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Sully's Mailbag: Some quotes are gifts that keep on giving

A memorably dumb quote is like a bone to a sports writers. We have a hard time letting it go. So when Doug Whaley went on a national radio show early this week and bragged about leaving the Bills a "gift" of two 2018 first-round draft choices, it was a present to the media, right up there with the free food.

I'll wear out Whaley's utterance, as I have other notorious Buffalo sports quotes over the years. Last year, it was Rex Ryan pronouncing that his team had "won the offseason" and Terry Pegula claiming the drought was really only one year. A few years earlier, Darcy Regier warned Sabres fans that the rebuild "may require some suffering."

Larry Quinn called a non-playoff year a "mulligan." Wade Phillips called Chris Watson a "punt catcher." There are countless others. One day, I might pull them together in a column. Feel free to send along your favorites.

And now, the Mailbag:

@FReichComeback asks: Now that he's been dismissed, what will be Whaley's legacy during his time in Buffalo?

Sully: I'm confident it won't be the Bills winning the Super Bowl and Sean McDermott holding up the Lombardi Trophy while declaring that it all started when they fired Whaley the day after the draft and he was kind enough to leave those first-round picks behind as parting gifts.

When I think of Whaley's legacy, three things spring to mind: The first is the overdrafting of EJ Manuel at 16th overall in 2013. It was convenient to pin it on Buddy Nix, but that draft was Whaley's handiwork. As he told fans shortly afterwards, his reputation was riding on the Manuel pick.

Two, of course, was compounding the mistake by spending two first-round picks (another sort of gift) to move up for Sammy Watkins in a receiver-rich draft. As I said many times, it was a firing move all on its own, and obliterated any small personnel triumphs he might have had as Bills GM.

The third was his regrettable press conference at the end of the season, when the Pegulas sent him out alone to contend he had no involvement in Rex Ryan's firing. And by the way, didn't Sean McDermott do the same thing when he claimed ignorance about Whaley's firing after the draft?

Mark DiPirro asks: With a new head coach, the fourth most difficult schedule and overhauled front office, is making the playoffs the only acceptable outcome for the Bills?

Sully: I hope you're trying to be facetious. The situation is just the opposite. Considering the seismic changes, the tough schedule and a weak, depleted roster, expectations for the Bills should be lower than in several years.

There's little pressure on McDermott and his revamped front office to break the playoff drought in the first year. I won't judge them by wins and losses, but whether they show competence and vision and the operation begins to rise from its decade-long dysfunction.

The honeymoon won't be long, I assure you. Fortunes shift rapidly in the NFL. That's why McDermott is middling it by keeping Kyle Williams and Tyrod Taylor, hoping a surge of good luck and revived play by some of the overpaid stars on the team helps them make a playoff run.

McDermott still hasn't coached a game. He seems to have control of his domain, but it's May. You never know about a new coach in any sport until he's in the heat of the game. That's when we find out if he has command.

Alex Davis asks: What matchup, or game within the game, are you most looking forward to in the first NBA Finals trilogy in history?

Sully: Love the NBA question. The Cavs and Warriors are the first teams to meet in three straight Finals. There were 14 prior back-to-back meetings, but never a third. It should be a great series, the most anticipated Finals since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played for the title for the first time in 1984.

Matchups are always the key in the playoffs. You need players who can play and guard multiple positions. The top scorers are bigger and more versatile nowadays, so there's a lot of switching and teams will exploit any weakness in an opponent's defense.

It's hard to pinpoint a single matchup, but the two key figures will be the Cavs' LeBron James and the Warriors' Kevin Durant. They're both amazing players for their size and talented defenders on the perimeter and at the rim (though LeBron has slipped).

Durant is under a lot of pressure to prove himself after joining a team that won 73 games last year before losing to the Cavs for the title. His reputation is on the line. He doesn't have to outplay James, but he has to be a major factor at both ends of the floor.

His defense will be critical. Durant doesn't get enough credit for his D, but he'll make it tough when he's on James, who will likely draw Draymond Green much of the time. Green is a top defender. So is guard Klay Thompson. That's premier defenders at the three middle positions. It's almost unfair when you consider the Warriors are one of the best offensive teams ever.

One matchup that will cause trouble for Golden State is Kyrie Irving, who raises his game in the playoffs and is close to unstoppable when he's in rhythm. But I think the Warriors, a heavy favorite, will hold the Cavs to well under 50 percent shooting and win the series in six.

Ed Jacobs asks: I've noticed when MLB players go on rehabs, it's not always to their highest minor league affiliate. Scheduling? Coaching?

Sully: I know local fans are disappointed when top guys (like Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson), don't rehab in Buffalo. There's a variety of reasons that many guys don't go to the top affiliate.

Mike Harrington tells me MLB teams don't generally feel they have enough control of rehabbing players in minor-league road games. Sometimes, it's a matter of weather, or that the key medical staff are based at the A ball camp. It sometimes depends on whether it's a pitcher or position guy.

I doubt the enjoyment of minor-league fans is high on their priority list.

Steve Carr asks: How has a McDermott-coached defense fared against the Brady/Belichick Patriots since he became an defensive coordinator?

Sully: In 2013, the Panthers beat the Pats in Carolina, 24-20. Brady was 29 of 40 for 296 yards with a TD and a pick against McDermott's D. Cam Newton soundly outplayed Brady that day and Carolina didn't turn the ball over.
So he's 1-0 against the Pats as a coordinator.

That's the only example of him running a defense against New England. McDermott coached defensive backs on Eagles teams that lost to the Pats in Super Bowl 39, 24-21, and in their unbeaten regular season of 2007, 31-28.

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