Sorry, folks, but I’m not biting on Deflategate. The whole thing is asinine and overblown. It would be three paragraphs on Page B6 if it didn’t involve the Patriots and their dastardly coach, that sneaky repeat offender Bill Belichick, leading into Super Bowl XLIX.
Apparently, all but one of the footballs used by the Patriots in their 45-7 win over the Colts in the AFC Championship Game were missing 2 pounds of pressure per square inch. But because their coach already was convicted in another cheating scandal, Spygate, we’re led to believe he’s back to his old tricks.
Let me get a few things straight before we wrap up this nonsense: The Patriots would have beaten the Colts by three touchdowns if Tom Brady threw a Nerf ball with his left arm. Are you telling me that lighter balls allowed LeGarrette Blount to run faster while rushing for 148 yards and three touchdowns?
You want soft? Check the Colts’ run defense.
Cheating isn’t right, but it’s hardly a novel concept. It started in sports when they began keeping score. Players are taught to cheat. If they threw the book at everyone who ever doctored a ball, Gaylord Perry would be doing life in Leavenworth rather enjoying the view from Cooperstown.
The last time anyone checked, the same officiating crew handled footballs for both teams Sunday. They didn’t notice a discernible difference. It took super sleuth linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who handled the ball once more than Belichick did during the game, to notice one was not like the others?
In my book, even if they nabbed a Belichick minion with needle in hand, needle in ball, it should have been 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. All this rhetoric about fines and forfeiture of draft picks sounds like prison for a parking ticket in a sport where violence is encouraged and real crimes go unpunished.
OK, I bit. Now, I’m done.
There are bigger items on the agenda that need to be addressed, such as finding the Bills a reliable quarterback. Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan are no different than you or me in that regard. We’re looking through the same lens and seeing the same situation. And it’s not very attractive.
The Bills aren’t in position to trade for a franchise quarterback because there’s already a shortage in the league. Simply, any team that has a capable passer is keeping him. For better or worse, fans might want to accept the possibility that EJ Manuel will be behind center when next season begins.
Mark Sanchez is a free agent and had a good relationship with Ryan when both were with the Jets. Ryan has a tattoo of his wife wearing Sanchez’s jersey, for heaven’s sake, so they’re bonded for life on some strange level. Sanchez played reasonably well last season with the Eagles.
In other words, he wasn’t bad. Sanchez came off the bench and threw for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in nine games after Nick Foles was injured. There was talk at one point that the Eagles would part ways with Foles, but Sanchez didn’t play well enough to win the No. 1 job.
And that leaves … who?
The NFL is littered with mediocre passers. You can scratch Jay Cutler off the list, assuming he was a possibility in the first place. According to numerous reports, the Bills have hired former Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer to be their offensive line coach. The appointment has yet to be announced.
Kromer was the coach who admitted being NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport’s source about the Bears having buyer’s remorse after signing Cutler to a seven-year contract worth $126 million, including $54 million guaranteed. He also criticized Cutler for refusing to check out of certain plays. He later apologized to the team.
It would be tough for them to work together in any organization given the breach of trust. Cutler has experience and a strong arm but also a hefty price tag. The Bears have since hired John Fox to be their coach. Indications point toward Fox working with Cutler in an attempt to rescue their investment.
Buffalo could trade for Sam Bradford or hope the Rams release him, both of which are unlikely. Bradford is coming off major knee surgery and has one year and $13 million left on his contract. Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he wants Bradford back next season. His contract will likely be renegotiated.
The Bills are left with two other options, free agency and the draft. The uninspiring list of free agents includes Brian Hoyer (Browns), Jake Locker (Titans), Christian Ponder (Vikings), Colt McCoy (Redskins), Jimmy Clausen (Bears) and Ryan Mallett (Texans), among others. All are average at best, unproven or both.
Buffalo could take its chances in the draft, but anyone they select in the second round or later would likely be a reach. Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota will be gone. UCLA’s Brett Hundley comes with major questions about accuracy. Bryce Petty needs to prove he can play in an NFL system after excelling in the spread offense at Baylor.
And that brings me back to Manuel, who in 14 starts over two seasons failed to justify the Bills taking him 16th overall in 2013. He appeared indecisive both seasons and was largely ineffective and inaccurate. It’s quite possible that he lacked experience needed to better process the game.
The Bills made the right move when they turned to Kyle Orton last season mainly because they had a terrific defense. They needed a trusted hand to manage the offense and keep them in games. But it should have been a temporary fix, a Band-Aid, while Manuel learned from the sidelines.
Manuel should have been inserted back into the lineup when Orton struggled. He should have played once the Bills faced long odds of making the playoffs and certainly in the finale. I’m not sure the Bills’ record would have been any different if Manuel played the entire year. He might have been an upgrade.
We’ll never know.
We do know Manuel has a new offensive coordinator in Greg Roman and a new quarterbacks coach in David Lee. Roman is intent on establishing a running game, which means placing Manuel in a stable situation. Lee is a respected teacher who could bring Manuel along in the passing game.
The Bills’ best option, deflating as it may be, could already be on their roster. Sure, they should shop around for a quarterback. Yes, they should draft another one just in case Manuel proves to be a bust. In the meantime, they should also consider stocking up on offensive linemen and running backs.
After all, their offense will be designed to take the air out of the ball.