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Sully's Mailbag: Boldin bolted for more than social justice

Jerry Sullivan

The people aren't in a very cheery state of mind these days. You can tell by the tenor of the tweets and emails, which reflect a sense of despair and frustration that's remarkable even by the standards of Bills fans.

Are they tanking? Why don't they give Nathan Peterman the No 1 job? Do you think they'll bring in (fill in name of unemployed veteran wide receiver) to help out the offense?

This is the point where the preseason begins to feel like water torture. We still have to endure two more weeks of this interminable NFL prologue. Couldn't we start the regular season and be done with it?

On to this week's Mailbag. The questions are piling up, so I'll try to be more succinct in my responses, which is admittedly hard for me.

@mclennon99 asks: Anquan Boldin's reason for leaving is noble. But I'm convinced he wanted no part of a rebuilding franchise. Do you think he would have retired if he had signed with the Pats or another Super Bowl contender?

Sully: I'd like to believe Boldin quit solely because of Charlottesville and his work for social justice. He has been a noble advocate for the cause. But I have to think the Sammy Watkins trade had something to do with his decision to bolt.

To a man, the players said they respected Boldin's decision, and seemed genuine about that. But privately, most had to wonder if the team's muddled state of affairs, particularly the issues at receiver, was a big part of it.

I think you're right. If Boldin had signed with a better team, one with the overall talent and receiver depth of New England, he probably would have waited another six months to devote himself fully to his community work.

Once Watkins was gone, Boldin can't have been comfortable with the skeletal situation at receiver. There was no one to stretch the field, which would have made things difficult for the guys who run the punishing routes underneath. Boldin would have taken a pounding, a prospect he surely didn't relish at age 36.

Boldin probably figured he would putting his health at risk by playing in Buffalo. Watching Tyrod Taylor sail throws that expose receivers to big hits can't have been very reassuring, either.

@EdShelly1 asks: Let's tell it like it is. If anyone doubted the Bills are tanking, doesn't the Watkins trade remove all doubt?

Sully: Look, I don't believe Sean McDermott thought he was taking over a playoff team. But no first-time coach or general manager wants to go 3-13. He and Brandon Beane were hoping to middle it -- that is, push for the playoffs in Year One while collecting drafts assets for down the road.

They didn't want to give Sammy Watkins a huge contract after the season. I doubt they wanted to franchise him, either. Watkins has been injury-prone. You can't blame them for wanting to move on. That doesn't mean they were going for an all-out tank. They did get Jordan Matthews and, briefly, Boldin.

Beane had to balance a rebuilding plan with the need to placate the public. That doesn't make it a tank job. If they were tanking, they wouldn't have kept Tyrod Taylor, Kyle Williams and LeSean McCoy. But it seems Boldin smelled disaster, which makes them look very bad.

Tyler Ford asks: Given hype from the draft picks and McDermott's second year, what are the odds the Bills are next year's Hard Knocks team?

Sully: Not likely. McDermott and Beane both strike me as conservative, reserved types who wouldn't go for that sort of media circus. McDermott is a stickler for detail and organization. He's probably see Hard Knocks as a needless distraction that provides no competitive edge for his team.

Kim Pegula might be tempted by the notion of the Bills getting national exposure, but she and Terry have given McDermott control of the team and they would likely defer to the head coach on this one.

Mo Saladin asks: Why don't the Bills give Mike Williams a look? Local guy, two-sport star at Riverside High, never got a chance with Marrone.

Sully: Williams had plenty of chances, but never seemed to take his NFL job seriously. He had one great year in Tampa, got paid, then reverted to his knuckleheaded ways. I have to think Doug Marrone, who coached Williams at Syracuse, would have played Williams if he felt he could help him win.

Williams was released by Buffalo late in the 2014 season and hasn't played since. He missed the first six weeks of 2015 on suspension. He signed with the Chiefs in 2016, but was cut at the end of training camp. I realize that local people have a soft spot for him, but he's out of the NFL for a reason.

Kevin Lawrence asks: Do you have a Travers pick? All 3 Triple Crown race winners together in a great field!

Sully: True, it's quite a field, Kev. It's the first time in 35 years that all three Triple Crown winners are in the Travers field. Runaway Groom ran away from them all that year. I see an upset winner this year in Saratoga.

I'm partial to horses with middling odds, so I'm going with Girvin, which won a $1 million purse at Monmouth a few weeks ago, won the Louisiana Derby, and is currently at 10-1. It's spelled differently (the NBA legend was George 'Gervin'), but the hoop fan in me loves the name.

Jim Nuwer asks: Well, one week till the last celery race.. Should this proud veggie go out a winner?

Sully: I'm a lot more confident about Celery than I am Girvin. Sure, his losing streak is over 400, but he's due. What a story it would be if he could finally break through in his celery song on Wednesday! By the way, my son, Jack, lost as Celery once when he was an intern. He's still bitter.

Mike Harrington will have more on MLB mascot races in his Sunday baseball column.

@emjay716 asks: Are the Warriors going to be beating Cleveland or Boston in the finals now?

Sully: The Cavs have closed the gap, assuming Isaiah Thomas comes back healthy from his bad hip. Cleveland gave up Kyrie Irving, but Thomas is nearly as good and the Cavs also acquired Jae Crowder, a versatile forward who would be a vital asset in a series with Golden State.

@jmm057 asks: What are your thoughts on traffic circles/roundabouts? Why do WNY residents hate them so much?

Sully: We call them "rotaries" in Rhode Island. I don't recall people back home having any problems with them. I prefer them to four-way stop signs. I think some people don't like them because they're stupid. It's not splitting the atom to figure out who has the right of way.


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