The Chiefs selected Quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick. Shortly after that, Jeremy White built his “Pat Mahomes fear bunker,” and ever since then, we all knew that Mahomes and whoever the Bills ended up selecting would be locked in eternal battle in the minds of a segment of Bills Mafia.
After sitting out virtually the whole 2017 season (starting only one game), Mahomes didn’t just add fuel to the fire. He set the fire and then dropped an atomic bomb on it. In 2018, Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 Touchdowns while making spectacular plays every week and winning the NFL MVP award as well as AP Offensive player of the year.
Tre vs. The Fans
This sent very large segments of Billsmafia into panic mode, with daily social media posts about how the organization “passed” on Mahomes or was incompetent because instead of taking a player who would become MVP, they traded the draft pick. This all came to a head about seven days ago when tweets from some Bills fans about how they’d rather have Mahomes than Tre White found their way to White who tweeted a response:
We as Bills fans have put so much focus on this “Mahomes vs Allen/White” issue, but I’m here to tell you that this is only the most recent stop on a journey that started on January 31st, 1997, the day Jim Kelly retired and has lasted for 23 years and counting … the journey to replace a legend.
The Cost of Replacing Jim Kelly
This journey started with the pick of Todd Collins in the second round of the 1995 draft. The franchise then decided to trade a 1st round pick and a 4th round pick for a one-game wonder by the name of Rob Johnson. After a 3-year game of quarterback Survivor, both Johnson and free-agent signee Doug Flutie left the team. It was at this time that then General Manager Tom Donahoe learned that a big veteran quarterback with a strong arm was available for trade after recently losing his starting job to some no-name quarterback who had been drafted in the 6th round.
Donahoe traded a first-round pick, and Drew Bledsoe became a Buffalo Bill. Bledsoe would have four productive years as the quarterback of the Bills before ultimately being released when the organization drafted J.P. Losman in the first round in 2004.
In 2007, Losman would be replaced by third-round pick Trent Edwards. For a while, it looked like the journey was over, that Edwards was the one. That is until Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals sacked Edwards on one of the hardest semi- blindside hits I’ve ever seen, and Edwards was never the same.
At this point, I felt as though the wind had been taken out of our sails, and our boat was stranded in the middle of quarterback purgatory. Little did we know that a hero was on the way. On February 27, 2009, the Buffalo Bills signed Ryan “Fitzmagic” Fitzpatrick to a six-year deal. After four fun and somewhat productive years, Fitzmagic was cut, and it was on to E.J Manuel, who was another first-round draft pick. Manuel was only given 14 starts, and then it was on to Kyle Orton, then Tyrod Taylor, then Nathan Peterman, and finally to Josh Allen.
To date, the cost of our journey to replace Jim Kelly stands at six first-round picks, four second-round picks, a third, fourth, two fifth-round picks, and Cordy Glenn. When we look back just at players who were selected with the draft picks the Bills traded away or players that were available, we will see names like Takeo Spikes, Randy Moss, Alan Faneca, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Rodgers, DeAndre Hopkins, Zach Ertz, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and the list goes on.
Has our journey ended at Josh Allen? Only time will tell, but I hope so. What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that Patrick Mahomes isn’t the first player the Bills missed on or didn’t want that became a good/great player, and he won’t be the last. I know it’s easy to look back on things with a “shoulda, woulda, coulda” mindset.
It makes everything seem so simple, but evaluating the potential of other human beings to play a sport at it’s highest level is hard, and no one will ever get it right every time. So, the next time you get mad about Patrick Mahomes or another draft pick the Bills missed on, try to take solace in the fact that every franchise has their own “Patrick Mahomes”.