. There is absolutely no reason to start Henry at this point for numerous reasons. But I would caution Bills fans to not ignore the bone in their mouth and bark at the dog in the reflection in the water below that has a "bigger" bone. It is unfair to compare Henry's play at the onset of this season with entirely new coaches, a new system, better defenses and more favorable circumstances, with that of McGahee under far more favorable circumstances later on in the same season.

We know what Henry provides. He provided it last season and the season prior. He had 1,356 yards on 4.1 per carry on pace for 1,500 last season, with 10 TDs and a long of 64. In 2002, despite under use, he had 1,438 yards, which easily could have been 1,800 had the team not been Bledsoe-happy with Henry getting 15 or fewer carries in six games. He had 13 TDs then, 4.4 per carry, and a long of 34.

Thus far Willis McGahee has not proven that he can put that up! It is that simple. Will he? Who knows. You don't, I don't. But we'll find out over the last 8 games, won't we. People are focusing far too much on "how" McGahee runs as opposed to the simple result. It was much like Flutie. An electrifying run-around-the-field and scramble for 6 yards in grand fashion is no different results-wise than a simple 6-yard run or pass. None. Yet, in the minds of many, one outweighs the other. It is points on the board and contributions to getting those, not simple yardage accruals that matter in this game! Bledsoe's influence there seems to taint every team's fans for those teams that he's played for.

We'll see what McGahee brings to the table next week and then vs. the Rams, who do not boast a good rushing defense, and then the Hawks on the road. But please, let's wait until the end of the season before tossing the baby out with the bathwater and discarding the only viable part of our offense over the last couple of seasons, and oh, just by-the-way, without much support from the passing game as well. But if you want to compare Henry to McGahee, please, compare apples-to-apples and not apples-to-oranges! It would be unfair to compare Henry at the onset of the season with McGahee now half a season in and vs. far lesser opponents defensively. You wouldn't consider it fair for us to start Henry against Miami and Willis against New England and then draw a comparison. Yet, that's exactly what is occurring now.

Cordially,

Mark

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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