E.J. versus Tyrod: a look at the stats

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Many in Western New York just simply want a franchise quarterback to lead the Buffalo Bills back to the playoffs, which has been over 15 years. In the upcoming 2015 regular season opener, Tyrod Taylor has been named the starter recently, but if you look at just the stats, many would be hard pressed to declare a starter.

fI will admit that my bias is toward quarterback E.J. Manuel. Especially after the articles this season showed that Manuel is one of the best young quarterbacks on first down ever.

However, as much I was rooting for E.J., I had to be neutral as a journalist and I will defer to a quote by Bills General Manager Doug Whaley.

“It’s a production-based business,” Whaley said in The Buffalo News.  “He produced with the twos (Talking about Taylor) so we’re excited for him to get in there Thursday with the ones to see what he can do. Everybody knows what he can do with his feet. But I’m impressed with a couple of his throws.”

The problem is that when you look at the stats objectively their is a different story.

After four preseason games:

Taylor:  24 of 31 for 77.4% passing with 236 yards passing 0 TDs and 0 Int

Manuel: 30 of 20 for 66.7% passing with 358 yards passing 4TDs and 0 Int

When you just look at the stats clearly Manuel is the better of the two. However, it’s when you break down game film the difference is clear.

By athletic standards Taylor is superior between the two. However, in the history of the NFL, it’s pocket presence that wins out, which by the way was the main concern of main Bills media professionals.If you don’t believe me then ask yourself who are the top two quarterbacks in the NFL?

By most peoples’ standards’ it’s Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Neither of which are known for their athleticism.

So, how many Hall of Fame quarterbacks are known for the athleticism?

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Modern Era quarterbacks, definitely two in former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and Tampa Bay and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young. After that you could make a case for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Bills Jim Kelly. Outside of those you’re talking about former Minnesota Viking Fran Tarketon and Cleveland Brown Otto Graham.

Either which way, athletic quarterbacks are no more than a fad. Pocket passing franchise quarterbacks will be remembered forever.

In the end, I will state that Taylor will falter and E.J. will prove to be the franchise quarterback we have been waiting for as pocket presence will always prevail over athleticism.

The truth of Whaley’s comments

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Pretty much all of Western New York was upset over the fact that the Buffalo Bills cut running back Fred Jackson. All over social media there were videos of children breaking down and crying over their favorite player no longer with their favorite team.

Since then Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reported that two sources told him that Bills General Manager Doug Whaley went “Rogue” when cutting Jackson. However, some have criticized Graham over the validity of the report. So, here is my insight into the whole situation.

As a person with a Master’s of Science in Public Relations, the first thing that they teach is whatever comes up in the press it’s your job to handle it and defuse it. In the National Football League the job starts the minute that the news breaks.

When I was an undergraduate at Buffalo State College, I had the pleasure of hearing three speakers in my sports reporting course, which was taught by The Buffalo News’ Alan Pergament.  Two of the three were  The Buffalo News’ Tim Graham and Mark Gaughan. The third was Buffalo Bills Senior Vice President of Communication Scott Berchtold.

Before I go on I must tell you this. In the world of journalism you typically do what the source asks you. So, what I’m about to tell you is breaking that cardinal rule, but considering all the circumstances lately, I feel it’s well worth it.

It was the summer of 2011 and I just finished last fulltime semester as an undergraduate. I had only two courses to go to complete my Bachelors of Arts in journalism and media production.  One of the course offerings that summer was sports reporting, which to my surprise in the course catalog it said Alan Pergament.

Like many of you reading, my knowledge of Mr. Pergament came from reading The Buffalo New. In the news typically he wrote columns about the media, so the first thing that came into my mind was why he’s teaching a sports reporting course. The answer came within the very first days as he revealed that at Tbe Buffalo News he was first a sports reporter and transferred to his current position at the request of his superiors.

Of course that immediately got my attention and I wondered to myself if he would bring in some of his connections or colleagues to guest speak at my classes.

A few weeks later those questions proved to be right.  The first and third was Graham and Gaughan, who provided great insight to the industry.  However, it was the second speaker in Berchtold that provided to me the most insight into the NFL.

The one thing that I was surprised at was what he during the final stages of the game and just after.

During the final stages of a game he would go up to the media and confirm who they would want to speak to.  This gave him the necessary knowledge and insight to what was come as a longtime veteran of the NFL he knew how the media operated and how to diffuse a situation before the player ever stepped up to the podium.

Once Berchtold confirmed who the media wanted to talk to, he would grab the player. It was in this short period of time from the player’s locker to the podium that he works his magic.

“Every time that I walk with a player up to the podium I always go over things,” Berchtold said. “I would remind him to thank his teammates, the coaching staff and others. I did this in order to get the player to snap and sound off  before they ever reached the podium, because the media asks the same question five different ways to aggravate a player and get what they really are thinking.”

One of the most memorable moments to Berchtold came in the 1990s after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. On one of the key plays there seemed to be pass interference, which Kelly vehemently thought.  Of course Berchtold did his usual spiel to elicit a response from Kelly, who he knew before hand was upset about, and worked as Kelly snapped and replied he knew what he was doing.

However, on that fateful day Berchtold’s tactics failed.

“On my way up to the podium I did my usual thing,” Berchtold said. “I told Jim to thank his offensive line, his coaches and not to say anything about the referees. I knew he would snap, which he did, but that day things didn’t work.”

One of the media’s tactics is to ask the same question in various forms to elicit a emotional response from a player in order to get his true feelings.  With the Bills under Berchtold that is very rare as Berchtold is good at what he does.  However, that day was one of the few to have failed him.

“After I got a response from Jim he went up to the podium,” Berchtold continued. ‘ He answered all the media’s questions, but they came back to the play that there should have been a pass interference.  Eventually, Jim gave me a look he had enough and then snapped and criticized the officials and get a fine from the NFL.”

So why am I saying this? Berchtold is a veteran of the NFL of over 25 years.  His tenure starts before the Bills even went to four straight Superbowls. In other words he is very good at his job.

Why do you think when Graham reported Whaley went “Rogue” that the Bills in the media would show a unified front?

The answer is simply because Berchtold knows how to handle the media and more importantly how to make a scandal slip through the media cycle with very little coming back to the team. The evidence is what Whaley said yesterday.

“Let’s put it this way,” Whaley said. “I gather information from everybody, from the running backs coach to the offensive coordinator to the head coach and the owners. I wouldn’t be in this position – especially with new ownership – I’m going to include them. That’s my boss. We wouldn’t make a decision without them.”

In other words, Whaley gathered information from his roster and came to a decision that the team would be better off with Jackson cut and the money spent elsewhere.

Eichel Sabres good no matter what

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With the Buffalo Sabres having the second overall pick in June’s NHL Draft, many people have Boston University’s Jack Eichel being selected by the Sabres. No matter what decision Eichel makes, both he and the Sabres will benefit any which way.

Boston University came close to winning the NCAA Championship as it reached the Frozen Four. According to the Buffalo News Eichel was already selected as an assistant captain for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. So, if Eichel were to stay he would be the man on the team, expected to lead them to a NCAA Championship and have a ton of pressure on him, which is experience that he wouldn’t get this season with the Sabres.

Before the Sabres gutted their core players, they earned a reputation as a soft team that crumbled when under pressure. The teams that win the Stanley Cup are teams that can deal with the pressure and persevere under it.

Now, don’t get me wrong as I’m not saying leaving Boston University wouldn’t be good for him either.

If Eichel were to leave for the Sabres he would be immediately paired with a certain player that is already on the roster. That player is nobody other than Brian Gionta.

Gionta in college won the NCAA Championship as captain of Boston College for the 2000-2001 season. He then won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003 and just last year led the Montreal Canadiens to the Easter Conference Finals where they lost to the New York Rangers in six games. So, if Eichel were to leave he would be in good hands either which way.

As for the Sabres, if they were to get Eichel they obvious get a top notch player ready for the NFL that would vault the team towards making the NHL Playoffs. If Eichel were to stay at Boston University, then they would get to find out about some other prospects.

Forwards Johan Larsson and Mikhail Grigorenko have been languishing in the AHL for the last several seasons. With the trades the Sabres made at the deadline, along with injuries, both players got significant playing time with the team. Grigorenko scored two goals and two assists in the last 10 games while Larson had two goals and five assists.

Those aren’t great numbers, but they don’t account for the numerous opportunities that they created for their teammates that they didn’t capitalize on.

Let’s not forget 2014 second overall pick Sam Reinhart. The only thing that is keeping Reinhart from the NHL is his strength. However, with the season over Reinhart should have no trouble improving on that before the next season comes.

The NHL is a team sport and if one man could improve a whole team then the Edmonton Oilers would have won the Stanley Cup multiple times as they had the first overall pick from 2010-2012. The last time they were in the playoffs was the 2005-2006 season when they went to the Stanley Cup finals. Let’s not forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins who have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and still not made the playoffs this year.

In the end, Eichel is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Woods still has a chance

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The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons are about to come to a close, and Major League Baseball season has just gotten under way. That means all eyes are  on Augusta, GA and Tiger Woods as he makes his comeback.

It’s Woods first tournament since February and even though he finished a one over par at the Masters it doesn’t mean he is out of it.

Golf is different than most sports. Popular leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL are team based sports, However, the game of golf is different as it’s a individual performance based sport, which means Woods still has a chance as even though he finished a one over par he still has a chance as there are still three rounds to go.

Woods has been known for making remarkable comebacks in the past. Down multiple shots he still made comebacks to win tournaments in the past.

A lot of people will discount Woods with all his injuries, but that doesn’t mean anything/

The evidence is in the hole in one par three tournament that preceded the Masters. One of golf’s legends in Jack Nicklaus at 75-years-old made a hole in one prior to the tournament.

In the end, Nicklaus’s hole in one shows that in golf it’s not about one’s age, but about consistency.

Williams supports Incognito

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The Buffalo Bills started their offseason workout program on Monday and of course the longest tenured Bills is there in defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Like always it’s interesting to hear what he has to say.

Of course Bills reporters asked everyone and anyone about guard Richie Incognito, which of course Williams answered.

“Yeah I saw him,” Williams replied to a question. “And one thing, when we signed him, I was happy. He was a great teammate. Obviously a good player and when he was here he was a fantastic teammate and I wasn’t down when all that junk went down in Miami. So, I tend to base my opinions on my firsthand experiences with people and I had a great time with him as a teammate and I’m glad he’s here.”

The Bills already have a leader on the offensive line in center Eric Wood. According to Rotoworld.com, Wood signed a contract extension prior to the 2013 season, which runs thru 2017 and means that what happened with the Miami Dolphins won’t happen again.

Incognito was asked to take a leadership position with the team, and failed miserably at it.

However, this is a country that believes in second chances. Numerous athletes through the professional level of sports have been given a second chance, and Incognito is no different.

Another factor for Incognito is his age. As of July 5th, Incognito will be 32-years-old. That’s getting up there in age for a professional football player as most players are retired by their mid-30s.

In the end, Incognito will be on his best behavior as a Bills player, but if he doesn’t he will be done in the NFL,

What the Sabres fans and Tom Brady have in common

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The Buffalo Sabres are on a two game winning streak after their win Wednesday night against the Toronto Maples, which leaves them two points behind second last place Arizona Coyotes. If the Sabres don’t finish last, Sabres fans have only themselves to blame.

Going into the March 26nd home game against the Coyotes many in the media were wondering how fans would behave themselves. Those who watch the game saw the game know what happened. Let’s just say the Sabres didn’t like what happpened, which could cost Sabres fans the chance to draft coveted prospects Erie Otters Connor MacDavid and Boston University’s Jack Eichel.

The most aggravating thing is that you think that Buffaloians would have learned to keep their moths’ shut after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the last 15 years..

However, that isn’t the case as Sabres fans cheered for the Coyotes to win that night

After the game it was pretty evident from multiple Sabres players comments that fans cheering for the Coyotes didn’t sit well with them. They proved that on March 30th when they beat the Coyotes by a score of 4.-1.

So, how does Brady figure into this?

Simple, he and the Patriots for the past 15 years have used every single little quote in the media to motivate them to wins. That has led Brady to his fourth Superbowl win for his career this past Feburary with plenty of time for his fifth.. That fifth win would make him the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League, no matter what has happened in the past.

n the end, if the Sabres don’t finish last the, fans only those idiots who attended the game and cheered for the Coyotes.

It’s all about McDavid

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For quite a while now the conversation for the upcoming 2015 National Hockey League Draft has been about Connor McDavid or the Erie Otter and Jack Eichel of Boston University. No matter where the Buffalo Sabres finish it’s should be about McDavid.

The problem with the NHL is that the last place team isn’t assured of the first overall draft pick. If the Sabres even finished last they are only guaranteed a 20 percent chance at the first overall pick. Even though the NHL does things this way to prevent tanking, the fact of the matter is it still isn’t fair to the teams at the bottom of the NHL.

For teams at the bottom of the NHL it isn’t about getting great right away. It’s about obtaining and developing your prospects right so that they obtain their full potential, but the NHL doesn’t see it that way.

McDavid in 47 games with the Otters has scored 44 goals and 76 assists for 120 points, which averages to 2.55 points a game. Eichel with  Boston University has scored 24 goals and 42 assists for 66 points for an average of 1.83 points a game. Legendary NHL player Wayne Gretzky in 1977-78 with Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 64 games scored scored 70 goals and 112 assists for an average of2.84 points a game.

In the end, if the Sabres truly want to be great they will do everything they can to obtain McDavid.

Enjoy Hurley while he is here

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The UB Bulls men’s basketball team, led by head coach Bobby Hurley, almost pulled off an upset in their first ever game in the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo residents should enjoy Hurley while he is here, because it’s not going to last.

Coaches get hired and fired all the time. However, in college some coaches have been the head coach of their team for decades. There is one college head coach that been at his position for over 30 years and that is Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team.

Hurley led his Blue Devils team to back to back NCAA Championships in 1991 and 1992. Now, in his first head coaching job he led the Bulls to the MAC Conference Championship and the team’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Krzyzewski is 68-years-old, so it’s only a matter of time before he retires. Legendary college basketball head coach Bob Knight was the same age when he retired. It seems like Krzyzewski could coach forever, but that isn’t going to happen as father time is catching up to him.

So, enjoy it Buffalo, because we could be witnessing greatness in the making.

Trading bonanza

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The Buffalo Bills kicked off the start of the new National Football League year with two trades. Since then the trades are still rolling in.

The Bills stunned the entire football world when they traded linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Leseasn McCoy. The second trade came the very next day, which was surprising as well. In that trade the Bills sent two undisclosed draft picks for quarterback Matt Cassel and an undisclosed draft picks.

Those two trades may have triggered something as other teams have since gotten in the mix.

The next one was also a shocker by itself as the Seattle Seahawks sent a first round pick in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft and center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints. In return they received tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth round pick.

If that wasn’t enough, not even an hour later another big one came out.

This one saw the Eagles got active again trading quarterback Nick Foles, a fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and a second round pick in the 2016 NFL draft to the Saint Louis Rams for quarterback Matt Stafford and a fifth round pick in 2015 NFL draft. According to NFL.com, there is one clause that if Bradford doesn’t start eight games they will receive a fourth round pick in the 2016 Draft, which could become a third if he is reinjured.

Then this past Friday three more trades were announced.

The first was the Kansas City Chiefs sending an undisclosed draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for offensive lineman Ben Grubbs. The next one was saw the Saints trading wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a 2015 third round pick. Finally the Dolphins then sent wide receiver Mike Wallace and seventh round pick in 2015 to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth round selection.

Typically, most trades happen around the time of the Draft as teams look to move up near the top of the draft to get a player that they covet.  This many trades at the start of a new NFL season is unusual and should make the Draft very interesting

Bills introduce Cassel

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The Buffalo Bills introduced quarterback Matt Cassel today after making the trade with the Minnesota Vikings official on Monday. In the trade the Bills sent undisclosed draft choices to the Vikings in exchange for Cassel and an undisclosed draft choice.  To Cassel to become the starter he has to earn it.

“I think I’ve been in this league long enough to know that you have to compete in everything you do,” Cassel answered. “You have to earn every opportunity that you get. I know that there is going to be competition and I know that EJ is here. He is a young, talented player and I expect that there is going to be a competition. Again, you have to go out and earn your opportunity in this league.”

From there Cassel went on to give some insight on what it means to be a quarterback in the NFL. That is you’re not just competing for a starting position, but you also have to be a good teammate.

“I’ve always taken the approach that first and foremost you are teammates with everybody,” Cassel replied. “We spend a lot of time in the room with each other throughout the course of the year.  That relationship has to be solid because you want their support just as much as they want your support when you’re out on the field and playing and doing all that.”

Cassel then went on to explain that the decision on who is starting is the coaches to make.

“At the end of the day the coaches are going to pick the guy who they think is going to help them win ball games because that is the only stat that matters,” Cassel went on. “I’ve never been one of those guys that would hope that the other guy doesn’t do well or you hope the worst for somebody. I always try to lift somebody up and I think through competition, everybody becomes better. That’s always been my approach.”

The one that Bills fans can take away is that he understands what it takes to win in the NFL, especially in Buffalo. Something the Bills haven’t heard from a quarterback since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“Well I have played here a few times and I have played here late in the year, but I think that the weather conditions can be used as an advantage of us,” Cassel answered. “Late in the year anytime somebody comes into our stadium, especially with the fan base that we have and the excitement that they bring, I think it is going to be very tough for teams to come in here and play us.”