When enduring a decade and a half of playoff-less football, an inevitable stink falls upon your organization. At the onset of the 21st century, Buffalo was devoid of almost any superstars. The studs that found their way here, like Terrell Owens and Marshawn Lynch, either were on the down slope of careers or would go on to blossom elsewhere. Until Sean McDermott took the reins, Buffalo was an NFL backwater; a place where NFL careers went to die.
But along came Shady.
Everyone has those events that you will always remember exactly where you were. One of those for me was March 10th, 2015. The day LeSean Kamel McCoy became a Buffalo Bill.
Doug Whaley is an easy character to dunk on in the annals of Bills history. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite pastimes. But Whaley took advantage of the Chip Kelly demolition project in Philadelphia, sending the once-beloved Kiko Alonso, who was coming off a year in which he didn’t play, in return. A rare one-for-one trade.
LeSean McCoy went on to play four seasons for the Buffalo Bills, accumulating 3,814 yards, 25 touchdowns and four pro bowls. So why am I writing about McCoy on the day of his retirement?
Because, while he’ll always be remembered as an Eagle first, Shady made Buffalo cool for four seasons.
If this sentence offends you, I urge you to step back in time to the Bills of the early 2010s. This was not the team that could easily recruit superstars. The Bills were a team that made their home in the 1pm Sunday window. They almost never appeared on national TV, aside from the yearly Thursday night game handed out to bad teams like a participation trophy. If you were not a Bills fan, you likely couldn’t name more than a couple players on the roster.
LeSean McCoy was not only an elite running back, but one of the NFL’s most recognizable faces and an absolute electric personability. Not many players carried themselves with the swagger and confidence that he did. And boy, did he deliver. Perhaps my Bills goggles cloud my judgement, but LeSean McCoy was one of the most entertaining runners of a generation. No running back could take “OH NO, OH NO, OH NO” play to “LET’S GO” quite like Shady. He was a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
To top it off, every great player has something that makes them unique. For Shady, it was the way he carried the ball. The way Shady carried the rock defies the fundamentals instilled in the days of pop warner football. Yet he only fumbled the ball 25 times over his 12-year career. When you stack LeSean McCoy up against all the players that came through Buffalo during the drought, you have to put him among the best for his performance here.
More than anything, Shady embraced Buffalo, and Buffalo embraced him back.
One last note comes from Judge Mathes of The Air Raid Hour, when he joined me and Mitch for an episode of the 585 Report. LeSean McCoy shared a back field with Josh Allen during his rookie year in an otherwise unremarkable year for both him and the Bills. While we don’t have a window beyond what we hear in pressers and see on the field, Shady’s 2018 training camp clip will always stand out to me. He was the first player Josh made a post-touchdown handshake with. We will never know the relationship these two shared, but it is hard to imagine a Hall of Fame running back with Hall of Fame swagger didn’t leave a mark on Josh for the better.
LeSean McCoy will go into the Hall rightly as an Eagle. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t leave a mark on Buffalo. Have a great retirement Shady, and come back to visit.