Suffice it to say, Buddy Nix and Bill Belichick wouldn’t see eye to eye on draft strategy.
Not so much the personnel decisions and what types of players to draft, but talking about it. The notoriously secretive Belichick is the stark contrast of the way Nix has candidly discussed Buffalo’s draft targets over the past few years.
Last week, the Bills’ GM reiterated his desire to draft a quarterback in April. “We need a good, young quarterback and we’ll do our best to get one,” Nix said on WGR Sportsradio in Buffalo. It’s the third such time Nix has said publicly that quarterback is squarely on the Bills’ radar, almost 14 months after signing starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a seven-year contract.
Here’s Nix’s problem — the strategy is sound, but it might be a year or two too late, and certainly late considering the $24 million guaranteed that Fitzpatrick has received.
In the past two seasons, Fitzpatrick has thrown 32 interceptions in 19 losses, and only six picks in 11 wins. He has had his moments, and certainly has the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates, but the Bills clearly no longer consider him as the choice for the future.
Hindsight is 20-20 of course, but it’s worth looking back at when a young quarterback should have been drafted, which would have saved the Bills from this predicament.
Bills fans, you might want to shield your eyes.
• In the 2011 draft, pre-Fitzpatrick extension, the Bills had a golden opportunity to draft a young quarterback to wait in the wings behind Fitzpatrick, or even compete with him to start. They needed a backup QB but, in the second round, the Bills drafted CB Aaron Williams. The next pick was Andy Dalton, who has thrown 46 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions and is on the verge of bringing the Bengals to the postseason for the second year in a row.
• After Dalton, QB Colin Kaepernick came off the board. With his mobility and strong arm, he surely would have fit well in Chan Gailey’s offense, which Kaepernick has proven since becoming the 49ers' starter.
The Bills got off to a 5-2 start, Fitzpatrick got his extension, then the wheels came off, giving reason for Nix and Chan Gailey to fortify the quarterback position this past offseason, and the position still isn't any better.
• They signed Vince Young, which did not pan out, then traded for Tarvaris Jackson, a mainstay on the weekly inactive lists.
But the Bills failed to take advantage of what looks to be arguably the best quarterback class in NFL history — even if it wasn't in the first round with Fitzpatrick entrenched as the starter, what about the third round?
• The Bills traded up in the third round and took WR T.J. Graham. Six picks later, Russell Wilson went to the Seahawks. Almost seven months later, Wilson ran for three TDs and threw for another in Seattle’s 50-17 win over the Bills. Graham had three catches and a case of the drops in the loss.
• Later in the third round, the Eagles took Nick Foles, and the Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins in the fourth. Both have started and won games for their respective teams this season. Meanwhile, the Bills went another draft without a quarterback.
It’s only the wonder of hindsight that allows one to rethink things, but Fitzpatrick’s inconsistent play and Nix’s decision to cry from the rooftops that the Bills will do what it takes to draft a quarterback prove this is a situation that could have been avoided.
The other issue Nix may have this April is something he can’t control. The 2013 class of rookie quarterbacks is not highly touted, and definitely doesn’t appear to be as deep as the past two drafts.
The Patriots have had their franchise quarterback, and few worry about their “post Tom Brady plan,” even if Belichick will be coy about it. The Dolphins seemed to have made the right choice and, finally, have a franchise signalcaller in Ryan Tannehill. The Bills thought they did last October with Fitzpatrick, and by not drafting a QB sooner, are forced to find one in 2013.
But at least they’re not the Jets.
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