Buffalo Bills: To Have A Chance, They Must Look Elsewhere
2010 doesn't portend to be a good season in Buffalo.
The very franchise is on the Los Angeles hunting list, the team is playing one game a year in Toronto because the Buffalo market is deemed insufficient, the team's fate after the current owner dies is unknown, the team's fan base is being eroded by unemployment/underemployment, and top coaches refuse to coach there.
Most notably, ex-Steeler coach Bill Cowher (despite open urgings from local fans) deemed the situation unsuitable for him, and the team had to settle for a best-we-could-get coach, Chan Gailey.
It's not any better on the field, especially when you compare the Bills to their three division rivals.
Miami is only one year away from being the division champions. New England now has Tom Brady back, and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez almost took the team to the Super Bowl in his rookie year and figures to get better.
That leaves Buffalo as the team in the division the other three will probably beat up each time next year. Failure to beat Buffalo twice will probably cost the loser the division crown.
In the last decade of the 20th century, it was Buffalo looking down on the others. How the mighty have fallen.
So Bleacher's Buffalo writers are holding their own drafts, trying to decide which hole is the most pressing to fill, which free agent will relent, and joining a nearly hopeless cause.
By all means, speculate on the number one draft pick. That is the star player, one of the hopes for the future. But that's only one player, and he could easily be a bust like so many other number one draft picks.
When compared to its rivals, Buffalo has too many holes to fix. They need a massive influx of talent to climb out of the division cellar.
Under these circumstances, Buffalo is going to have to throw away conventional thinking if they are to have any chance to make immediate, significant improvement.
They failed to do that with their coaching search, but it's not too late to do that with their player drafting and recruitment.
To start with, the Bills need to have an extra-large training camp. They need lots of contenders for every needed position.
But more importantly, they need to find the players that can raise the talent level in Buffalo and, to do that, they are going to have to do the things other franchises won't.
That means going to smaller U.S. colleges and universities, perhaps even checking out the CIS in Canada. They have to find and give chances to players who the other teams overlook.
So much of what Buffalo needs is spiritual.
There is only so much raw talent out there. But players with winning attitudes and with hunger and desire, can make up for defects. Those are the kinds of people Buffalo has to find, if they want to contend again next year.
It can be done, but a lot of orthodox thinking has to go out the window.
In baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to rise from being a losing expansion franchise to being perennial contenders in the 1980's after they began to scout heavily in the Dominican Republic.
In hockey, scouting internationally is now mandatory, and the NBA now has high draft picks from abroad.
In football, Bart Starr was the 17th round draft choice from an Alabama team that didn't win a game.
So to get out of the cellar, the Bills are going to have to do more than just follow the conventional lines of thinking in the upcoming draft.
They are going to have to look in the dark corners, the out of the way places, give chances to players whom other teams have written off because of where they come from.
That is the only way to find diamonds in the rough.
New Orleans won the Super Bowl over a favored opponent by playing unorthodox football.
To win the off-season, Buffalo is going to have to try the same thing.
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