Over the past two decades or so, the Buffalo Bills have been able to attain great talent and players, despite being a somewhat bad team. Before the McDermott/Beane years, Buffalo would continuously have high draft picks and be unable to gain any traction with them. Today, I want to take a look into who Bills Mafia would’ve liked to have for a longer tenure. In this Twitter poll, I included Marshawn Lynch, Terrell Owens, Mario Williams, and Stephon Gilmore. Let’s take a look at the results.
Marshawn Lynch (56.7%)
Back in 2011, the Buffalo Bills had a young, elusive, and explosive Running Back who would both barrel over people and juke guys out of their shoes. After his first Pro-Bowl season, the Buffalo Bills decided to trade Beast Mode to the Seattle Seahawks for a fourth-round pick and a conditional pick. Looking back on this, what a horrible trade. The Buffalo Bills took Chris Hairston with that pick and, despite having a pretty decent career with the Chargers, was a bust. But I’m not here to whine and cry about the trade. I’m just here to talk about what could’ve been if he were with Bills Mafia for a longer time.
2011-2014 Marshawn Lynch was the magnum opus of his career, as he became a national sensation. For the Buffalo Bills, between 2011-2013, they went 6-10 each year and had guys such as Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at Running Back. In 2011, Fred Jackson was the main point of attack on offense, and in 2012 Spiller was the main guy. Lynch was an afterthought in Buffalo. He quarreled with coaches and teammates and made it very apparent that the weather sucked in Buffalo sometimes. It wasn’t a fit. My only problem with the way Marshawn’s career ended in Buffalo is the value that then-GM Buddy Nix got in return.
Running Backs had value back then! How were we only able to get a depth tackle and a compensatory pick in return for a Running Back about to hit his prime?? Anyways, keeping Marshawn just didn’t make sense, and if he wasn’t traded to Seattle, he might’ve had to fight for reps with Freddy and C.J. Who knows which of them would’ve come out as the starter? So, your welcome for saving your legacy Marshawn.
Terrell Owens (14.8%)
After being one of the most dangerous receiving options in the NFL between let’s say 1998-2008, Terrell Owens signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills at age 36. In his lone year in Buffalo, T.O. had roughly 800 yards and five TDs. While his tenure in Upstate NY was a short one, Terrell Owens was seriously a top-10 talent in the NFL during his prime. In the early 2000s, with San Fran, Owens was a First-Team All-Pro four times and set single-season career highs of 16 touchdowns, 1,451 yards, and (in that same season where he had 1.4k receiving yards) averaged over a 100 yards per game. T.O. was a problem in the NFL for a full decade, and the Bills just missed on that window.
Obviously, the Hall of Famer was 36 in 2009 and had no future plans in Buffalo. It was kind of a “Hey, Buffalo could use a wideout, and dammit I’m Terrell Owens, get my agent on the line” and I doubt that anyone in Bills Mafia is angry over the T.O. year.
For this poll, we are fantasizing about what life would be like if these all-pro talents had been here longer. Let’s say Owens signed with Buffalo in 2006 instead. From 2006-2008 with the Dallas Cowboys, Owens exceeded 1k yards and 10 TDs each season. The Buffalo Bills had an up-and-coming receiver at that time as well, former first-round pick Lee Evans. So hypothetically, the Buffalo Bills could have worked with both Evans and Owens in each of their primes, or just on the outside of their primes. Now, would that have worked with QBs such as Trent Edwards and J.P. Losman? Probably not. Would that have worked during the peak of New England’s reign of terror? Probably not. But, IF Terrell Owens came three years earlier to play with Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch, I could reason that team would’ve broken the playoff drought over a decade earlier.
Mario Williams (12%)
In 2006, Mario Williams was the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Williams spent 2006-2011 with the struggling Houston Texans and, after proving himself as a legit edge-threat on a poor team, he hit free-agency before the 2012 season. It was that summer that the Buffalo Bills made Mario Williams the highest-paid defensive player of all time as he signed a six-year, $100 million deal with nearly $50 million guaranteed.
There’s a whole other debate towards whether or not that contract was worth it after seeing what he and the Buffalo Bills did over that time. He had double-digit sacks in three seasons and was named First-Team All-Pro in 2014 after recording 14.5 sacks. Williams revitalized the cold front and aided Buffalo in establishing one of the most elite defenses in the NFL.
Let’s go back to the 2006 NFL Draft, where the Buffalo Bills took Donte “Hitner” Whitner. For the sake of the argument, let’s say Williams had a video of him smoking out of a face-mask bong like Laremy Tunsil and fell down the board to No. 8, where the Buffalo Bills would hypothetically take him. At the time, the Buffalo Bills had Aaron Schobel, who had just come off of a 14-sack season. Adding Williams would have immediately helped this limboing team get over the peak by having a sick defensive line. Now, circling back to the T.O. portion of this article, would this move in this fantasy universe help take down Tom Brady in his prime? The answer is definitely not, but if Buffalo were able to add Mario Williams sooner in his career, the playoff drought could’ve ended earlier with a wild card spot.
Stephon Gilmore (16.5%)
Gilly was selected 10th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2012 and immediately exploded into one of the best outside corners in the NFL. In his four years before his breakout 2016 season, Gilmore played in 10+ games each year and recorded a total of nine interceptions throughout his contract with Buffalo. In his fifth year, Stephon Gilmore quietly became a top three corner racking up five interceptions and 12 pass break-ups. Gilly was set to become one of the highest-paid players in the league, and Buffalo let him walk. In 2016, Rex Ryan was fired after going 7-8. That off-season, the Buffalo Bills hired Sean McDermott to be their head coach. One of MC D’s first moves as head coach was to not franchise tag the pro-bowl corner. In that year’s draft, the Buffalo Bills took corner Tre White out of LSU.
Now, I agree with not paying Gilly ridiculous money. But the Buffalo Bills were one year away from having Stephon Gilmore and Tre White in the same secondary. With Beane and McDermott still seeking a CB2 to pair with Tre, it is easy to say Gilmore is the most important of the guys I put in this poll to have on the team. Overall, having Tre and Gilly together on the same team would be ludicrous. OCs around the NFL would have nightmares game-planning for that secondary. But hey, Gilly is unhappy in New England. Maybe pairing Tre and Gilly is still in the cards for a Super Bowl run.