Great week for the Mailbag. We're not rebuilding, we just keep getting better. There were questions about football, hockey, basketball, a lot on baseball, even one about professional wrestling.
The haters seem to have gone underground (where they belong). I did have one correspondent who said I should join Bills fans for a month's vacation to decompress. That was very kind of him. Maybe after the Super Bowl.
Naturally, the Bills continue to drive the mail flow. This week, in the aftermath of Doug Whaley's sudden shift from the team being "close" to a long-term project, the most burning topic was, yes, quarterback Tyrod Taylor:
@nflreddit asks: Hey Jerry, /r/NFL here, half a million fans, etc. Anyway, should Bills release Taylor?
Mike Raleigh asks: Where do you stand on whether the Bills should keep Tyrod on his current contract, or cut him?
@treilly16 asks: Do you think anyone can tank in the NFL and get a QB or is it better to keep Tyrod and see what happens?
Sully: A lot to chew on there. I've been saying for over a year that I don't believe Taylor is a franchise quarterback and the Bills should move on. I would respect Sean McDermott's football intellect and long-term vision if he had no interest in keeping Taylor as his QB.
Whaley's comments about a long-range plan tell me they've already decided to let Taylor go. Rick Dennison, the new offensive coordinator, has history with Tyrod, but that shouldn't influence their thinking. The people who have watched Taylor up close for two seasons should be making the call.
I certainly wouldn't keep Taylor on his current deal, which calls for him to receive a guaranteed $30.75 million over the next two years if they activate the extension. They shouldn't middle it by renegotiating Taylor's extension to a more reasonable number, either.
Either they believe in him as their franchise guy or they don't. Settling for average to sustain hope would be classic Bills. It's the sort of weak, indecisive move that has perpetuated nearly two decades of (sorry, Terry) dysfunction.
It's hard to tank in the NFL, though the Browns have done a nice job of it. But it's time the Bills departed the "win now" mode that has consumed Whaley since he became GM. They should shed overpriced assets and adopt a long-range strategy by accumulating draft picks and starting over at quarterback.
If that's the new plan, the Pegulas should be commended. But Whaley, who got them into this mess, is the wrong guy to lead such a transition. It seems a bit too convenient and will give the GM a ready excuse when they lose.
Brian V asks: If you don't want Taylor as QB, who do you want?
Sully: The best quarterback they can find in the draft. They need to start over with a guy who's younger than Taylor and isn't already bumping his head on the ceiling of his potential. Commit to finding a kid who might some day be capable of playing at the level of the four guys in Sunday's conference title games.
That's not easy, but you have to give it your best shot. Despite their shortcomings at the game's most vital position, the Bills haven't drafted QBs high in the draft enough through the years. Bottoming out helps, because if you run into a draft that's low on elite quarterback prospects (as this one supposedly is), you give yourself a chance the next time around.
I don't watch a lot of college football, but I loved Deshaun Watson in the college football playoffs. He's a natural leader who sees the field well and gets the ball to his receivers. Watson needs work, of course. So does Taylor. I'd rather have a project on a rookie contract than one costing $15.9 on the cap next season.
Mel Kiper's first mock draft has the Bills taking Watson at No. 10 overall. They should take a QB there if they're sold on him. Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina is a rising QB prospect who's expected to go around that spot.
I'm intrigued by Patrick Mahomes II of Texas Tech, who led the nation in passing yards with 5,052. Mahomes has a great arm. He's a bit of a project, but he has major upside. If the name sounds familiar, it's because his father, Pat Mahomes, pitched in the big leagues for 11 years from 1992-2003. He went 8-0 down the stretch for the Mets in 1999 and helped them make the playoffs.
Jose Rivera asks: If they are going to rebuild, wouldn't it make sense to trade Shady McCoy while he still has value?
Sully: Good question. The Bills might not admit to a rebuild, but if they're taking a long-term approach, it will have consequences for highly paid veterans who are unsure about the team's immediate intentions.
McCoy busted his tail and made the Pro Bowl this season. But he strikes me as a guy who'll dial it back if he feels the team isn't fully committed to winning. Kyle Williams said after the finale that he wanted to see where the franchise was headed before making any decisions on his future.
A lot of teams no longer pay big bucks to running backs, who are easy to find. McCoy is a special talent, but he's on the books for $8.875 million next season, with $6 million of that in base salary. That's a lot for a running back if you're not expecting to contend.
McCoy's contract was exorbitant when the Bills thought they were a playoff team. It's even more so if they're rebuilding. He's nearing the end of his prime, so moving him while he still has value does make sense.
@mickeybrocks asks: So how long until Murray throws Bylsma under the bus?
Sully: What, are you suggesting that the Bills are the only local team where tension might exist between the coach and general manager? There no evidence of such conflict, but the coach-GM relationship is volatile by its nature, especially when the team is underachieving.
If the struggles ensue, it's inevitable that 1) the GM feels the coach is mismanaging all the wondrous talent he's provided; and 2) the coach feels the GM hasn't given him enough top players to succeed.
Heading into Fridays' game, the Sabres were last in the East and 28th overall. They're a huge disappointment, injuries or not. Dan Bylsma's system has been criticized as too passive. Murray is losing his luster as some personnel wizard. The Bills are done, so the heat gets turned up on the hockey team.
Time will tell if the guys in charge turn on each other.
Kevin Lawrence asks: Happy for Bagwell, Rock and Pudge, but leaving Edgar Martinez off ballots, again, seems a real injustice. Is it because he was primarily a DH?
Sully: Yes, it's mainly the DH bias. I also believe it hurt that his greatest 10 years came smack in the middle of the steroid era, though he was seen as clean. Tom Verducci said longevity is an issue with Martinez, who finished with 2,247 career hits.
I would vote for Martinez. He falls in the same category as Jim Rice, who didn't play long enough to accumulate the magical 3,000 hits, but was the most feared hitter in the AL over a 10-12 year run. Martinez was a seven-time All-Star and one of the best pure hitters who ever lived.
Martinez had a career .312 batting average, .418 on-base percentage and .515 slugging average. By some modern analytics, he rates with the likes of Honus Wagner and Mike Schmidt. But he was a DH 70 percent of the time.
Younger voters are more favorable towards Edgar. Two years ago, he received only 27 percent of the vote. This year, he got 58.6 percent. The problem is, he has only two more years on the ballot.
Jack Gray asks: If you had a Hall of Fame ballot, would you vote for Curt Schilling?
Sully: Yes, for some of the reasons I like Martinez. Schilling had some rough years early in his prime, but over a decade or so he was a great pitcher and one of the best postseason performers of all time. In the playoffs, he went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, won three World Series and narrowly lost a fourth (with the Phillies).
Overall, Schilling was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA. He had 3,116 strikeouts and only 711 walks, an amazing ratio. The ERA hurts him, but he pitched in the steroid era. I think he was better than many guys with lower ERAs and more wins. That includes Nolan Ryan. I'd take Schilling over Ryan in a big game any day.
I don't care for his politics and I'm not swayed by my Red Sox heritage. Objectively, the guy belongs.
JackNLE312 asks: Who do you believe will come out on top of the Royal Rumble on January 29th? Does Undertaker still have it in him?
Sully: I haven't followed pro wrestling since Chief Jay Strongbow was a novice, but I like the Undertaker. I'm partial to guys over 50 with hip replacements and a fondness for the NBA. The Undertaker (aka Mark Callaway) recently posed for photos with the players in the Cavs' locker room. And you can't beat the name.
Michael Jengo asks: Would you trade an NFL team for an NBA team? Are we capable of supporting one ?
Sully: Yes, no. I've said before that I would trade the Bills and Sabres for an NBA team. Sorry, I love the game.