Last week at the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo, I chatted with an FBI agent who asked if I was glad to cover sports these days and not politics. You bet, I said. Sports fans can get pretty ugly on social media. Imagine the venom if I were writing about the serious stuff.
When I talk about the bloated defense budget, I'm merely referring to Marcell Dareus. On health care, I wonder when Sammy Watkins will suffer his 10th injury as a Bill. I haven't contemplated whether the Russians meddled in the decision to bring back Tyrod Taylor.
But people sure do care. The Mailbag remains busy, and while most of the correspondence is civil and thought-provoking, there are a few who seem to think I'm an enemy of the people – or at least the Buffalo sports teams. On to the mail.
Rick McGuire asks: If the Bills gave Tyrod Taylor a revised contract that contains "easy out" clauses for the team, do you agree that Sean McDermott is not fully convinced Taylor is the guy for the job? Sounds like a great deal of doubt exists!
Sully: Sounds that way to me, too. I've made it clear that I don't believe Taylor is the answer and the Bills should have moved on, even if it meant taking a step back with a rookie quarterback. I wanted to believe that McDermott, given power and time by ownership, wouldn't make a QB decision based on trying to win right away.
But from what I can see, that's what happened. McDermott decided Taylor was his best chance to win games in the short term, so they brought Tyrod back with a revised deal. It's more favorable to the team, essentially giving Taylor a $10 million pay cut and slashing the potential cap hit if they walk away from him after 2017.
So it's not a rousing vote of confidence. McDermott can't possibly be certain that Taylor is a franchise quarterback, based on the evidence. He knows defense. All he has to do is watch the films to see that Tyrod is an inferior passer who doesn't throw the ball effectively over the middle of the field.
That's why it was such a disappointment to see the Bills bring Taylor back. It's a classic case of middling the issue. McDermott might get to .500 as a rookie coach, but settling on Taylor is another case of spinning their wheels, choosing short-term gain over the long-term interests of the franchise.
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@FletcherDoyle1 asks: Whaley is 3-for-3 in problems with coaches. How many more chances does he get?
Sully: The GM has run out of chances. I felt Whaley should have been gone long ago. The Sammy Watkins trade alone was a firing offense. But the Pegulas allowed the dysfunction to continue, then decided it was time to clean up the mess by giving a first-time head coach (McDermott) power over the personnel operation.
It was clear when McDermott was hired that he would have more control of the roster. He has also become the singular voice of the organization. So it seems a matter of time before the Pegulas move on. A CBS report by Jason LaCanfora suggested that McDermott will soon be bringing in his own people to run the football department.
LaCanfora said there are rumblings in the NFL that the McDermott-Whaley marriage "isn’t built to last.” Some marriage. On the day McDermott was hired, they looked like two kids who had been mistakenly seated together at the prom.
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@Bump_Miller asks: Who would you like to see as backup QB for Bills? Cardale Jones, rookie or other?
Sully: I'd like to see Jones compete with a rookie for the backup quarterback job. It's his second year in the NFL. They've acknowledged that he's a long-term project, but if Jones isn't capable of pushing for a No. 2 job in the second year, that's not an encouraging sign.
The Bills need to take a quarterback in this draft. I would have cut Taylor loose and gone for a QB in the first round. But that's not happening, so let's assume they have a lesser regarded prospect in mind, a raw talent with the potential to be an NFL starter. That rookie can go up against Jones in training camp.
It wouldn't surprise me if they grabbed some veteran free agent to be the backup. The Taylor decision says McDermott wants to win now, so he's not likely to be comfortable without a proven backup at the most important position.
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James Griffin asks: Can our new coaches get Tyrod to throw the ball into his Bermuda Triangle, the middle of the field, where Charles Clay has been lost for two seasons?
Sully: They'll pretend to try, at least. As you'll recall, Greg Roman said Taylor would throw over the middle more before last season. He was giddy about Tyrod's progress in that regard. Then nothing much changed, though Taylor did get Clay more involved in the passing game late in the year.
When he took over as interim coach, Anthony Lynn said he needed more time in the offseason to work with Taylor on throwing between the hashes. It was one of the more astonishing things I heard last season, which is saying a lot.
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Sam Ruggiero asks: Are Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey & Jacob DeGrom good enough to give the Mets a World Championship? That's some awesome pitching!
Sully. Yeah, if they're healthy they have the best staff in baseball. That's a big "if". Harvey is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome on his throwing shoulder, his second major surgery in four years. He's scuffled in spring so far (0-4, 7.30), but he says not to worry. His velocity was up to 96 mph his last start.
DeGrom has great stuff, but he's coming back from ulnar nerve surgery. Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs in his elbow last year. "Thor" is an amazing talent and has added a changeup, which could put him on track for a Cy Young. Syndergaard skipped the World Baseball Classic because he's committed to being the Mets' ace.
Despite the injuries, the Mets still earned a wild card spot last season. Given a healthy season by their starters, they could win it all. The idea of a team with Steven Matz and Robert Gsellman as the 4-5 guys in the rotation is pretty scary.
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@RLGoody asks: Why still no Braves love from Pegulas?
Sully: Because they don't care about the city's NBA legacy, that's why. During last week's NCAA games, I looked up in the rafters at the KeyBank Center and was reminded that it had been three years since I last raised the issue of a Braves banner, after the tournament came to downtown in 2014.
Mayor Brown loves the idea of honoring our NBA past. So does Mark Poloncarz, the county executive. John Boutet, site chairman for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, has been pushing the idea for 15 years or more. Jack Ramsay said he favored the idea when I spoke to him a month before his death in 2014.
Still, nothing. The idea falls on deaf ears. It's OK to host the NCAA every few years and rake in the profits from the hoop crowd, but the Pegulas don't want any competing reminders of our NBA heritage. It's a hockey town, and don't you forget it.