Saturday, October 1, 2016

Rex Wins Another Media Day Recalling First-Round Fizzle

Since taking over as the Buffalo Bills' frontman, his teams have won nine games and lost 10 heading into Sunday's trip to New England, which has served as an annual death march for the franchise throughout the millennium.

With his previous group, the New York Jets, Ryan's teams went 46-50 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs, with all the postseason activity taking place within his first two years.

Add it up, and Ryan is 59-62 as a head coach in the National Football League.

In a business dominated by coach-speak, excessive praise of opponents and pour-mouthing one's own team, though, Rex is the undisputed champion of press conferences.

His enthusiasm and lack of the filter that makes most of his colleagues painful to listen to (his opposite number on Sunday, Bill Belichick occasionally ranks as an exception, having raised use of the cliches inherent in the system to an art form) provided the basis for most of the enthusiasm that surrounded his hiring by the Bills in January 2015. It didn't hurt that he was following Doug Marrone, who anonymous sources tell We Want Marangi had his personality surgically removed as a teenager.

Once his Bills took the field, however, they quickly reinforced the reality that led to his ouster in New York: Winning big on Media Day doesn't mean much on Sunday afternoon.

With the 2015 season teetering as the Bills prepared to hit the quarter-pole, though, Ryan defended his title on Wednesday.

Ryan's choice of a fake name to butt in on the area media's conference call with Julian Edelman, who may or may not wind up playing quarterback for the first time since college, raises an important question, especially for anyone under 50.

Who is Walt Patulski?

Until the first-round selections of Mike Williams in 2002 and Aaron Maybin in 2009, Patulski was the easy call for a generation of Bills fans as the franchise's worst pick ever.

Unlike Williams or Maybin -- or Booker Moore (1981), Perry Tuttle (1982), or other underachieving top choices throughout Buffalo's sordid draft history -- Patulski was the first overall selection in the NFL draft, earning him more notoriety -- fairly or not -- than anything he would accomplish in uniform during a five-year professional career.

Looking back, it was almost a no-brainer pick going into the 1972 NFL draft.

Patulski was a 6-foot-6, 258-pound defensive end from Notre Dame. As a senior, he not only won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's best defensive lineman, but was so dominant that he finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, the lone defender in the Top 10 (no defensive player won the award until Charles Woodson in 1997).

The marketing angle didn't hurt for a franchise coming off a 1-13 season and still struggling to find an effective way to use its first overall pick from 1969, an injury-plagued running back named O.J. Simpson. Patulski was Polish, grew up in Syracuse and went to Notre Dame.

Had his performance as a professional matched his collegiate pedigree and demographic appeal, he would have provided Buffalo with a defensive superstar to pair with Simpson in a Bills Golden Age to rival the AFL champions of a decade earlier, or the Super Bowl teams of almost 20 years later.

That never came close to happening, though. Patulski had his moments -- though sacks were not yet an official statistic, he was credited with 21.5 in his four seasons with the Bills.

And considering this is the same franchise that drafted Al Cowlings in the first round two years earlier on the basis of his friendship with O.J. Simpson, Patulski wasn't even Buffalo's worst choice of the 1970s.

Given the expectations surrounding him, though, he would have needed to record twice as many sacks to avoid the scorn of fans who never saw their team win a playoff game during his Buffalo career, despite Simpson's five-year run as the NFL's dominant runner.

It didn't help that the coach who chose him didn't like him much, at least as a player.

"In tough situations, he would take the easy way out," Lou Saban told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times in 1993. "To be aggressive, it just wasn't him."

The same knock plagued Williams and Maybin during their short Buffalo careers. The variety of injuries he endured plagued him later in life, he went on to a career in banking back home in the Syracuse area. He told Plaschke that business success had not yet blotted out his NFL washout.

"I will go to my grave feeling that I didn't do all I could," Patulski said in 1993.

Now 66, Patulski was aware of his legacy, fair or not. The coach who name-checked him is running out of time to improve his.

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