I had the opportunity to sit down with a Buffalo Bills fan recently. In order to maintain a certain level of anonymity, he wished only to be call "Adam." Adam describes himself as an informed football fan with a passion for the team and a respect for what the Bills mean, both for the morale and economic stability of the city of Buffalo.
I bounced a few questions off of him in regard to the state of the franchise, past players and the outlook for the 2012 season.
JP: What do the Bills mean to the city of Buffalo?
Adam: Everything. They are one of the few things that seems to be keeping the city alive. For some people around here, it's all they have to look forward to.
JP: What about the Sabres? Surely they have a massive following in the area.
Adam: It's not the same. The Bills are just a bigger deal. Unless you are a diehard hockey fan, you can't name more than one or two Sabres from 10 years ago. Most people in this area can name dozens of Bills from the Super Bowl run they had in the 1990's.
JP: Realistically, how concerned are you about the Bills potentially moving to Toronto in the future?
Adam: Whether or not anyone will admit it, it weighs on all of our minds. Everyone understands how unstable the economy is up here. We know the Bills have a presence in Toronto. In some ways, I feel like we are just waiting for the inevitable.
JP: What would happen to the city of Buffalo, should that occur?
Adam: The city would be a lonely place. It would be similar, on a smaller scale, to when the factories and steel mills starting shutting down in the Northeast years ago.
JP: Is there any place other than Toronto where the Bills could relocate to while maintaining their identity and relationship with the fan base as Upstate New York's team?
Adam: Maybe Rochester, but I'm not sure it would make much of a difference financially. There isn't really another major city in the region that makes as much sense as Toronto. A move to Canada wouldn't necessarily mean more fans, however; it would make sense for the NFL as a way to get a permanent footprint on international ground. That seems like where the league wants to go.
JP: Let's move on to a couple of lighter questions. What player from the last decade who either didn't pan out or was let go by the Bills could have stayed and had more success in Buffalo?
Adam: Marshawn Lynch. He was a guy a lot of fans were really excited to have. When we drafted him, a lot of fans felt like we got a steal.
JP: As a fan, what are your realistic expectations for the team in 2012?
Adam: Unfortunately, I think the team is still a work in progress. It would be awesome to see them make the playoffs this season, but I just don't see it happening. They are making an effort to bring in difference-makers via free agency and the draft, but I just don't see much more than a .500 season this year. I think things might start to come together in 2013.