Boy, what a dramatic and eventful few days in sports. The Sabres’ regular season started, without Jack Eichel. Baseball’s league championship series started Friday night. And at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Colin Kaepernick gets his first start of the season after staging his weekly protest during the national anthem at New Era Field.
I’ll add my voice to LeSean McCoy’s: Buffalo, try not to do anything that will embarrass the community in front of the nation. It’s bad enough that Bills fans are perceived as a bunch of drunken louts. Boo all you like, but refrain from racial epithets and throwing objects that could seriously injure an innocent bystander.
Enough preaching. On to this week’s Mailbag:
Kevin Lawrence asks: Isn’t it certain that the NFL cap will go up each year, so when year 3 kicks in Tyrod’s $90 million will look like “today’s 78”, and paying 15 mill and change for a decent QB will look like a bargain?
Sully: First of all, I’m not sure the cap will increase dramatically. It’s expected to rise slightly in 2017, but with TV ratings down in the 10 percent range, I could see it leveling off and even dipping slightly down the road.
But regardless of his percentage of the Bills’ cap, Taylor can’t be a bargain unless he improves as a passer. You don’t pay franchise quarterback money −whether it’s $18 million a year or $15 million − if you don’t believe your guy will be the long-term answer and give your team a realistic shot at winning a Super Bowl.
Answer me this, Kev: If the NFL cap goes up 10 percent, will that make Ryan Tannehill ($19 million average salary) and Brock Osweiler ($18 million) bargains? Teams aren’t looking to save money on quarterbacks. They’re looking for stars, for the next Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. They’re happy to spend big on the real thing.
It’s not so much the money you spend, but the time you invest in a quarterback. If you’re wrong, it can set you back for years. You lose precious time while other teams find their answer at the most important position. Then you go chasing for an answer, by reaching in the draft, overspending in a trade, or trying an unproven veteran.
Here are some QBs who have been drafted since the Bills took EJ Manuel in the first round of the 2012 draft: Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garoppolo, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott.
I’m not saying all of them will be stars or genuine franchise quarterbacks. But most NFL teams find their guy in the draft. In the long run, it’s not whether Taylor seems like a good buy, but whether he’s good enough for the job.
Bill Perry asks: Tyrod’s contract - What for you decides if you pay the bonus to extend it? Playoffs or performance?
Sully: Another Tyrod question, which shows this is biggest question facing the Bills after the season. Will Taylor do enough to warrant activating a contract extension that averages $18 million a year?
I say both. Taylor needs to win and play at high level as a passer. He’s good enough to get to the playoffs if the Rex Ryan model works to perfection. Remember, Ryan’s first Jets team finished first in the NFL in rushing and defense and 31st in passing − and reached the AFC title game. As we know, that didn’t make Mark Sanchez a franchise QB.
People think I’m tough on Taylor. The standard should be high. We’ve seen too many quarterback show flashes and prove unworthy as franchise quarterbacks. The Bills are third in rushing and 32nd in passing. It’s the same model Ryan won with in New York until the bottom fell out. If anyone should judge Taylor with a harsh eye, it’s Rex.
Dan Wylucki asks: Enough with Dareus’s issues and lack of professionalism! Shouldn’t the Bills trade him this offseason before he gets suspended for a year?
Sully: I can’t imagine the Bills are thrilled with Dareus’s act − which includes hiring his own PR expert − but they’re stuck with him. What team would take on a player with an average $16 million salary hit from 2017-21, plus multiple violations of the NFL drug policy and a looming one-year ban for his next lapse of judgment?
Dareus is a terrific athlete, but you have to wonder when he comes back from a four-game suspension and hurts his hamstring the first time he chases down a quarterback in practice. This does not make him look like some repentant workout warrior in the eyes of any team that would be dumb enough to considering trading for him.
Stephen Dahlin asks: As a lifelong Yankee fan, I disliked Terry Francona when he managed the Red Sox. But I have a new-found respect for Tito and the job he has done with Cleveland. Should he get manager of the year, and how will the Indians do against the Jays in the ALCS? I like Cleveland in six.
Sully: I picked Tito for manager of the year in our baseball preview issue, so I’m not backing down now. Francona did a marvelous job this season and proved in the division series that he’s more progressive than a lot of veteran managers by using his bullpen in an unconventional − and successful − manner.
I’m not optimistic about their chances against Toronto without two of their top two starters (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar). Francona has done a nice job compensating for their loss, but his staff has a daunting challenge ahead against a strong Toronto lineup.
Mike Clevinger is scheduled to pitch Game Four for the Indians. Mike Clevinger? I don’t know him from Tony Cloninger. Tito will need all his magic in this series. Win or lose, he’s done a great job, and he’ll be in the Hall of Fame some day.
Tom from Gowanda asks: Is there a moratorium on anyone who nationally reports on M.L. baseball mentioning the real possibility of the balls again being juiced, with particular strong evidence of the likelihood this season?
Sully: National announcers aren’t known for biting the hand that feeds them. But there has been speculation among baseball media about the surge in homers over the last two seasons. Homers increased by 17.3 percent in 2015 and 14.3 percent this year. The HR rate is around where it was during the steroid era.
That has led to speculation about juiced balls or players. I’ve wondered myself, though I suspect the approach of hitters is the main reason. With pitchers throwing harder and defenses more sophisticated, batters are looking for a specific pitch to drive out of the park, rather than trying for singles, which are at historic lows.