Reader E-Mails

In selecting e-mails for inclusion in these Reader E-mail pieces I attempt to select e-mails that sum up e-mails from numerous readers and not simply one-sies. The two e-mails have been excerpted, broken down, and spread out for readability in addressing the issues one-at-a-time with original questions/comments in italics and responses in regular font.


Hey Andy,

A: I find the Humpty cracks comical to be quite honest with you. If you want to keep piling on, be my guest. As long as MM keeps sending him out there, that gives you more ammo.

M: I'm glad you see/appreciate the humor. Many do. As well, you nailed it, when the team and the way it is managed become more serious, then so will I. As well, the Humpty Dumpty thing is by no means an insult but rather an analogy or metaphor. We all know the nursery rhyme from childhood. It's all about "...all the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again." There's no disrespect towards the person of Bledsoe intended at all. In fact, it's really more of a poke at the coaching staff regarding their statements to have him playing like Montana and Esiason than it is at Humpty directly. As Bills fans we need to have a sense of humor these days. Many people take football and the Bills far too seriously if many of the e-mails that I receive are to serve as a guide. I won't elaborate because this is a family site if you know what I mean.

A: I'm not sure what the coaching staff/mgmt are expecting out of Humpty. He's not going to just magically revert back to the 1996 version of himself.

M: I guess that's part of my point Andy, even if he does, he was 2-7 vs. teams with 10+ wins during the '96/'97 seasons, his two best ever and far short of those produced by some of the truly top QBs. His playoff track record is horrible never having contributed to a single win there, only providing an additional hurdle for the other components of his team to have to overcome and a component for his teams to have dragged along in spite of historical revision. He has 6 TDs/12 INTs in playoff games with only one game w/o more TDs than INTs and a very unimpressive game for him at that. He's been overrated since the day he set foot in the league. That's what makes Wyche's comments so hysterical. They'll figure it out.

The question is what's it gonna cost us besides a tremendous cap hit now. We could have freed up $8M by releasing him. Not doing so was enough for me to see regarding Commander Tom's management failures. If you make mistakes, particularly as an NFL GM, you must be willing to admit the failures of those mistakes. Most of Commander Tom's moves have turned out less or even much less than expected, so that's an issue in itself. The "piling on" occurs with his inability and unwillingness to make the proper decisions in light of those failures. He has failed at that too largely. At this point just about every known commentator who watches football has admitted that Humpty is finished in this league, yet the team is still clinging to him. When you're in charge and the last to figure it out and do something about it, it makes a big statement.

A: Could Shane Matthews be any worse than Humpty right now? We might very well be 5-5 or 6-4 with Matthews.

M: We could have had Blake, Dilfer a couple of seasons ago, and any number of other viable QBs for cheap, vet min. I guess we'll never know with Matthews though. He's no big prize either. I've seen him down here in D.C. on the Skins. Not good. A little more mobile. Certainly couldn't have hurt however. It would have been worth a shot to free up $8 million and find out. It's water under the bridge however.

As to this week's game, check out my AFCE Report contribution. I've laid much out in that. .

You mentioned some key points which will clear up after you read that. It's unrealistic to expect the STs (or D) to constantly set up the O each week. It's nice when it happens, but it's only happened largely vs. poor teams this season.

As well, at some point, we'll have to count on Humpty. We didn't have to this week and it was b/c the D was able to take risks and ignore the secondary by pressuring a fairly easily rattled Bulger and Ram air game. We couldn't have taken those chances if we were behind. Humpty is awful when playing from behind this season; He has 5 TDs, 9 INTs, a rating around 60, and a completion percentage in the low 50s when playing from behind, and keep in mind, likely against many a prevent D. He's worthless then. He's only "adequate" otherwise.

A: Want to touch on McGahee real quick, too. Now, I know you're a Henry supporter and I can fully understand your loyalty to Travis. He's the established 'back. He's a proven Pro Bowler. He's a proven entity. And it must be killing him to sit on the bench and watching McGahee take his carries.

That being said, I think, in time, you are going to come to like Willis. He's got all the tools to become a great 'back in this league. Sure his yards per carry stink, but this kid is probably only running at about 90% right now.

And even with that, he's still put up 100+ yard rushing games in four of his five starts.

Admittedly, those were against teams that don't defend the run well, but I think in time, he'll get those 100+ yard games against the good defenses, too. I see no reason why he shouldn't.

The thing Willis offers us that Henry doesn't is that "home run" threat. When Willis is in the open field, more times than not he's taking it to the house. Henry, on the other hand, is more of a bruising type of back. When he breaks into the open field, he's caught from behind. He just doesn't have that breakaway speed.

As Willis gets healthier and healthier, that breakaway speed will become apparent. I'm just waiting for that moment where he breaks one 60-80 yards to the house. And it will happen.

Another thing that's underrated about Willis's game is his ability to pick up the blitz. I think in this area, he has Henry beat in spades. Notice as soon as McGahee was inserted in the starting lineup, how the Bills offensive line just magically became better pass blockers? A lot of that has to do with Willis.

Case in point- give Willis a chance. He will grow on you. At 100%, I think you're looking at a 1300-1500 yard rusher.

M: I hear you on McGahee, and I agree. Where I take issue is that fans have already made it a foregone conclusion that he'll be great. He isn't at present, and he has enormous risks given that he's had three serious knee injuries in as many seasons prior to this one. It would be a crying shame if we traded Henry, and I agree, he already has one foot out the door, and then McG either never develops fully for one reason or another or re-injures himself losing him for the season next year and rendering his future worth and cost of bringing him here to the trash heap.

As well, my point is that Henry is all that's needed to succeed at RB in the NFL. I'm tellin' ya now, and dependent upon which team he ends up on, he's gonna be an 1,800 yard, 15-20 TD RB. The only reason why he has not done more here is b/c he has had absolutely no support from a passing game and a crap line. I know McGahee picks up the blitz better, but is it worth rushing performance, which may or may not develop, to have a "blitz picker upper?" If rushing production suffers, then it won't be. Thus far, from a purely rushing perspective, McG has proven nothing other than very Antowain Smith like tendencies and capabilities. He is worthless on short yardage situations and has consistently been unable to "move the pile" in them. I notice that on that Freddie Smith punt return set up at the Ram 5-yard line, that the Bills did not have the confidence to give him the ball where most teams would have given it to their goal-line back. He still hasn't proven speed or an ability to "break the big one" or even close which is the entire reason we drafted him.

Will it develop? It may. But neither you, I, or anyone at OBD can say for sure. It's a huge risk to be sure. Just like "sacks" were the end-all-to-be-all stat for QBs which disappeared as any sort of significant indicator once Humpty showed up, so too is "picking up the blitz" regarding McGahee. So what? He picks up the blitz better! Big deal! If we had a halfway mobile QB and one that could read a D when six or seven men show pass rush vs. a known five or six blockers staying in, then perhaps the need for blitz pickup on every single passing play will evaporate. This is the "downhill" flow of nonsense that keeping Humpty on forces this team to deal with. But to keep a RB based primarily on his ability to "pickup the blitz" in my opinion is short-sighted, foolish, and ridiculous. Yet, it is simply one more indication of a team continuing to build around an antiquated, washed up, and well below average QB.

So we're getting ready to essentially dish a RB largely, or perhaps solely at this point, simply b/c he doesn't pick up a blitz better all b/c we have a QB with mental and mobility issues and one getting ready to be replaced by a QB without them. Doesn't make much sense to me! But hey, I'm only an analyst.

And how long will it take Willis to "develop?" We have a "developed" RB! Thus the folly in this scenario and the riskiness of the McGahee pick overall to begin with in the 2003 draft. Oh had we drafted Eric Steinbach! His drafting was nothing other than a "hype" draft pick ala Commander Tom's methodology of selling tickets and pumping up fans/media on hopes only. Suppose it takes another season for him to "develop" fully. Then what? I believe he has an out option in his contract a year or two later. That'd be great. We had so many other needs, and now we have this hanging over us. But the bottom line is that if he does not "develop", then we're hosed when we didn't have to be. Forget the discussion of opportunity costs.

Just another reason why Commander Tom needs to go.

As to "injuries being a part of the game", obviously. However, who's more likely to be hurt next season, i.e., where would your money go: on Jonas Jennings or Ruben Brown? Likewise, on one hand we have a RB who has been virtually injury free with the exception of a broken leg that he played through, very well I might add, last season on pace for over 1,500 yards and with no support, and one that's been hurt with a significant knee injury in each of his last three seasons, the last of which was horrendous and with a rehab/surgery that guarantees nothing with nothing superlative shown to date. Nothing. Most RBs will put up over 100 yards if given 30+ carries. That's not difficult to do. As I've pointed out often this season, far "worse" RBs than McG have totally outperformed him and against the exact same teams that he's "rushed for 100" against. So again, big deal.

We're only tinkering and flirting with gambles and risks with limited upsides. As I've said all along, this McG pick only makes sense if he is hands down better than Henry in all categories. ALL! And significantly so. Otherwise the time, resource, and opportunity costs will not have been worth his acquisition. Being the "same" as Henry, other than perhaps simply overrated "blitz pickups", or if he gets hurt again, and he's gotten up limping a few too many times for my liking this season thus far, then the time and expense, just as in Humpty's case, will have been an enormous blunder.

Check out my AFCE Report for discussion on the rest.

Thanks Andy!!


Hey Ray,

Thanks for the note and very time consuming response and constructive comments!!!

To your points:

R: This is the reason I'm writing now, because as much as I agree with and support the content of your articles, the content has not really changed since I began reading your articles sometime in 2003.

M: Let me ask you a question, provide a little data, and then ask you to consider thinking for a while before you reply.

What has changed re: this team since 2003? Practically I mean. Are the team's issues different?

As I see it, weak O, worse this season in fact.

Defense that by-and-large only shows up for a quarter or two and only in games vs. teams with a mitigating circumstance or teams with poor Os, bad in others.

Coaching that is not much different, and at present, at least IMO, worse than last season's in many ways. There have been some really eyebrow-raising decisions most recently putting JP Losman into a game and then less than a week later stating that he's not ready (healthy enough) to play. That decision/circumstance needs no analysis.

Given, special teams has been on fire this season which I have acknowledged and stated ardently, and even to the extent that I am one of the few in the media attempting to give them the credit due that they deserve in pushing this offense into the end zone inasmuch as they've been there.

On an aside, read my contribution to the AFCE Report which will go up later today or tomorrow sometime. It lays out many pertinent things about this team in that regard.

R: So to micro-examine every big play the Bill's had and point out that they would not have happened "if" a Ram's player didn't have a mental breakdown, that's a bit harsh. After all, isn't that what a big play is, when the opposing team has a breakdown of some kind?

M: I evaluate this team looking for things that mean true improvement translating to this team being "playoff capable." I don't care about player stats. I don't care about winning seasons. I care about playoff readiness. If we're playoff ready, then we'll have player stats, a winning season, and make the playoffs. We'll also be ready to compete in them. But the horse needs to be before the cart.

Given that, players slipping, or other mistakes such as uncovered receivers, while good, don't "make the offense better", they only provide opportunities for offenses, regardless of how good, to capitalize on errors. If that is half your offense, then you're not good. Especially when you beat teams that you should easily have been able to beat apart from some mitigating circumstance(s). Same defensively. If you play the Dolphins and Cardinals for sixteen games and have the top rated D, is it an accomplishment?! I dare say not.

What makes teams "playoff caliber" is an ability to actually compete mano-a-mano and unit vs. unit effectively while beating opponents at the point of attack. It is not simply hoping the non-playoff caliber opponents make enough mistakes or simply hoping that the schedule is easy so that you can log enough "gimme wins" to pad the stats and the Ws. Those types of teams, ala the '01 Bears or '99 Jags. They don't do anything nor have any hopes come playoff time because their success was built on sand. I can't speak for you or for all fans by any stretch, but I'm tired of simply "trying to get into the playoffs." I'd like to see a team with a bonafide chance at advancing in them and having a real shot at a Super Bowl title, not simply "making it look good" and having our QB pile up yards that don't matter a hill of beans apart from making a particular player look good, and then only in games vs. teams that really shouldn't require superhuman efforts to propel the team to a win, often barely winning on top of it.

We will be that team when we are capable of lining up across from the best and taking them to task. As of yet, there is nothing in this season, in 2002, or last season indicative that this team is anywhere close. What we do have is a team that "sold the farm" to improve the offense from last season to this one, yet has only produced a worse offense to date and one that needs massive help from it's special teams which stepped into the ether this season to come to the rescue. If you break it down, I'm not quite sure that there's a more pathetic offense in the league right now purely from an isolated offensive analysis standpoint including Miami.

The Bills rank only ahead of Washington in rushing TDs produced to date. This in a season promised to be predicated on a "power running game" lest we so soon forget.

Humpty Dumpty is playing more like Neil O'Donnell than like Montana, or even Esiason, which Sam Wyche had promised!

He is a QB incapable of playing such as we need to get us to the playoffs much less move us through them and without a single shred of evidence throughout his career that he is even capable of piecing together a single decent playoff game whereby he actually contributes to moving the ball and putting more points on the board for his own team vice the opposing team.

We have coaches who seem more bent in fixing Humpty than on truly moving this team forward and towards true competitiveness with their heads buried in the sand regarding many of the realities of this team and with them fixated on "making Commander Tom's" draft picks "work out" moreso than simply winning.

We have a team media organization so far out of touch with many fans that they have no idea regarding many things in that area.

We have an organization so deeply in denial regarding their QB and RB situations that it is tainting their objectivity.

We have a QB that renders the single biggest contributing factor of a RB to be his ability to "pick up the blitz" simply because he cannot seem to grasp the imminent problem of facing an obvious six or seven man pass rush with only five or six known players staying in to block, simple fourth-grade math let alone anything involving QB play in the NFL.

I'll cut it there.

R: During the first New England game, you focused on 2 or 3 plays that went Buffalo's way that would have made the game a blowout, well, 2 or 3 plays the other way and it's a win.

M: An ugly win is a win if you're a good team. If all you do is beat up the weaklings on the playground and then other teams in games with significant mitigating circumstances, and need the other team's mistakes to do that the few times that it happens, then a win is not a win. In other words, if you have to rely on them for your success as the Bills routinely do, then it's a fortunate occurrence. It becomes "a win is a win" when you have a difficult schedule, have perhaps dropped a game or two that you shouldn't have vs. decent or equally matched teams, but play well otherwise and then capitalize as such by beating a worse team at some point down the stretch afterwards.

R: Perhaps you are tired as I was by the delusional vision of some Bill's fans, as I was. But your criticism of McGahee seems a little unwarranted. I am not one who thinks he is the second coming of Priest Holmes, but he is not playing bad football for this team. And on this Bill's team, he is exactly what Buffalo needs. Henry is a great back but he is a straight ahead runner, his running style will not work when the offensive line gets stood straight up play after play. Although it is against sub par defenses, McGahee is outperforming Henry overall this season. Excuses and reasons can be made all day, but that is the bottom line. Again, he may have played against weaker defenses, but don't good players take advantage of that?

M: First of all, what you just said is nothing short of one massive "media cliché." Methinks many a Bills fan have short memories as to exactly what Travis Henry has done for this team over the past two seasons with less support and with greater results than McGahee has had.

In order for the team's decision to draft McGahee with all the costs, time, resources, etc. involved to end up making sense, McGahee must be better than Henry overall in every aspect of the game. He is exactly what Buffalo needs at present? I beg to differ Ray. At present he is a very average running back capable of cracking the century mark only on the merits of number of carries. He has proven a step above useless on short yardage situations down at the goal line. I seem to remember numerous times, and not always against defenses ranked among the bottom ten, where Henry powered his way into the end zone and was a reliable threat there on a regular basis. Willis has not shown much at all to date. He has not shown the ability to break the long run with any consistency to be sure with only one run beyond 41 yards on the season and then only with stellar blocking not even being touched, and again, not because of his speed which is average to date.

R: Besides, it doesn't matter who the fans like better, the organization decided a year and a half ago that McGahee was the future at RB.

M: You've hit the lottery with this statement! Yes, McGahee is "better" because the fans, as well as some media, want it that way and because it needs to work out that way for Commander Tom to save his job and for Mularkey & Co. to dig themselves out from under a very serious credibility and confidence pile that they've heaped upon themselves.

R: I do not wish to read an article that buys into the false delusions that this is a playoff team or even a good team. However, in this past week's game, I feel that the Bill's defeated a team better than themselves. It doesn't matter how they won, after all, New England won their first superbowl winning ugly all year.

M: The Bills did beat a team "better team than themselves" this past week. But consider that the Rams are a very average .500-type team with a top-10 offense coupled with as pathetic a defense as we have offense. This is nothing more than what the Bills have done since Commander Tom's tenure, namely beat .500 and worse teams. So what! That doesn't "scratch my itch." You?

As to not mattering "how they won", I agree. But where I differ is that I see all around a lot of hype this week about how the offense stepped up and played well. Now perhaps all those writing about this past game saw a different game. I saw a game in which the offense couldn't run the ball effectively for over two-thirds of the game, and unless a single run means "rushing effectiveness" on the game, one that didn't run it effectively at all vs. the league's 29th rushing defense and one that has been allowing an average per game of nearly 140 rushing yards.

I saw an offense that essentially showed up for the 2nd quarter and then did little else throughout the other 3 quarters, again, in a game vs. one of the worst defenses in the league, and at home to boot.

I saw an offense that in its own right put was responsible for only 17 or 20, to be kind, of the 37 points on the board in the game, again, vs. a team allowing an average of closer to 30.

Where am I amiss? If New England had played as such, then I doubt the entire league's media team would be ranting about the offense's contributions. I simply don't get it. This offense put up three TDs with only one successful attempt at scoring a touchdown from within its own end of the field once with offensive touchdown drives/scores only on average starting field position at the opponent's 42-yard line including one handed to them at the Ram 5-yard line.

Again, they won, I'm not attempting to change that fact. But where I will not bend is in taking anything at all from a special team's unit coupled with a defense that carried this team on Sunday apart from a below average offensive output against a putrid defense. Two of the team's touchdowns were scored from the opponent's 5-yard line and then again at the Bills' own 49, midfield. Had the D and special teams not set those up, given that this mighty offense has only scored a touchdown on drives begun within its own 37-yard line or closer four times on the season, and from within its own 44-yard line or close six times, again, on the entire season and with one of each of those having been on Sunday, 3 and 5 otherwise, there is absolutely no basis for the belief that this offense would have scored had the D and STs not set up those drives in those spots.

Yet, while the stats show 3 passing TDs to only 1 INT. What they don't show is the near, and shoulda been, two other INTs or the fraction-of-a-second closeness (twice) that that flea flicker succeeded in avoiding disaster by the same fraction of a second. Bad play? No, but as I've said earlier, it was a "trick big play" and as such, will work out from time-to-time. That drive resulted in only a field goal regardless. Either way, it is indicative of the risks that this team has taken this season almost out of necessity due to the absence of this offense's ability to play solid, consistent, grind-it-out, mana-a-mano football whereby our offensive units out-execute opposing defensive units. Where it has succeeded is extremely limited and then usually only vs. outmatched defensive units; that is to say some of the worst in the league if they are outmatched by our OL and QB and thereby being hampered by all the limitations of our offense. Those trick plays however have failed more often than they have succeeded as we all realize.

Great e-mail Ray!!! Thanks for the response.

Go Bills!!! I'm just not sure they're going anywhere under the current administration and the present and young coaching staff certainly has raised the fans' eyebrows more than once so soon in an early career.


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