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Jerry Sullivan: Hogan's emergence is crowning insult to the Bills

You can add Bart Scott to the chorus of insults against Terry Pegula's dysfunctional NFL franchise. Scott, a former Jet now working as a CBS studio analyst, said he couldn't fathom how the Bills could fire Rex Ryan as coach while leaving Doug Whaley on the job as general manager.

Speaking with The News' Vic Carucci at the Senior Bowl, Scott said he felt that Ryan and Whaley were "joined at the hip." He's a Rex guy, but Scott is not alone in his belief that Whaley is equally responsible for the Bills' current woes.

Scott was in Mobile, Ala., to help run player seminars on money management. While he's there, perhaps he could pull Whaley aside and give him a few pointers on how to more efficiently manage a pro football team's finances.

A seminar might be useful for Whaley, who somehow constructed the sort of financially bloated roster that you would expect from a team that actually made a Super Bowl run, or at least made it the playoffs.

The crowning indignity came Sunday night in Foxborough. As you might be aware, Bills castoff Chris Hogan had one of the best playoff games for a wide receiver in history, catching nine passes for 180 yards and two TDs as the Patriots drilled the Steelers in the AFC title game.

Hogan's had the exact statistics that the Falcons' Julio Jones did in the NFC title game, right down to the number of targets. Jones is a superstar. Hogan was a career backup before this season, but was clearly better than Whaley believed when it came time to give him an offer as a restricted free agent last March.

Whaley had a choice of three free-agent tenders. He went for the cheapest, a one-year salary of $1.671 million. It was a token gesture. It was widely known that Patriots coach Bill Belichick admired Hogan and wanted to get him. New England signed Hogan for three years and $12 million.

The deal called for Hogan to count $5.5 million against the salary cap in 2016. That made it near-impossible for the Bills, who had just $4.5 million in cap space at the time, to match. Of course, it they really wanted Hogan to stay, they would have made a respectable offer in the first place.

The Bills could have given Hogan a second-round tender at a $2.553 million salary. If the Pats signed him to a better offer, it would have cost them a second-round draft pick. It's not likely they would have done it. So the Bills lost Hogan, and a possible draft pick, to save $882,000.

This is the consequence of overpaying players and having a top-heavy roster. It stops you from making the critical judgments that fill out a team and make it a legitimate contender. It's also the result of not hitting enough of your own draft picks and having more productive players in their first contracts.

Maybe they could have afforded Hogan if Marcell Dareus wasn't costing $12.7 million on the cap, or Stephon Gilmore $11 million or Charles Clay $6 million. Then there's the $7 million on the cap for the departed Mario Williams. The $2 million in dead money for Percy Harvin could have come in handy, for that matter.

Not signing Hogan was an even bigger blunder when you considered the Bills' thin, injury-prone situation at wide receiver. It was the one position where Whaley could least afford to be cavalier with his talent.

Sammy Watkins had already suffered eight different injuries in his career and there was talk of a stress fracture in his foot. Sure enough, Watkins wound up having surgery for a broken foot in May and missed more than half the season.

Greg Salas, who had an injury history, got hurt and played two games. Robert Woods hurt his knee and missed three games. Walt Powell, Justin Hunter and Brandon Tate chipped in with marginal success. The fragile Marquise Goodwin actually played the most snaps of any wideout and had a career year -- with 29 catches.

Whaley exacerbated the problem by failing to address wideout in the draft until taking Kolby Listenbee in the sixth round. Listenbee was hurt at the time and didn't play at all in the 2016 season.

At one point, Whaley was so desperate he summoned Harvin out of retirement. In all, eight Bills started at wideout. Woods led the team with 613 receiving yards, which was 71st in the NFL and the fewest by a Bills yardage leader in 33 years.

Hogan wound up with 38 catches for 680 yards, more than any Bill. He did it on just 58 targets, and his 17.9 average per catch led the league. Granted, he did most of it with Tom Brady. But it's reasonable to think he could have done similar things in Buffalo. Hogan -- who earned the nickname "7-11" because he was always open, is a very good athlete and a rising talent.

I can't imagine Tyrod Taylor and his agent were thrilled to see Hogan go, weakening his receiver corps in a critical year. The two had developed a chemistry. In Taylor's one comeback win in 2015, Hogan caught a 46-yard bomb and a 2-yard TD pass on the winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

The offensive coaches weren't happy, either. Early this past season, reporters were asking who was the best pure athlete on the team. When Ryan was asked, one of the first names he mentioned was Hogan, who wasn't on the team anymore. It struck me as a clear swipe at the front office for letting Hogan go.

Hogan wasn't good enough to pay middling money for the Bills. But two Sundays from now, he'll be Tom Brady's top downfield receiving threat against Atlanta in the Patriots' attempt to win a fifth Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era.

Bills fans assumed Hogan would be a success in New England. It's comforting to think that any average receiver would thrive with Brady at quarterback. But Hogan has been a revelation lately. He broke the Pats' playoff record in the title game and set an NFL record for receiving yards in a playoff game by an undrafted player.

In time, Hogan might even develop into a star. It's clear that Whaley badly miscalculated by treating him like a disposable part, just another guy.

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