It’s been over six years since the Buffalo Bills first signed you to their roster. I still find you cross my mind regularly. I’ve always regretted the way things ended between our franchise and you. Since then, things have changed a lot. I wanted to get everything I had to say written down while we’re both still young. It’s been a long road for us both, though I’d imagine for quite different reasons.
When you came to the Bills alongside LeSean McCoy in 2015, it had only been a few years since I’d started watching football. Considering the abundance of Cinderella stories out there, I had immense faith that a former sixth-round pick and four-year backup could blossom into a starter when given a chance. You proved me right. In only one season, you earned both a Pro Bowl selection and a significant contract extension.
You became ‘The Man’, and rooting for you was synonymous with the success of the team I’d grown to love. Those seasons were some of the most formative ones as a fan of the Buffalo Bills. This happened with you under center. I learned to appreciate mobility in a quarterback and understand the value of a running back who can play receiver. My attitudes and opinions of how I like my team to look were formed.
If I’d known that 2017 would be our last year with you, I would have stopped to appreciate it a little more. All the little moments we held so dear. In Week 1, we stuffed the Jets. In Week 3, you demolished the Broncos’ defense, and I’ll never forget you laughing as Von Miller because he faked offering you a hand up. I remember the lows, like the blowout loss to New Orleans and Nathan Peterman’s infamous five-interception half against the Chargers. Any hope of ending our soon-to-be-18-year playoff drought seemed to go out of the window. Everyone prepared for yet another long, cold offseason. Then, some hope came along.
In Week 15 against Miami, you and Shady ignited again, putting us at eight wins on the season and just inside the Wild Card race, with only two weeks left in the year. We lost a step against New England but were on the bubble going into Week 17. You’d proven you were the best QB on the team, and even coming off a tough loss, there were no doubts about who would be taking the field with the playoffs still within reach. In what Bills fans thought was a farewell to Kyle Williams, you led the offense (and one defensive lineman) to the endzone enough times to squish the fish. Winning our ninth game of the season.
Everyone ran to the locker room, eager to find out what was happening in Baltimore. Knowing we’d need a miracle win from the underdog Bengals to secure our first playoff spot in nearly two decades. We all remember the tension when they were on fourth down. We all remember Dalton hitting Boyd for the first down; The missed tackle; The end zone. Pandemonium reigned. The cameras were on Kyle Williams, and we all experienced one of the greatest and most unifying moments in Buffalo history. The playoff game against Jacksonville that ensued was disappointing. It’s not difficult to admit. But, to me, that fateful New Year’s Eve will always be the end. Against my protests and the wishes of many Bills fans, you would be traded to Cleveland by the start of the new league year.
You gave us some of the strongest QB play we’d seen in a long time. Some of the best years of your career were in Buffalo, and you put it all on the line for us again, and again, and again. Through all the painful losses, poor weather, injuries, and more, you were our guy, and without you, under center, the playoff drought would have gone on a little bit longer. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. You never got the recognition you deserved during your time in Buffalo, and though we don’t get to play you on Sunday, just know that you’ll always have the Mafia behind you.
– Iestyn Harris (Buffalo Fanatics)