Project: Backyard Ice Rink (Part 3)

Who knew that this project would have so many hurdles and barriers and pitfalls? I knew it would be work, but aside from our being novices in building an ice rink in our back yard, we have also faced plenty of challenges from the weather!

Check out the forecast: 50º right now, and not a freezing temp in sight!

When are we gonna catch a break?!

The good news is, the kids are still having a blast with it, and what I wrote in Part 2 of this saga will still greatly improve next year’s rink, if we do get to do that. For now, we are happy with our little less-than-perfect ice rink.

We finally got usable ice after about a day and a half of super-freezing temps (10s). And then it was only “usable” by the lightest in our family. The heavier boys (who coincidentally also love using the rink the most) were a bit too much for the weaker ice, and it cracked in a few places under their weight. Still, they would not be deterred and have even set up a makeshift hockey goal for when the cold weather finally does arrive.

For now, we once again gaze out our window at a green lawn, and a surprisingly quickly melting “ice” rink, yearning for much more seasonal temperatures.

We are glad for those who like warmer weather, but not-so-secretly, anxiously awaiting the arrival of real Western NY winter weather!

Bring it on Old Man Winter!

Our still quite imperfect ice, close up


Life is full of unpredictability. We can often live under the illusion that we know what’s coming, that we are in control, but really… life throws you a curveball more often than not.

And that includes the NFL. 😉

As you may know, if you’ve frequented this blog, the Campbell family enjoy a weekly seasonal tradition of tracking whom we think will win each of the NFL games every fall. It’s a fun thing to do together that we all enjoy, but the best part for me is watching the youngest choose the team they think will win. They are usually pretty sure they know, with a good measure of certainty!

And so am I… but this week, not so much!!

All year I’ve been doing pretty well. I had begun to think, “Hmm… I have this thing all figured out!” Going into this weekend, through nine weeks, 130 games, I had gotten ninety of them correct. 90-40. That was several (or many) games better than many so-called “experts”. Nice!

But then what happened? Who knew Seattle could actually beat Baltimore? And, who in the world could have predicted the John Skelton-led, 2-6 Arizona Cardinals could fly all the way across the country to Philadelphia and beat a much more talented Eagles team???

Not me.

So, I have fallen from my perch atop our family league’s standings (at least, I think I was previously atop it…) and I’ve also slipped into second place in another league of NFL pick making.

What is this world coming to??? 🙂

For now, I think it’s a good reminder that you never really know what’s coming. No, life is not one big NFL game. (Or even a collegiate level or otherwise lesser game.) However, it does seem to throw just as many curve balls as some crazy NFL weeks, like this one!

Speaking of unpredictable and the world of NFL football… how about those Buffalo Bills?!

Good thing we at least know there is Onewe can always count on in this crazy unpredictable world. 🙂

So Cliché

It’s football season, and this year’s campaign is no different than any other. Each team is going to be taking it one game at a time, giving 110%, and leaving it all on the field, hoping to come away with a victory.

When the game begins, when the chips are down, if you’ve put in your time in the film room, studied your opponents tendencies so you know what they’re going to throw at you, and you’ve got your game face on, even though the outcome is always up in the air, chances are you’ll have the upper hand. Plus, if you’re playing in your own back yard, you’ll have the aid of the 12th man!

Once the game is underway, you’ll have to keep your head in the game. Stick to your gameplan. Your best defense is a good offense. Let your backs pound the rock, or your QB air it out, and get a jump on your opponent by getting on the board early. Then get ready for the ensuing kickoff.

On the other side of the ball, you’ll need to just pin your ears back, step up, and play a full sixty minutes. Make sure you cash in on your takeaways, and whenever possible flip the field on special teams. You have to win in all three phases of the game.

At the end of the day, when the final whistle blows, the better team always wins the game.

And that’s why we love this game.

Note: I didn’t “scratch the surface” of the breadth of terms employed by football players, coaches, and especially media personnel “week in and week out” in the world of NFL football. So, if you have some to add, “throw your hat in the ring” in the comments below. (What does that really mean, anyway?)

A Buffalo Team With Money?

Sabres defenseman, Christian EhrhoffI’ve been a fan of Buffalo sports teams for almost 25 years now. That’s a good long time. Many players, many coaches, many GMs, and—at least for the Sabres—a few different owners. (I’m thinking right now that maybe the Bills could use a different owner…)

Near the mid-way point of last year, the Sabres were purchased by a guy who has made his fortune in the business world, who also happens to be a Sabres’ fan. Terry Pegula sat in the stands as a season ticket holder for a couple decades, watching his favorite team do well, but never well enough to bring home the Stanley Cup. When the Sabres were up for sale, he did what probably most every avid fan would love to do … he bought his favorite team.

The crazy thing is, though he is certainly not wanting to lose money from the business side of his new sports franchise, as a fan of this team (and hockey in general) and as a man with apparently abundant supplies of cash, he doesn’t only want to make the Sabres competitive. He has repeatedly stated that his only goal is to win a Stanley Cup in Buffalo. Many Stanley Cups.

As soon as he came to town, his infectious enthusiasm really did seem to spur the Sabres to play much better hockey. They finished the season on a strong run to end up in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, and played almost well enough to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, who were a powerhouse in 2010-2011. The talk from the team and all over the region (among fans, media… everyone!) was that this guy might just have the magic touch. (And… the cash to back that up!)

Pegula has been personally visiting the players that the team is targeting to bolster their roster. That is clearly important to him. The players, the management, and nearly everyone in the organization is impressed by how personally involved (and involved passionately) he has been. It could be a reason that the Sabres have signed a couple players already, even before free agency starts at noon today.

The Sabres have already shown a commitment to improving their ‘D’. Trading a couple young guys (including defenseman Chris Butler, whom I was hoping they’d somehow move…) to the Calgary Flames for D Robyn Regher, a tough, veteran D-man. (They also got former Sabre forward, Ales Kotalik in the deal, but not sure where they are going with that.) And just yesterday, the Sabres signed soon-to-be free agent D Christian Ehrhoff (likely one of the top free agent defensemen) to a multi-year deal after acquiring his negotiating rights from the Islanders (who were apparently unsuccessful in their attempt to sign him).

The Sabres—at Pegula’s direction—are on the move.

And I don’t think they are done.

They have been signing a few players that are currently on the roster. After signing Regher and Ehrhoff, they also traded D Steve Montador to Chicago for a conditional draft pick. And then today at noon, free agency begins.

The name everyone is throwing around is Brad Richards. If the Sabres want him, I would expect that they will be a player in the quest to acquire him. (How strange is it, Buffalo fans, to have an owner that has money and wants to spend it!?) It’s conceivable the Sabres would pursue him as they really don’t have a #1 center (even though Derek Roy had a very productive season last year, despite missing about half of it due to injury) and they also lack “star power”, which this veteran forward would bring.

There still is a salary cap, but expect the Sabres, with their new deep-pocketed and fairly aggressive ownership to pursue the best available players. It wouldn’t surprise me if they make another trade or two here this offseason as well.

Hopes are high here in the Buffalo sports region. The Sabres have not been as frustrating as the Bills have been recently, but there has perhaps not been as much hope as there seems to be now. And with apparently good reason. Regher and Ehrhoff make the Sabres better. And the team is not done.

When the clock strikes noon today, the Sabres will be looking to further increase their chances of bringing home the Cup. That is, of course, everyone’s goal. But right now, it looks like more of a real possibility for Buffalo than it ever has.

Now if only Terry could buy the Bills…

Family Football Fun: Wrapping Up the 2010 Season

Well, it’s official. If you’re a fan of the NFL, you know that when the playoffs start next week, they will include for the first time ever a team with a losing record. That’s right. A losing record. Something about that fascinated me and I found myself watching nearly all of the game that just finished. (That’s rare… I usually only watch the Bills games and then hardly any of the rest of the games on NFL weekends.)

If you are not a fan of the NFL, you may have figured out that a team with a losing record is not a very good team. You’re right. Both teams tonight, while they had their moments, also showed repeatedly why they finished the year 7-9.

The football season has ended (in a way) and that means that our Campbell Family Football Fun has ended as well. I think I have posted here before that we make picks as a family each week, and tally all the results. Every game, every week. It’s a blast! I believe this was at least the third season we’ve done it, perhaps the fourth.

This year was the second for “The Girls” (Kirsten and Julia, our 6 and 4-year-old girls as a team) to make their picks. Right out of the gate they had a sizable lead, and they kept it most of the year! It was so fun to see them picking crazy picks… and getting them right!!! But besides pure innocent luck, even better were all the times that these two tiny girls pondered their selections, weighing the pros and cons for each team including who’s playing and who’s not, where the game is being held, current trends for both teams… they were great!

Sadly, though they were tied with Dad going into the final week, Dad pulled off an incredible 12-4 record for the week, while the girls—perhaps paying homage to the first losing-record team to make the post season—finished 7-9.

However, don’t feel too sad for them. Mom and Ian finished tied for at a distant third. They still had quite a great year!

And, Kirsten was the champion of our family fantasy football league, too, beating out Uncle Scott by .54 points in the league’s championship game! (Way to go Dark Pink Pony Pigs! Yes… Kirstie’s very creative team name…) 🙂

We love football Sundays, but honestly, I think we love all the family fun even more than the NFL or the games themselves!

Now we can’t wait till next year!

NHL GameCenter - Free Preview Oct 11

NHL GameCenter – Free!

NHL GameCenter - Free Preview Oct 11

The NHL is once again offering a one-day only free preview of their NHL GameCenter package. For $19.95/mo or $159 for the whole season you can watch every NHL game, several at once, and they even have classic games and an archive of past games that you can peruse. It’s a pretty great deal if you’re a huge NHL fan, or if you are not in your favorite team’s market.

And for today… it’s completely free!

So head on over and sign up and watch some hockey today! There are games all day, since it’s Colombus Day. Early games have the Rangers and Islanders playing at 1pm ET, then Ducks/Blues at 2pm ET, Penguins/Devils at 4pm ET. At 7pm ET there are three more games (including my Buffalo Sabres!): Blackhawks/Sabres, Avalanche/Flyers, and Sens/Caps. Then, finish of the hockey day with the Panthers visiting the Canucks at 10pm ET. Nice!

Hoping I get to see some of those games today… And I hope you do too!

Lessons in Futility (from the Buffalo Bills)

We all know the numbers. 10 years with no playoffs. 4 games with no wins. 1 starting quarterback benched after two weeks, then just dumped on the street after three weeks. And of course, the biggest number of all is, 50 years, 0 Lombardi trophies*.

There are only 8 teams out of 32 in the NFL that have a losing record. Four of those teams are 0-4, including the Buffalo Bills. But when you look at this list of teams that either haven’t won a game, or have only won one, you tell me if you see any team that has looked more hopeless than the Bills through four games:

Cleveland: 1-3
Oakland: 1-3
Dallas: 1-2
Minnesota: 1-2
Carolina: 0-4
Detroit: 0-4
San Francisco: 0-4

You can’t, can you. Only perhaps the Carolina Panthers have managed to be quite as toothless and inept as the Bills. The one game where we had a fairly decent showing, we lost to our nemesis, the New England Patriots… maybe just because we are trying for a perfect season? No wins?!

Certainly Dallas and Minnesota do not belong on this list, and I’m sure they will remedy that. As for the other 0-4 teams, Detroit has literally been in every single game right down to the end, and had at least one (the opening weekend game) practically stolen from them when the refs decided to call a play by the book rather than by their eyes. (That was a TD!) San Francisco has been almost as inept, but yesterday they lost a game they were leading most of the way on a last-second, long FG.

And, if you look at the net points for each team (meaning, points against subtracted from points for) the Bills rank dead last at -64. Ouch. (The other 0-4 teams are San Fran -51, Carolina -41, and Detroit -24.)

I think it’s fairly obvious that the Bills are “on the clock”.

(Though perhaps Carolina and San Fran might be able to wrestle that position away from them…)

So what accounts for this meteoric … drop? I mean, for the last four seasons the Bills have at least gotten 6 or 7 wins. We were loving our mediocrity here in Buffalo. But now, we are quite possibly the worst team in the NFL! What has changed?

The only real “excuse” I have for the Bills is the new defensive scheme. It’s well known that the Bills shifted to a 3-4 defense this offseason, and it’s also quite obvious that they have not quite fully “shifted” as yet. Last season the Bills’ defense was one of the top takeaway teams (especially interceptions), and the #2 overall pass defense. This season, they are the #28 defense overall (thanks to still being #12 against the pass) and they have not only 0 INTs, but only 1 takeaway. ONE. In four games!

And the only reason that they are #12 in passing yards allowed per game is that they are dead last in rush defense, allowing teams an average of 174 yards per game on the ground. When you can get 174 yards rushing, you don’t really need to pass! (And, more evidence of their defensive futility, the Bills rank second-to-last in sacks with 4 for the entire season so far. Only the Cincinnati Bengals are worse.)

My family moved to Buffalo in 1986. The same year Marv Levy was hired by the Bills. The year after they drafted Bruce Smith and Andre Reed. The year Jim Kelly decided to join the team. (He was drafted in 1983, but didn’t play for them till 1986.) Then we met some friends who were big fans of the team. None of our family were football fans (or even any sport fans) … but one day in 1988 we were offered the chance to join those friends at a live NFL football game, and that endeared us to the football club from Buffalo from that moment on.

(The game? It was a 9-6 OT win over the New York Jets by which the Bills claimed the division title as a result of their then 11-1 record! It was exciting, electrifying—very wet… rained all day—and as I said, endeared us to this team from then on.)

Then came the Super Bowls, and a few more years of good players and fun wins…

Then came the last decade. Bad GMs, bad coaches, bad players, bad decisions by management, bad teams, bad records… mad fans.

But we had never hit such a bottom as this. This year, it seems to me, we could very possibly not win a single game. 0-16. Only the second team to ever accomplish such a feat. Wow.

So the Bills press on in their quest for ultimate futility. This week, the Jacksonville Jaguars (and former starting QB, Trent Edwards**) come to town. Surprisingly, there is no favorite in this game. The Bills have been very big underdogs in all the games so far, but in this one, the game is a “pick” game. I’m guessing that will change by the time they play the game this Sunday!

For the Bills and Bills fans, we now focus our attention on the 2011 draft. With the #1 pick overall, we can hope to finally have a great player in Buffalo again? Will it be one of the highly-touted QBs? Likely. Or perhaps a hall-of-fame caliber left tackle? Perhaps. The last time the Bills had the #1 overall pick was in 1985, and that was used to select Bruce Smith. One can only hope…

Until then… we still watch. And groan. And hide our eyes at times. But cheer for the few moments of good plays. CJ Spiller is fun to watch. Sometimes Roscoe Parrish. And, we do have a good punter… 🙂

But really, the 2010 season is all about planning for 2011.

“The Buffalo Bills are on the clock.”

* These numbers are slightly unfair as the Lombardi trophy has not been awarded 50 times, and the Bills technically were champions of their league before the Super Bowl years. In 1964 and 1965 they were the AFL champions… and they were one game away from being the AFL’s first Super Bowl representative in 1966, but lost to the KC Chiefs.

** By “former”, we mean of course, only two weeks ago. That’s a very recent “former”.

Good (Competitive) Family Fun!

NFL LogoFor the last two, or maybe three years we Campbells have been having some more interactive fun with the weekly NFL games. Not only do we enjoy watching as much of them as we can on weekends, we also try to predict the outcome of each, and we have quite the “set up” to track our results!

Before the season begins we print out all the NFL logos on card stock (6 total sets) and then we set to work cutting each one out. That’s a pretty fun part, too, as the kids enjoy cutting out the shapes of the logos. (And Alex enjoys making the shapes even more interesting!) Then we put them all in little ziploc baggies that bear our names and we’re ready to go.

Then each week, I print out the schedule of games and one of us sets up the bulletin board with the week’s games. Everybody then pins up the logo of the team they expect to win and we have a nice little pick’s board hanging on our dining room wall. On Sundays we put up big colorful thumbtacks next to the choices that were correct.

There are five columns of predictions next to the game list. Dad, Ian, Alex (the original three participants), Mom & “The Girls” (our six- and four-year-old girls who work as a team). So far Emma and Cameron are not participating. But I’m sure they will!

Now, the best part this year is the current standings. The first year, I finished as the winner, but only by a narrow margin over our then 6-year-old son. Last year I believe Ian won, by a good amount of games (Dad finishing second) and this year? I know it’s only two weeks, but… the girls are SIX games ahead of the rest of us!!!

The Girls: 23-9
Dad: 18-14
Mom: 17-15
Alex: 16-16
Ian: 14-18

Too funny! I mean… those little girls probably have the best record of any prognosticators anywhere. And the best part is, they’re not just completely guessing! They actually know the teams, which ones tend to win more or less, and that home teams generally have the advantage over road teams. Incredible!

Family Fantasy SportsSo, along with our own family fantasy football league (hosted at we have quite a bit of fun here in the Campbell household during football season!

(Fun except when Ian steals all of the free agent running backs that I am trying to pick up!!!)


An Open Letter to One Bills Drive

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you today on behalf of Bills fans everywhere. I feel both compelled and qualified to speak as a representative of this great collection of people scattered across the globe. First I am compelled by great frustration with what has now seemingly become the tradition of losing and mediocrity that surrounds and defines this once proud organization. The length of time that those under the Buffalo Bills’ banner have wallowed in this squaller of ineptitude, and a general mentality of losing has long since become too much for loyal fans to bear. Second, my qualification is simply that I have not met many other fans of any team quite as optimistically devoted to their home town team. (Though, admittedly, there are a good percentage more amongst Bills fans than any other team’s following.)

What is so perplexing to me is this annual routine that we seem to be mired in, which (understandably) produces the same results. First, following another below average (to downright dismal) season, we dip into the free agent market, but only manage to pull out a few lesser-known players whom you might designate “role players” on a team that already has its building blocks and stars. Then, as the draft approaches and all the professionals and amateurs discuss their various mock drafts, excitement builds for the possibility of landing even half of these future greats. Only, excitement wanes as the first pick is announced… then the second… then the third. And the draft comes and goes with questions like, “Why didn’t they trade up to get [insert great prospect name here],” or, “Who are these guys???”

Now, to be fair, there have been some gems in the past decade of drafts. (And some remain to be seen of course, since you really can’t fairly assess the success of players drafted until a few years into their professional career.) But overall, we still do not make a so-called “big splash” in free agency or the draft.

(Save the Terrell Owens experiment, of course. That was slightly out of character for our Buffalo Bills, and sadly, did not work out as hoped due to the previous methods for building the foundation of the team.)

And once the mediocre team is in place, Bills fans begin to see all the “up sides” of their new players. Certainly there are good things about each of these players, and they should be noticed. However, somewhere early in the regular seasons, our improperly inflated hopes surrounding these players that (rightfully) no one else in the NFL has heard of are quickly deflated … leaving us again in nearly utter sports-fan despair.

So this is my proposal. Please grab a pen and paper. (Or a laptop, or other note-taking device.) I will only say this once, so you must listen closely. And it can be completely trusted due to my impeccable record as a GM for two separate Buffalo Bills franchises in Madden ’08.


FIRST MOVE: Start at the top.
First, you need “football guys” running the show. You already did this! Good work! Buddy Nix has been a scout and an assistant GM and seems to know his stuff about football players. Chan Gailey has only been a winner everywhere he goes (though he’s slightly “off the radar” in terms of name recognition) and his toughness and hard work ethic will rub off on these young guys, as I believe it already is doing. So, nice job.

SECOND MOVE: Build the Foundations
The previous administration had begun doing some of this with the drafting of two rookie offensive linemen last year, but it is just not cutting it to have such inexperience in the most crucial part of the team. A great offensive line can make anyone a great running back, and even make an average QB look great. Right now we have a very poor (and porous) offensive line, and they are making our offensive play makers look, well… offensive.

Wood and Levitre may indeed be the answer on the interior of the line eventually, and I have no complaints about the center, Geoff Hangartner. But the cornerstones of an offensive line are its ends. Left and right tackle. You signed a RT in the offseason, Cornell Green, but I’m not seeing him as a brick wall, or a “House” (whom we Bills fans grew accustomed to seeing as a fixture during the 1990s in Howard “House” Ballard).

There are options. Bell may end up being a fantastic athlete and a great tackle. Why not move him to right tackle and make a trade for San Diego’s disgruntled LT, Marcus McNeill? McNeill was a Pro Bowl player last year, and is currently holding out. My proposal is that we trade Marshawn Lynch and either a draft pick or one of our generic wide receivers for Marcus McNeill, and immediately improve our offensive line.

Then, we need to deal another decent player for a first round draft pick in 2011 (so we have at least two 1st round picks) and grab a high-profile tackle in next year’s draft. The foundational piece of the offense is the line, and ours has way too many cracks and holes that need immediate attention.

On the defense, while all of our players have heart, it’s not clear that they have enough talent. Nearly every team that dictates play on defense has a play maker on the defensive line. If there is an option right now for a trade, make it. If not, then trade Chris Kelsay for as high a draft pick as possible. Then in 2011 or 2012 draft a play maker defensive end. Such as Mario Williams is becoming for the Houston Texans. (#1 overall pick a few years back.)

THIRD MOVE: Get Your Play Makers
Once the foundation is in place, then you add your stars. I believe that one was added this year in C. J. Spiller. That kid looks great. (Of course, no one can see how great he is, thanks to the defense being in the backfield with him when he gets the ball. See above.) And, Fred Jackson has proven to be quite a productive player as well. Nice job.

However, one position that once seemed a strength (if only due to the sheer number of roster spots taken by these players) is now currently a great liability. It is my belief that the Buffalo Bills have not only need for a #2 wide receiver, but also a #1 wide receiver. While I think that Lee Evans has incredible hands, and is equally incredibly fast, he can not dominate a game. He simply can not. He has had chances, and has never done it. Good teams have at least two threats, and we really have none. (Again, part of the blame must go to the lack of an offensive line—not giving Evans enough time to get open.) I’m not even sure that Evans is a good route runner. When there is any time for our QB to throw, the receivers are not open!

So starting right now, decide who you think are the top two game-breaking WRs in the game (pro or college level) and go get them. Spare no expense. Trade Lee Evans for a high draft pick if it’s a college player you want. Move Roscoe Parrish. Trade Brian Moorman if you think it will help! Great, game-changing WRs can make an offense unstoppable. And they need to be at least in pairs. Steve Johnson, David Nelson, and Donald Jones are all just fine. But that’s all they are. Fine. We need game breakers.

Then, I am sure you have noticed that other teams have game changers at the tight end position, right? How about last game’s performance by Jermichael Finley? Yes, you’re right. That was really good! Most good-to-great teams have a large, physical, fast, pass-catching TE who can change the game. Keep the chains moving, and put points on the board (to use a few football cliches…) Trade any or all of our current tight ends for one game-changing tight end. Throw in a few hundred chicken wings to sweeten the deal.

And lastly, quarterback.

I am actually a supporter of Trent Edwards. He is the best option on the roster currently, and he actually does (by my estimation) possess all the physical and mental skills of a good to even great quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw. He is accurate. He has the strong arm. He is intelligent, and knows and understands football. He can even (most times) read defenses and make the right call.

Sadly… he is not he answer.

I have seen it all through the off-season, and during these past two regular season games. He does not want to win. The one piece he is missing is an intangible, that all great QBs have. The competitive drive/fire to win. Just win. No matter what it takes, and don’t ever settle for less. Anything less is a complete failure. (Granted, there will be clashes between two great teams where one team wins and one loses… and that can still be the bitter/sour taste of a loss, but the reality is that one team does lose.) The problem with Trent is that he is too accustomed to losing (through his entire life of playing football) and it doesn’t seem to bother him. At least, not as much as it should.

So, there must be a shake-up, and it should come from the draft. One of the two (or more) first round picks we have and/or acquire via trade need to be used on a big-name QB, who has always won. Don’t get cute, just do what it takes to land the guy who will want to win, and has the talent to make it happen. The next Peyton Manning is out there. Find him. And get him. At any cost.

The 2011 draft is said to be a quarterback-rich draft. Study them, and with no preconceived limitations, decide who is the best and get him. No exceptions.

FOURTH MOVE: Add depth
Honestly, there will be some depth when the above moves are made and some of the current players take their rightful place as “role players” and roster depth. Aside from running back and defensive back, there are no stars on this team. (Poz may be, but we can’t ever know because he’s always getting hurt. In fact, he should be on the list of potential trade fodder.)

Depth can be added via mid-to-late round draft choices and free agency. But the first three moves must be made first.


  1. Make some moves! No one is untouchable. Build the foundation, and begin adding real play makers by trading players like Marshawn Lynch, Lee Evans, Chris Kelsay, Paul Posluszny, Roscoe Parrish… really anyone!
  2. Specifically, trade Marshawn Lynch and a draft pick (or a WR) to San Diego for LT Marcus McNeill (or if he’s not available, someone of a similar caliber)
  3. Stockpile draft picks by trading the above players—really anyone with any value—and then spend those draft picks on TWO game-breaker WRs, an all-star OT, and a QB that has a proven record of winning at all levels.
  4. Use later draft picks and free agency to keep adding depth and role players.

All of these steps can be made in a maximum of three seasons. It can likely be done in two seasons. So what is keeping you from doing it? Is it just that we loyal Bills fans keep buying tickets, despite the your apparent lack of commitment to excellence and a championship in Buffalo? Perhaps. And I’m not sure how to fix that, since we Bills fans are clearly loyal to a fault.

But for the sake of those loyal fans. For the sake of Ralph Wilson. For the sake of the great Bills teams of the past… make these moves!. Start this week. Use the tools at your disposal and build a great team starting now.

Then you, One Bills Drive, will make a name for yourself as the first to bring a championship to Western New York. Then the prestige that was once known by all associated with this team will once again return. Then there will no longer be a chuckle at the mention of our team or the sight of our charging Buffalo.

Then this team will once again be a proud representative of the most loyal fans in all of sports.

It’s within your power, within your reach.

Now get it done.

The Buffalo Bills’ Strategy

C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills

I am a big Buffalo Bills fan. Yes, believe it or not, there are still some of us out here. Though I may be ridiculed, though I may see little reward for my undying loyalty and eternal optimism, yet to do persist.

Many have puzzled over the operational decisions of our team in the past decade or more. I think it started when then head coach Wade Phillips decided to start QB Rob Johnson instead of the city’s favorite quarterback, Doug Flutie, who had been a huge part of a mid-to-late-season surge to get the Bills to the playoffs. The fans were in an uproar, and the Bills did lose the game—although, of course, that’s debatable, since the win for Tennessee came by way of the infamous “Home Run Throwback” play in the “Music City Miracle” game… IT WAS A FORWARD PASS!!!! Ahem… Ironically, that was the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

More recent years have seen several wasted 1st round draft choices—Mike Williams and J. P. Losman being chief amongst the busts. A slightly below average, mundane (and disappointing in the end) coaching choice: Dick Jauron. (Of course that followed several mediocre choices the years prior who amounted to almost nothing.)

Another piece is that the Bills rarely make the moves that seem necessary to build a championship team. They do alright in the draft overall, but there remain large holes to be filled on the roster. There are very rarely any “big moves” in the offseason, or otherwise. Likely the biggest splash the Bills made in the decade of the 00s was signing free agent wide reciever Terrell Owens. (And, other than setting the Buffalo Bills record for longest TD catch, Owens did not really amount to much either.)

So what is this team’s plan?

After a fairly encouraging pre-season, where Bills fans saw their team actually moving the ball and scoring points (as well as glimmers of brilliance from a few good players on defense and special teams) we have once again been jolted back to reality by an offensive offensive performance in game one against the Dolphins last week: this team is not that good.

And it gets worse. Today the Bills will play in Green Bay (not an easy place to get a win!) and then the next four opponents are New England, New York Jets, Jacksonville, and Baltimore. Ouch.

There are some really encouraging signs, still, despite the high probability that our favorite team might go 0-6 to start this 2010 NFL season. (Again… ouch.)

Young players like Buffalo’s new favorite running back, C. J. Spiller, our defensive backfield including Terrence McGee, Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin and even Donte Whitner… not to mention a few players who have been around and whom we already know are capable of big plays: Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans, and Fred Jackson.

The biggest questions are still our offensive line (they are, in general, VERY young an inexperienced still), our defensive line, our wide receivers, our line backers, and our quarterback(s).

Wow. Guess we’re still at the beginning of this rebuild, eh?

If the offensive linemen actually do have the talent, then the Bills will be set for years to come. Three of the five starters have only 1 or 2 years of NFL experience. (And not full seasons, due to injuries.) I think they still need to bring in more talent, but if most or all of these guys develop, then they’ll be in good shape. The problem is, it’s still a very big unknown.

Defensive line, line backers, and wide receivers are all positions where the Bills just need to bring in more talent. They still don’t have a reliable #2 receiver. I’m not even sure they have a reliable, game-breaking #1 receiver. Lee Evans is very talented, but I’m not sure he’s a #1 guy. The line backers have potential, but are also unproven. The Bills did bring in a few veterans at this position in the off-season (and recently added Akin Ayodele due to Kawika Mitchell’s injury) but again, this unit does not strike fear in their opponent’s hearts just yet. The defensive line has heart, but they may be lacking in talent, and surely the team is lacking depth there.

That brings us to quarterback. Bills fans were outraged when the team decided to keep the three players from last year’s team who all failed to impress, given a good number of opportunities to do so. Why not get a free agent like Jake Delhomme? Why not trade for Mike Vick or Donovan McNabb? Why not draft a hot-shot rookie like Jimmy Claussen (who was available at the #9 pick this year…) I think the answer is that the Bills wanted to add talent and depth at other positions, and wait for the 2011 draft to grab their QB for the future. (Hoping against hope that one of the three guys they already have might flip some magic switch and be “the guy” before they have to start over again.)

Blame the QB (Trent Edwards) if you want, but QB is not the team’s biggest issue. Trent Edwards has talent, toughness, and football intelligence. He just lacks that intangible piece: the insatiable desire to win. More of the blame for poor QB play should be placed on the broad shoulders of his offensive line. They were awful in week one.

If the Bills can get their running game established this year, they’ll do alright. They have some play makers on defense and special teams. And if they get the other team on their heels with the running game’s success, then they can also have success in the passing game. Unfortunately, this team has way too many “ifs”.

Bills fans wonder “if” that will ever end.

The Bills strategy seems to be very long-term. The best we can hope for this season, fellow Bills fan, is that our team is competitive (technically, even in a dismal performance by the offense last week, they were competitive right to the end of the game) and that we sneak out a couple of wins en route to a high draft pick for the 2011 NFL Draft next April.

Till then… grab some pizza and wings… maybe some beef on weck… and…

Go Bills!