Let’s be honest for a moment; At this time in the history of sports, it is common knowledge that being a fan of the Buffalo Bills requires certain levels of emotional flexibility and a fanatic skill set unlike any other fan base in sports. As a whole, the city of Buffalo is passionate, involved, tough as nails and above all else, they love their team. The same can be said for the man I had the privilege of speaking with today. That man, or legend as some would dare say is none other than Andre Reed. For those who need a quick refresher, you may remember Andre from such milestones as his four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, his enshrinement into the Hall of Fame or his standing record for most receiving yards by any player in Buffalo Bills history. Honestly, an entire article could be written just singing his praises, but let’s leave that for another time and place. Today, the Buffalo legend shared his thoughts on the team’s future, past and the responsibility that comes success at this level.
It seemed highly appropriate to lead off this interview with a question that has been asked to pretty much every former Buffalo Bill who suited up before since 1999. How did Andre feel about seeing his team of 15 seasons finally break the playoff drought in 2017? His response was a bit formal, but it shed some light on the player mentality that tends to get overlooked by the rest of the world. He acknowledged that the appearance was a great moment for the city, a community that was hungry for such a marquee occasion for the better part of two decades. However, he had an interesting quote in how, as a player, the drought is viewed. Andre said, “As a player you don’t really think of it that way,” in reference to having not been in the postseason in 17 years. He went on to say that it was the fans and the media that tend to make the bigger deal of it. When a player is constantly putting their focus on the past, it begins to hinder their present and future mindset. Understandably, it’s hard for a fan base to look beyond the years of let downs and near misses. However,as he addresses later on, this team’s personality, as well as that of the fans’ is predicated on mental toughness. Reed mentioned a story about the AFC championship game, being played in Buffalo against the Raiders, during the 1990 season where cameras and reporters captured players from the visiting Oakland team talking about how cold it was. They would go on to speculate about how much worse they thought the weather would be. Andre left off with this quote, “They lost the game the minute they got off the plane, when they thought about that weather.” The final score that day was 51-3 in Buffalo’s favor, making it very hard to argue with that logic. Point in all that being that mental toughness is a factor that simply cannot be overlooked, and the players need to focus on the next game, as opposed to the history books if they want to see success.
Speaking of the future, the former 4th round pick from Kuztown University had his thoughts on what he felt was the best direction for the Bills General Manager, Brandon Beane and company entering this year’s free agent market and draft. The fan base seems pretty split on whether the team needs to solidify their top 3 defense, enhance the skill player positions or acquire some anchor pieces to protect Josh Allen. Reed made it known that this year, the team basically needs to draft to help Allen at all costs. While that take may not exactly blow anyone’s mind, he would continue to elaborate on that with his thoughts on the collegiate players in this year’s draft. He went on to say that, “This is not a big receiver draft.” There are some talented players, but no one is necessarily jumping off the page as a clear cut number one option in this class. The Bills front office even came forward this week to say that they want to go away from using a number one receiver, and focus more on players who can fill a need at the X,Y and Z position. Instead of using the 9th overall pick on a gamble at wide receiver, Andre felt as though the first pick needs to be used on a tackle to protect Josh Allen. He mentioned how much of a change this offensive line has gone through since losing players like Richie Incognito, Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood. With young guys like Dion Dawkins and Wyatt Teller starting to come in to their own on the left side, it seems logical that finding an anchor on the right side is paramount. Whether that pick turns into a phone call for Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford, Jonah Williams or anyone else is a decision that Beane and McDermott will have to come to. Regardless of who is selected, Andre stressed that this is crucial for the direction of the team moving forward. He mentioned that with LeSean McCoy coming off a down year, and having “More left in the tank,” the team needs to do what it can to give him help in doing the things that have made him elite over the last few years. While there was promise shown, especially in the second half of last season, there are still plenty of holes to fill on this team, and it was made clear that, if nothing else, this would be quite the interesting offseason.
As the conversation with Andre went on, it would have been an absolute atrocity if Mr. Reed’s thoughts on this wide receiver group, and potential draftees at the position were not brought up. As stated prior, he felt as though this is a deep, but not particularly receiver oriented draft class. But much like he can attest to with his own late round selection in 1985, the team will be able to find these types of skill players later in the draft. His confidence in waiting to take a player at the position spoke massively about how he feels about this current Buffalo receiver group entering the 2019 season. He spoke highly of Robert Foster when he offered up the quote, “He played an integral part in the second half of the season, they need to keep him involved.” With Foster’s chemistry with Josh Allen ramping up in the second half of the season, it’s hard to picture the formerly undrafted rookie not seeing an uptick in usage and production going forward. When speaking about Zay Jones Andre did not seem to have enough good things to say about the 2nd year player. He stressed to the fan base, “Do not sleep on this young man, he had a big year and is looking for more.” As if that was not enough of a bode confidence for Jones, Andre went on to say “He is a viable number one in this league.” High praise from arguably the greatest number one in team history. The wildcard in the group entering this season is Duke Williams. The former CFL standout was brought in with high hopes, but Reed mentioned that fans need to temper expectations, saying that, “We will have to wait and see how he adjusts at the NFL level.” There is no doubt that Williams’ talent jumps off the page, and there is legitimate hype around his potential in this offense. However, the NFL is a totally different animal, played at a faster, more aggressive pace than anything Duke has seen yet. However with this group entering 2019 as one of the most inexperienced in the league, Reed believes that there is no ceiling for this group. He mentioned that, “you are only as good as the players around you.” How good this group can be will be interesting to watch as they look to gel with a sense of urgency this year.
The final topic of discussion when talking about the current roster had to revolve around the future of the franchise, Josh Allen. It was already mentioned that the front office needs to do what they can to protect Allen and add weapons around him. As the conversation progressed, it was Andre’s take on Josh as a player and a leader after only one season that was really attention grabbing. “I’m proud of how he is leading the team. He has a vibrancy and leadership at the position that this team has not had in a while.” It was back in 2018 that Andre met Josh Allen during the offseason and has since kept in touch with the team’s 2nd year quarterback. It was evident that there is a lot of belief in the fact that Josh Allen can be the answer that the team and the fan base has been looking for since the late 90’s. “If you don’t have the quarterback leading the charge, you are kind of behind the 8-ball. The best teams have the best quarterbacks. This is a quarterback driven league.” If Reed is right in his trust and belief in Josh Allen, it could be the universal sigh of relief that everyone has been waiting to take.
Andre was kind enough to touch on a few other miscellaneous topics as well. Fist of which was the potential for a new stadium in Buffalo. Ultimately, he acknowledged that there are people in power in this league that make decisions that just need to be aided by. However, whether New Era Field stays in Orchard Park, or things progress with a move to downtown, the hall of famer made it clear that this place had better not have a dome. “The fans loved being outdoors…Been in games where you thought you would never see 20,000 fans because of the weather, but 75,000 show up because that’s their fiber, that’s what they are made of.” Reed went on to stress that there is a certain competitive edge for the team when visitors need to consider the weather in Buffalo during the winter months. They are forced to adjust game plans and be pushed out of their comfort zone as a team. That is a competitive edge that you only get in a small amount of NFL cities. Additionally, Andre spoke briefly about his thoughts on the up and coming Alliance of American Football and what he sees for its future. While a lot of what this league has to offer is still yet to be seen, he acknowledged that this could be a great tool for the players moving forward. “It’s another chance for players to get on film and get themselves to camp. I can see at least 20-30 guys in training camp, or on the field on Sundays.” After attending a game in San Diego, he acknowledged that this league is not setting out to compete with the NFL. Rather, they are doing their best to get talent on the field and make the fan experience the best they can. Reed continued on to speak highly of the league’s co-founder, Bill Polian and the direction he wanted to take the AAF. The praise is understandable given the fact that Polian was twice awarded the NFL’s executive of the year, while with the Buffalo Bills during Reed’s tenure with the team. At the end of the day, it’s a chance for football to keep going through the year at a high level.
The final point of discussion had to be the philanthropy work that Andre has been dedicating so much of his time to as of late. First and foremost, he is spearheading a program with the Boys and Girls Club of America called “Read with Reed 83.” It’s a program that encourages kids to open a book learn. They reinforce the idea that reading is critical for the future of these students. Every dream jobs that enters their creative minds requires them to read. Ultimately, they want to make reading exciting. The charity is in its second year of existence and is currently working across fifteen NFL cities. As an ambassador, and someone who came up through the Boys and Girls Club, this project means a lot to Andre. If you want more information, or would like to donate to the great cause, check them out at https://andrereedfoundation.org/readwithreed83/.
So there you have it, a glimpse at the past, the present and the future by way of one of the greatest players to ever put on a Bills’ uniform. Andre Reed has a mind for the game that is deserving a front office position, should he choose to put down the golf clubs and trade them in for a suit and clipboard. In the meantime, as a proud fan of the Buffalo Bills, just allow me to say thank you Mr. Reed for your time, your example and all you do.