Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kolb Just Another Rob?

As of this writing, it has not been officially announced by the team, but Wikipedia identifies Kevin Kolb as "an American football quarterback for the Buffalo Bills."

So it must be true.

Just about every media outlet that cares about such things reported the same thing over the weekend, with even the NFL's official site saying the former Cardinal and Eagle agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth up to $13 million -- if he can win what is certain to be a scintillating quarterback competition with fellow two-time washout Tarvaris Jackson, someone named Aaron Corp and whichever rookie the Bills draft next month.

On the plus side, Philadelphia and Arizona each thought enough of the University of Houston product to make him their quarterback of the future. Each time, though, the future proved extremely fleeting.

Kolb's emergence in Philadelphia made Donovan McNabb expendable after the 2009 season, an adjective quickly applied to Kolb himself after an injury put Michael Vick on the field a year later.

He had showed enough, though, to convince Arizona to sign him to a five-year, $60 million deal. Two injury-riddled seasons -- a shoulder injury sustained against Buffalo, video of which is embedded in the link above, ended his 2012 season less than halfway through -- convinced the Cardinals that they were mistaken.

Before his shoulder gave out against the Bills, Kolb threw eight touchdown passes and three interceptions in leading Arizona to a 4-2 start last year. The most remarkable number from Kolb's time in red, though, is how many times he was sacked in the 14 games he got on the field -- 57.

Kolb was dropped just 20 times in 19 games with the Eagles, so you could blame Arizona's dismal offensive line and general offensive ineptitude for the spike.

You could also wonder if the beating Kolb received in the desert may have left him with a case of Rob Johnson Syndrome, a condition that dulls a promising quarterback's instincts, repeatedly causing him to take sacks when he should be getting rid of the ball.

Either way, it would be tough to make an argument that Kolb does not strengthen the Bills at the position. At least with the regular season more than five months away. He has clearly been a better traditional passer than Jackson, though somewhat less athletic and significantly less durable.

Possessing two quarterbacks with both starting and backup experience also figures to allow Buffalo more flexibility in the draft. With only Jackson and Corp around, General Manager Emeritus Buddy Nix and his successor, Doug Whaley, would have been all but forced to take a quarterback in the first round, even if it meant reaching to do so.

That option is still there, if the front office, along with Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, feel strongly that one of the less-than-acclaimed prospects at the position could play right away, or at least take over at some point this season.

Only Geno Smith of West Virginia and USC's Matt Barkley are consensus first-round picks. The Bills worked Smith out last week and are scheduled to do the same with Barkley in the next few days. If they're not sold on either with the eighth overall pick, the addition of Kolb allows them to consider waiting until the second round or later.

Which might not be the worst thing, since two of last year's breakout quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, were drafted in the second and third rounds of their respective drafts.

Of course, Trent Edwards was also a third-round pick.

Then again, J.P. Losman went in the first.

All of which makes signing Kolb seem like a sensible move, under the circumstances.

At least for now.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Another Press Stopped

Having written for a few alternative weeklies -- including Bills game-day coverage through the 00s -- and other low-budget media operations, it sucks to see one that, along with the Village Voice, defined the medium succumb to natural causes.

During its 47-year run, the Boston Phoenix provided its readers with journalism from future Pulitzer Prize winners alongside the finest in skeevish adult advertising. After years of financial trouble and a recent full format change, The Phoenix -- which was successful enough to spin off  sister papers in Providence, R.I., and Portland, Maine -- announced its own demise.

The cause of death is the same as for every departed print outlet -- the digital revolution and the resulting remaking of media advertising models, dwindling attention spans and the ultimate authority of the bottom line.

From the obituary written by Phoenix alum Camille Dodero:
So yes, yesterday, we lost the paper whose name appeared on so many imposing resumes. We lost the paper that bred Pulitzer Prize winners, that was responsible for breaking the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal. But we also lost a place where kids who were never supposed to be writers and reporters and photographers and illustrators and storytellers could start out by refusing to leave the building, people whose parents didn't have the money to help with rent while they struggled to make their long-term pathways better, and try, however minutely, to change things. 
What we lost Thursday was Clif Garbonden's dream. The world is a far worse place without it. Fuck. 
In the end, the surprise of the Phoenix's death is not that it happened, but that it took this long.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Who's Next?

After yesterday's surprisingly unsurprising release of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills officially find themselves where they have been realistically since Jim Kelly retired in February 1997 -- without a quarterback.

Yes, Todd Collins (and when I first compiled this list, I had briefly forgotten him ever getting under center for Buffalo) , Rob Johnson, Doug Flutie, Alex Van Pelt, Travis Brown, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Shane Matthews, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, Fitzpatrick, Levi Brown and Tyler Thigpen have all taken snaps and thrown season passes over the last 16 seasons.

Of the 14, though, only Johnson and Flutie ever started a postseason game for Buffalo. Among the rest, only Bledsoe came close, falling short when he failed to get the 2004 Bills past a group of backups wearing Pittsburgh Steelers uniforms in the season finale. At home.

We're not here to bemoan past failings, but to look forward.

Looking over the list of available free agents, though, the immediate future does not look a whole lot brighter.

(Note: The above was compiled before Baltimore re-signed reigning Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who no one ever thought would hit the market, anyway, and Miami and Buffalo re-upped Matt Moore and Tarvaris Jackson, respectively.)

When Moore's re-signing with the Dolphins pushes Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell to the top of the list, you know one thing. You need more options.

Unless new coach Doug Marrone and general-manager-in-waiting Doug Whaley find this year's Russell Wilson, a questionable prospect who turns out to be ready to thrive the day he arrives at training camp, the Opening Day starter for the first campaign of their new era will be someone who has failed elsewhere.

The last two names on the linked list are worth noting.

Losman's time as Buffalo's Quarterback of the Future may have largely faded from most memories, but he is still out there, looking for one more shot.

Then there's this guy.

Oh. The WWM fact-checking department informs me that the Kevin O'Connell in question is NOT the longtime Channel 2 weather guy, but a well-traveled scrub whose entire professional resume is comprised of six passes thrown for New England in 2008. That's much less fun.

Releasing Fitzpatrick, who was in the middle of a contract signed at the high point of his Buffalo career, when the Bills were 5-2 in mid-2011, made sense from a financial standpoint. It was a must in terms of marketing a team whose last playoff game took place eight days into the new millennium.

Given what else is out there, though, it is tough to see how it makes them any better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And The Other Shoe Drops

The Bills released Ryan Fitzpatrick this afternoon after efforts to restructure his contract failed, reports Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

This, of course, comes as no surprise to regular readers of We Want Marangi, or at least those who have been here in the last few hours.
The team has confirmed Fitzpatrick's departure at
Fitzpatrick's career numbers with the Bills saw him complete just under 60 percent of his passes (59.8) for 11,654 yards with 80 touchdowns and 64 interceptions and a passer rating of 79.8. His won-loss record in his four seasons with Buffalo was 19-34.

(Emphasis ours.)

'We're Still Struggling Here With Our Quarterback'

If you were worried that new coach Doug Marrone is stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback going into his first season in Buffalo, well, listen to this. published a piece this morning detailing how Bills GM-For-Now Buddy Nix got snagged by a couple of prank-calling 20-year-olds last week and, thinking he was having a private conversation with his counterpart with Tampa Bay, Mark Dominik, inadvertently told the world that his Starting Quarterback-For-Now probably won't have that title for long. And that Fitzpatrick will probably have to take a pay cut if he wants a clipboard-carrying gig in 2013.
"We're still struggling here with our quarterback ... We're not really struggling -- he's going to have to do something, or we'll have to." 
More Nix on Fitzpatrick: "We just can't afford to pay that kind of money for a guy who's probably fighting for a backup job."
This should not come as a tremendous shock to anyone who has watched Fitzpatrick play quarterback for the past four years, especially with a new, offensive-minded coach taking over. But it is interesting to hear that Nix shares the same opinion as most fans regarding Fitzpatrick's value. Especially since Nix himself signed Fitzpatrick to a six-year, $62 million extension less than two years ago.

With the NFL's free agency period scheduled to start this afternoon at 4 p.m., and Fitzpatrick scheduled to receive a $3 million roster bonus if he's on the team tomorrow, there's a decent chance he will be an ex-Bill by the time you read this.

And if he reads Deadspin, he probably knows what's coming.

(In case you missed the link above, the full story, replete with audio clips of the conversation between Nix and Dominik, is here. Give a listen, if only to hear a man use the term "Dadgum." And, like Dwight Adams before him, I could listen to Nix read the phone book.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bills All-Timer George Saimes Dies at 71

George Saimes, sure-tackling safety on the only Buffalo Bills teams to win their league's championship, died of leukemia Friday at age 71. has his obituary here, including a video tribute to his career with the 1960s Bills, including a clip of his only career touchdown. After starring at Michigan State as a running back, finishing seventh in the 1962 Heisman Trophy balloting, and after a shot on offense as a rookie in 1963, Saimes starred at safety for the Buffalo teams that won American Football League titles in '64 and '65, coming within one game of representing the circuit in the first Super Bowl.

Saimes, who rejoined former Buffalo coach Lou Saban to finish his career in Denver, earned a spot on Buffalo's Wall of Fame, as well as the franchise's 50th Anniversary All-Time team.

Saimes, a native of Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is survived by his wife, three daughters and eight grandchildren, according to the Buffalo News.
“He was the most amazing dad,” Saimes’ daughter, Linda Durley, told the Association Press. “He was amazing and strong. he loved his family, he loved his grandchildren and he loved my mom so much.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bills Lose Last Connection To Gregg Williams Era

Chris Kelsay retired on Wednesday.

For most franchises, the departure of a a veteran role player who was a little too light for one position and a little too slow for another would be a footnote, a paragraph in the newspaper and two or three on the blogs.

These, however, are the modern-day Buffalo Bills we are talking about. For a franchise that has not won anything, or even done anything particularly memorable, since the last millennium, simply sticking around for most of the mediocrity and enduring Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Perry Fewell and Chan Gailey makes you kind of a big deal.

That continuity, as much as anything he ever did on the field, made Kelsay one of the team's de facto leaders and locker-room spokesmen, if only because he was one of the few guys reporters knew would be there from year to year.

For the past couple seasons, his presence has been due in large part to the four-year, $24 million contract extension he signed in 2010, an apparent reward for his role in that team's 0-3 start. The Bills were so inspired by that message from management they got to 0-8 before going .500 during the second half of Chan Gailey's first season as head coach.

Kelsay's outsized role in Buffalo says much more about the team's front office and coaching than it does about a fairly solid player who, by all published accounts, seems like a pretty decent guy. He has been treated like a star because, well, compared to his peers, he has been.

More than a decade of just-below-average play robbed Buffalo of anything resembling star power. Before their game against Jacksonville last December, the Bills presented longtime punter Chris Mohr with the Ralph C. Wilson Award for Distinguished Service, which, according to the team's web site, honors "former Buffalo Bills players and staff for long and meritorious service to the team."

Nothing against Mohr, who was a terrific punter through most of the Super Bowl era and a good guy with fine taste in music (I once ran into he and linebacker John Holecek at a Southern Culture on the Skids show at Nietzche's back in the late '90s). But, as I stood in the rain on the sidelines that day, having scored a credential in return for running memory cards from photographers to their editors and back, the ceremony got me thinking.

Mohr's final season was 2000, the first of 13 straight and counting in which the Bills have failed to qualify for the playoffs.

What player from any of those teams are the Bills going to trot out for the home fans a decade from now (assuming, of course, that the franchise is still anywhere near Buffalo)?

I can't think of a single Wall of Fame candidate from this dismal era, much less anyone with a realistic shot at enshrinement in Canton. There's Ruben Brown, but he left for Chicago as a free agent after the 2003 season and played in the postseason in four of his first five years here.

After that, there's, um, just about no one. Quarterbacks and running backs get most of the glory in retirement, as they did during their playing days, but let's look at the options at those two spots.

Doug Flutie? Maybe, if you really want to stretch the nostalgia thing. And Alex Van Pelt has served the team as a quarterback (albeit primarily a backup) and announcer. But Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, or Fitzpatrick?

Probably not.

Among the running backs, who would you honor? Fred Jackson is a strong possibility, due to both (relative) longevity and productivity, and Spiller might just end up on the Wall if he keeps this up. But Travis Henry, Willis McGahee or Marshawn Lynch?

Not much at other positions, which tend to cycle through every couple of seasons, either. Aaron Schobel had a few big statistical years, but was never a dominant force and not exactly a personality that resonated with fans.

Along with punter Brian Moorman, who was released during last season to more fanfare than is normally afforded someone who plays his position, Kelsay probably has the best shot at being the center of a pre-game and/or halftime ceremony that most of the home crowd will miss while standing in line for beer or the bathroom. Kelsay's greatest statistical season was 2005, when he put up 5.5 sacks for the league's 29th-ranked defense on a 5-11 team.

Kelsay will be remembered at least as much for his off-field charitable efforts -- he was a spokesman for the NFL's All-Pro Dads program and the team's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2008. (Not to take anything away from that honor, but other recent Bills honorees include James Hardy, the second-round bust wide receiver, and Travis Henry, who since his 2004 designation has served three years in prison for cocaine trafficking, a moonlighting he opportunity he apparently embraced to help pay the $170,000 a year he owes in child support for his 11 -- at last official count -- kids.)

Mostly, Kelsay will be remembered for showing up. Like the teams he played on, that's about the best you can come up with.