Pegula’s shine in time of crisis

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Kim and Terry Pegula faced a big crisis this offseason with both the Buffalo Bills and Sabres needing new general managers and head coaches. Even under intense scrutiny the Pegula’s shine.

The couple that owns both teams faced such intense scrutiny that some called the Bills dysfunctional.

“His issue hasn’t been that he’s overbearing or meddling, a common early problem for the billionaires who buy teams,” Albert Breer of MMQB.si.com. “It’s the opposite: He hasn’t done nearly enough to align his organization.”

The Pegulas were quoted in the article that they like collaborative organizations. The problem with the rest of the NFL world is that this is a foreign concept. This a league filled with big name leaders like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former Denver Broncos quarterback, who is now the team’s executive vice president of football operations and current general manager.

The reason the Bills were dysfunctional wasn’t due to their owners, but due to a general manager that was meddling, confrontational, simply doesn’t fit in the collaborative mold and most importantly isn’t very good at being a NFL general manager.

First, many writes have forgotten a 2014 incident between former Bills head coach Doug Marrone, some front office personnel and former general manager Doug Whaley. The front office didn’t like how certain players weren’t getting enough playing time. Those players were wide receiver Robert Woods, offensive guard/center Kraig Urbik and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.

Woods is nothing more that a number two wide receiver, who signed this offseason with the Los Angeles Ram. Urbik is a backup now with the Miami Dolphins and Kouandjio is nothing short of a complete disaster with the latest incident in this saga being an incident with the police half-naked just off the highway.

The real reason that the Bills haven’t made the playoffs is simply Whaley is just bad at being an NFL general manager to the point where one has to question his ability to evaluate incoming NFL Draft prospects.

In the NFL first round picks are gold as they can make or break your team.  That definitely is the case for Whaley as he foolishly gave up a 2015 NFL Draft pick to trade up and take wide receiver Sammy Watkins. All you have to do is look at the rest of the wide receivers in that first round to know how bad Whaley is.

Bills fans all remember that Odell Beckham Jr. was available to them at ninth overall as the New York Giants took him 12th overall. The problem is the team could have traded down and still got a stud wide receiver as that year was loaded with wide receivers. The rest of the round included Mike Evans, who was taken seventh overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brandin Cooks, 20th by the New Orleans Saints, and Kelvin Benjamin, 28th by the Carolina Panthers.

So, here is a look at their career numbers, which is organized by draft position:

Watkins: 37 games with 153 receptions for 2,459 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns

Evans: 46 games with 238 receptions for 3,578 yards receinv and 27 touchdowns

Beckham Jr.: 43 games with 288 receptions for 4,122 yards receiving and 35 touchdowns

Cooks: 42 games with 215 receptions for 2,861 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns

Benjamin: 32 games with 136 receptions for 1,949 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns

Finally on the Bills front, let’s not forget another big blunder this offseason that sealed his fate

One of the big headlines during the 2016 NFL season was if the Bills were going to resign cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The thing is most smart NFL teams tag franchise players like Gilmore and then trade them to a team for draft picks to get compensation, which the team did in 2009 with offensive tackle Jason Peters. Whaley didn’t do that and Gilmore signed with the New England Patriots, which would get any general manager in the NFL fired.

The Bills however look to be in a solid place as the team hired Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be their head coach and hired Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane as their general manager. They also made a solid trade in last April’s NFL Draft as they traded down with the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2018 first rounder and still got a cornerback that they liked.

As for the Sabres their problem can simply boiled down to one point. Former general manager Tim Murray got too greedy and made a terrible trade that cost his team a solid young defenseman.

During the 2016 NHL Draft, Murray traded for Flordia Panther defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and the 33rd overall pick for defenseman Mark Pysyk, the 38th and 89th overall picks. The only way this trade works out is if center Rasmus Asplund, who was taken with the 33rd overall pick, turns out to be a good one.

That is easily fixable for the Sabres as they have four solid defenseman and two young defensemen.

The Sabres top four is already determined with Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Josh Georges and Zach Bogosian.   As for their young defensemen those would be Brady Ausin and Brendan Guhle.

Austin played five games near the end of the regular season for the Sabres and just finished his second season with the Sabres minor league team the Rochester Americans. So, he may be ready to make the jump to the NHL this year.  As for Guhle, he will be 20-years-old this summer, which means he will certainly be sent to Rochester to develop his game.

So, the Sabres are stacked with players and got off on the right foot as they hired Pittsburgh Penguin associate general manager Jason Botterill. That just leaves their head coach.

Give the Pegulas some creditas it takes great courage to stand up for what you believe in. Like it or not they have done just that as both organizations will be teams where front office personnel and head coaches will work together for one common goal.

 

Bills Media has Fallen a long way

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As a teenager in the 1990s when it came to quality sports coverage in Western New York, WGR 550’s Chuck Dickerson, who was a former Bills Defensive Line coach until after Super Bowl XXVI, and Art Wander, who was known as “The Tiny Tot of the Kilowatt,” ruled the air. It’s been over a decade since the two were on air at the station together and it’s obvious the station has fallen a long way since then.

In the summer of 2006 I interned at WGR and worked in the news room along with former WNSA and WGR reporter Jeff Morrison and then WGR Program Director Andy Roth. It was well known within WGR’s staff that Roth was a hothead that blew up on anyone that made a mistake. I know learned that personally as Morrison asked me to write an article on the contract extension of Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, who at the time was the Buffalo Bills right tackle and rookie contract ran out.

I was subsequently called in to Roth’s office and ripped for the quality of it. For those at home journalism writing is different than regular English writing, which I wrote the article like.

However, that wasn’t the end of it as while the station was off air Roth ripped me a second time for it, which I will swear on the bible in a court of law as true.

The one thing that I will complement WGR is the quality of coverage by Sabres studio host John Koziel and Sabres beat reporter Paul Hamilton. Hamilton knows his hockey as he played for the University of Iowa and actually tried out for the Miracle on Ice U.S.A. Team hockey team, according to a comment by him that won the Gold Medal during the Winter Olympics in February of 1980.

 

The fact of the matter is the people at WGR don’t know their football. Their life could depend on it and they still wouldn’t. The proof is in an email exchange between me and WGR’s Jeremy White based on his All-22 Review Bills/Titans White wrote this.

“In the next clip ( Bills defensive tackle Marcell) Dareus is lined up over the guard, but taken by the center,” White wrote.  “Dareus has the ability to maintain his blocker, with head up to see the runner.  Running backs occasionally read a block or lane based on the helmet of the defensive lineman.  Watch as Dareus holds left side, and then darts back right to make the play.:

Anyone who has ever played a down of organized football in high school knows that this is completely wrong. On the play the Titans right guard, number 79 pulls to trap Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, but for whatever reason the left guard, number 76, didn’t release straight to the linebacker like the play is supposed to and block Williams. The running back recognized this right away and cut to his right immediately.

That leads me to the game against the Cincinatti Bengals.

The one thing that bugged me going into this game was the Bills inability to do anything outside of their first scripted drive. For those who haven’t played, typically the first 15-20 plays are predetermined on what coaches see in their opponent’s game film. The Bills are good at this, but have been terrible adjusting after.

The evidence are in the stats at NFL.com,  prior to the Bengals game the Bills lost games where they passed more and won where they ran more. That was the case against the Bengals as the Bills passed more than ran.

So, what does it mean?

What it means is that Bills head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Gregg Roman isn’t good when it comes to offense. Also, it means that Roman’s reputations is due to former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbuagh’s offensive prowess as he was formerly a quarterback in the NFL as Roman was the offensive coordinator under Harbaugh. All one has to do is look at current 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kapernick.

Under Harbaugh and Roman, Kaepernick had a 2:1touchdown to interception ratio, but without them Kaepernick is 1:1 as it’s his first year without the pair. Also, his predecessor Alex Smith, who starts for the Kansas City Chiefs, had a 1:1 touchdown to interception ration until Harbaugh was hired by the 49ers in 2011.

I didn’t like the hire of Ryan from the very start.

In fact, I totally hate it to this day. The Bills, prior to hiring Ryan, had Jim Schwartz as a defensive coordinator that proved he still had it defensively in 2014. Also, they had the ability to hire the former Bills backup quarterback to Jim Kelly in Frank Reich who led the team to the “Greatest Comeback” on January 3rd, 1993.

On most other bad teams, Riech would’ve started, but due to the fact that he was drafted by the Bills in the NFL where there was no free agency, Reich was relegated to backup behind Kelly, but the fans knew they had two special quarterbacks. The reason being in 1989, Reich filled in for an injured Kelly and led the Bills to two straight wins, one of which was against the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football.

My first year of watching and studying football was Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas rookie year in 1988. That was the year in an overtime win against the Houston Oilers the behind the Bills offensive Hall of Famers trio in Kelly, Thomas and wide receiver Andre Reed, perfected the “No Huddle Offense” which is a staple today and used by current NFL greats like Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and New England Patriots Tom Brady.

Don’t get me wrong, because the quarterback position is changing according to The Wall Street Journal.

 “Bills general manager Doug Whaley said he had the same results when he asked prospects a question about defenses shifting from a common scheme called “cover 2” to an equally mundane tactic called “cover 3,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.  “Hue Jackson, the offensive coordinator from the Bengals, said he had to dumb down his questions, while Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said some QBs failed to grasp things as basic as understanding a common play call. “You have to teach these kids the absolute basics,” he said.”

For those who never played, “Cover Whatever” simply refers to the deepest line to the defense, which are typically the safeties. Cover Zero means all the defensive backs are locked up in man coverage, Cover one means that there is one safety covering the deepest parts of the field and Cover two means there are two safeties back deep.

The sad part to me is this is stuff I learned in seventh grade modified football on defense.

In the end, most of the outside of the Buffalo News don’t know their football as some reporters like Mark Gaughan sits with players and break down film with them. This is in spite to the fact that he has an ailing child. I know this personally as in September 2012, while my son was in the last months of his life at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, I saw Gaughan in the PICU there and talked to him outside of Tim Horton’s in the hospital lobby.

The evidence is in the clamoring of current Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor who makes plays with his legs. Previous Bills quarterbacks like J.P. Losman and Ryan Fitzpatrick could run as well, but flamed out due to their inability to pass, but that has been lost by the media cause of WGR’s corporate stance, which they took when Dickerson was still there.

That being saying enough criticism while not aggravating the powers to be on the Bills and Buffalo Sabres.

At Cheektowaga Central there is a saying that everyone says entering the locker room after practice that I take to heart today. “Cheektowaga Central Football; a commitment to excellence.” WGR has shown their committed to pleasing corporations and the Bills coaching staff to their and their players egos.

 

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.

Sabres bid is hard to say no to

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Anyone who has been to a Toronto Maple Leafs game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center has seen firsthand the rivalry between the two teams. Well the rivalry has been taken to a whole new level with the latest news from the Sabres.

According to the Associated Press, the Sabres have submitted a bid to the National Hockey League for the Harbor Center to be host of the NHL Combine for the next three years.

“We’re very confident that this is where it should be,” Black said about the combine. “I believe that we’ve probably put in the most work and are the most prepared to host this in less than a year.”

The Harbor Center has two rinks, stands for fans to attend, meeting rooms, training center, the ability to do on and off-ice testing and it will be hard to say no to the Sabres for one very important reason.

Privacy is a very important thing to players at times. They are human beings and don’t like to be mobbed by fans whenever they go somewhere. The Harbor Center provides this anonymity as it will also house a hotel as well.

Also, there is more than enough space within walking distance to the Harbor Center as the Phillips Lytle Building is next door and houses the Courtyard by Marriott and the Adams Mark Hotel which is only a few blocks away.  Let’s not forget the fact that there will be a Tim Hortons within the facility and who doesn’t like Tim Horton’s.

For evidence all one has to look at the fact that USA Hockey announced that the facility will host both the Under-18 women’s and sledge hockey world championships next year. Also, they will play host to USA Hockey’s annual All-American Prospects game over the next two years.

In the end, the Sabres will win, because the Harbor Center has too many features that will benefit everyone that is involved with the combine.

Pegula will be next owner

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According to WGRZ, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is interested in buying the Buffalo Bills.  With that news it’s pretty clear that Pegula is now the favorite to become the next owner of the Bills.

The reason that Pegula is the clear favorite isn’t what you think. No, it’s not due to the fact that Pegula that the company he founded in East Resources, Inc. sold 75,000 acres of land for $1.75 billion. Don’t get me wrong that does help his case, but what will clinch it for him is something much more simple.

What I’m talking about is the four members of the trust that was established  when Ralph Wilson died. The four members are Mary Wilson, Jeff Littman, Mary Owen and Attorney Eugene Driker, which was first reported by All Sports WNY. Two of them are still employed by the Bills in Littman who’s the Bills CFO and Treasurer of the Ralph Wilson Equity Fund and Owen who’s the Vice President of Strategic Planning.

Seriously, who in their right mind is going to hand over ownership of the team to someone that is just going to turn around and fire them?

What’s going to happen is that the trust will find an owner who is going to keep the team here, won’t clean house and keep business as usual. That owner is clearly Pegula who demonstrated just that when he bought the Sabres as the only change he made then was the hiring of Ted Black as president since the position was vacated when ownership changed to his control.

People forget that Wilson, Littman and Owen have been a part of this community for many years and have established friends and relationships with others in the community. Many of their friends are also Bills fans as well. So, you’re telling me that they will just take the highest bidder and turn around to their friends, look them in the eye and say sorry after the next owner takes control and announce they are moving the team.

In the end what will happen is that Pegula will be sold the team and the Bills will then spin the announcement as a great day for WNY as the team is staying and its business as usual.