Buffalo Bills' Top Five Front Office Blunders of the Decade

Timothy Minneci@timminneciCorrespondent INovember 6, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  A fan dressed as the Star Wars character Chewbacca watches the Buffalo Bills game against the Houston Texans at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. Houston won 31-10. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

To be honest, although the Bills have gone 10 seasons without a playoff berth, they have not been an uncompetitive team. Painful to watch at times? Yes.

Provided some of the most exasperating losses in team history? Without a doubt. But they haven't been awful, which may end up being the worst part about the decade.

That said, much of what caused the situation the Bills currently find themselves in can be attributed to moves by the front office, albeit by different regimes, that were head-scratchers at the time, only to have grown in their tortured lore years later.

With that, I thought it would be nice to revisit the top five most bizarre and surreal moments involving the Bills front office these past 10 years.

No. 1:  Not resigning DT Pat Williams

Since leaving the Bills after the 2004 season, Williams has played in three Pro Bowls and, along with teammate Kevin Williams, has anchored one of the most stout defensive lines in the NFL over the past half decade.

Money and age were cited at the time not to retain Williams—he was 31 at the time and considered to be on the back end of his career. It's that sort of rigid short-sightedness that leads to personnel moves like these.

Since losing Williams, the Bills have never truly filled the position adequately.

Before the 2008 season, the Bills acquired Jacksonville tackle Marcus Stroud in hopes of shoring up the interior line. In 2009, the Bills run defense is on pace with the worst performances in team history.

Players with Williams' unique skill set come along very rarely, and the Bills have learned that the hard way.

No. 2:  Drafting Miami RB Willis McGahee

Selecting a position which, at the time, was already healthy with Travis Henry and Sammy Morris, was odd. Selecting a player who had just suffered a major knee injury during the national championship game and was likely going to sit out their entire rookie year was mind boggling. At the time and to this day, this selection makes absolutely no sense, unless your goal is to see how many running backs a team can stockpile.

Overall, this was a moderately successful draft for the Bills, grabbing workman DE Chris Kelsay in the second round, productive LB Angelo Crowell in the third, future starting CB Terrance McGee in the fourth and special team contributors WR Sam Aiken and LB Mario Haggan in the fourth and eighth, respectively. But, this could have been an even better draft had the Bills drafted based on actual need.

One pick after the Bills, the Colts grabbed Iowa TE Dallas Clark, a position the Bills have spent the entire decade trying to find a suitable starter.

No. 3:  Overpaying Offensive Linemen Derrick Dockery & Langston Walker

In 2007, the Bills shelled out $75 million dollars to sign Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker in an attempt to shore up a below average offensive line. It was a curious move, as Dockery was an average player in Washington, and Walker was considered an underachiever during his time in Oakland.

Two years later, both players were released.

During the two years, the Bills' sack totals and running yards were respectable, if not spectacular, while the passing game struggled with J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards alternating behind center.

Ultimately, the two where nothing more than very average players with enormous contracts, which put the cost-conscious franchise in a bind when dealing with Pro-Bowl lineman Jason Peters.

The Bills never got what they paid for in Dockery and Walker.

No. 4:  Not resigning cornerback Antoine Winfield or Nate Clements

It seems that every free agent departure on the defensive side has caused a ripple effect felt years afterward. For the Bills, no position has gone through as much unnecessary upheaval as cornerback.

Antoine Winfield, drafted in 1999, left after the 2003 season in free agency.

Fellow Buckeye Nate Clements was drafted in 2001 and left after the 2006 season.

With Winfield and Clements, the Bills had an incredible one-two punch at corner. When Winfield became a free agent in 2003, it was expected the Bills would let him go in order to retain Clements, with Terrance McGee becoming the new starter.

McGee flourished as a returner, but has never flashed the cover skills of Clements or Winfield. Losing Clements thoroughly decimated the position. With McGee as the No. 1, veteran journeymen and late-round special team-ers filled the No. 2 role.

A year after losing Clements, the Bills drafted Leodis McKelvin. Similar to McGee, McKelvin has shown skills as returner—despite his one well known fumble—but has failed to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

Winfield and Clements continue to perform at a high level with their respective teams.

Immediately following McKelvin in the '08 draft, four offensive tackles were taken in the next six picks, and all four are starters. If the Bills had kept either corner, perhaps Ryan Clady would be at tackle in '09 instead of Demitrius Bell.

No. 5:  Trading up to draft Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman

The Bills have been looking for a consistent starter at quarterback since Jim Kelly retired.

The 2003 draft was considered to be one of the best classes since the legendary 1983 draft class. But if Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Phillip Rivers are the Kelly, John Elway, and Dan Marino of the '03 draft, that makes J.P. Losman the Todd Blackledge.

Why the Bills regarded Losman enough to give up a future No. 1 pick is unclear. No other team seemed poised to make a move on Losman, and his college career gave no indication he was worth a first-round selection.

The pick is as baffling today as it was on draft day.

Honorable mentions:
  • Trading up to draft DT John McCargo with center Nick Mangold still on the board.
  • Not re-signing, then trading OT Jason Peters.
  • Drafting safety Donte Whitner with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata still on the board.
  • Failing to sign a legitimate starting veteran quarterback in free agency (i.e. Drew Brees or Kurt Warner).
  • Drafting OT Mike Williams with OT Bryant McKinnie still on the board


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