How do I think Brian Daboll will work out as the Bills' offensive coordinator? Unless the Bills get it right at quarterback, he'll wind up like the dozen saps who preceded him, as the most unpopular man in town.
The fact that Daboll coached for five Super Bowl winners in New England is no guarantee. There's a long list of Bill Belichick assistants who floundered after leaving the Pats: Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel and Josh McDaniels failed as head coaches in the NFL. Charlie Weis flamed out at Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, they couldn't take Tom Brady along when they moved on to other opportunities. Funny how guys are geniuses when they coach on a team with Belichick and Brady, but get transformed into mediocrities when they leave.
It's suddenly chic to say you don't need a top quarterback to win in the NFL, because Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles are one game from the Super Bowl. People forget that the Eagles got there because they spent a king's ransom to trade up for Carson Wentz.
An elite QB is still the most reliable way to go. The future of Daboll and the rest of the men running the show at One Bills Drive will be determined by whether they find a true franchise quarterback and build a winner around him.
On to this week's Mailbag:
@Atheistmission asks: If the Bills trade or release Tyrod and don't sign A. Smith or K. Cousins, what do you predict their 2018 over/under wins to be?
Sully: An ESPN story on Friday put the Bills over/under at seven wins next season, which sounds about right. The writer, Bill Barnwell, assumed they would have Nathan Peterman or a high draft pick at quarterback next season.
My sense is you're right about Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins. I don't believe Brandon Beane is inclined to spend big bucks or draft capital on a bridge quarterback. Smith is under contract to the Chiefs for $14.5 million next season. That's not a massive hit, but they would have to trade for him.
Cousins will be a free agent and command in the $28-$30 million range on the market. There's no way the Bills make that sort of investment at this stage in the rebuilding process. It flies in the face of everything they've done.
Snapping the drought was great. But the Bills are bound to take a step back, and the guys in charge know it. Almost every NFL team that made a sudden jump to the playoffs in the last 15 years has regressed the following season. They'd love to win again, but they're realistic.
I don't think they'd win more than eight games with Cousins or Smith. So why would Beane and Sean McDermott bring in an expensive veteran to chase another unlikely winning season when they're reconstructing a roster that they tore apart in their first season in Buffalo?
I think they'll get rid of Tyrod Taylor and bring in a lesser bridge quarterback, someone who can quickly defer to a franchise guy. My early over/under for next season? Six and a half.
mclennon99 asks: I don't understand the resentment towards Doug Marrone. He was 9-7 in his second year. The problem was former GM Doug Whaley, who forced QB EJ Manuel on him and traded the farm for Sammy Watkins. Marrone saw the dysfunction and used a genius out clause in his contract. Can you blame him?
Sully: Marrone has never publicly explained his reasons for leaving, but dysfunction surely played a part. He was at odds with Whaley and furious about the trade for Watkins. He was in a power struggle with management and didn't feel he had the full support of ownership.
But let's not be too kind. Marrone thought he was the favorite for the Jets' head job and some others that came open, but he didn't get any of them. So he overplayed his hand, which made him look stupid and greedy to Bills fans.
You can't blame him for taking $4 million to quit an uncomfortable gig, but I can't blame fans and players who felt betrayed. Coaches preach loyalty and putting team goals ahead of money. But when the going got tough, Marrone got going – out the door with $4 million.
Josh Steuckel asks: Question: bigger need DT or OT opposite Dawkins?
Sully: That's a tough one, not knowing whether Kyle Williams will retire or whether Cordy Glenn will come back strong from surgery on his left foot.
Obviously, they need both. Even if he comes back for a 13th season, Williams is nearing the end of the line as a full-time defensive tackle. Glenn is the highest-paid O lineman in team history, but how long can they wait for him to become a reliable starter and justify the deal?
Fortunately, Dion Dawkins had a fine rookie season as left OT in Glenn's absence. Dawkins gave up only three sacks and was rated 22nd in the NFL among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus. That gives the Bills the assurance that at least one tackle spot is in good hands.
Defensive tackle is a bigger issue. Whatever you say about Marcell Dareus, trading him weakened the D line. McDermott is a defensive coach. He has constructed a very good secondary. You know he'd like to fortify the guys up front to better complement the back end.
So I'd have to say defensive tackle is the bigger need, on a team with a lot of them.
Hondo H asks: The NFL wants to protect quarterbacks from injury. So why is intentional grounding so heavily penalized? It's 10 yards AND loss of down. Knocking out a player with a helmet-to-head hit is lesser penalized. Why not make intentional grounding just a 10-yard penalty, with no loss of down?
Sully: I agree with you. There have been some controversial grounding calls lately – a critical one on Cam Newton in the wild-card game and a bad call on Cousins in November. I wouldn't do away with the rule, but it should be more liberally interpreted so QBs don't put themselves into physical danger.
I've never understood why teams lose 10 yards and the down. A 10-yard penalty seems punishment enough. Grounding isn't that common, but it often happens on third down. Does the NFL want more punts?
Carl Gillmeister asks: With the addition of Brian Daboll, and his history with Jimmy Garoppolo, any chance the Bills go after him in free agency?
Sully: Garoppolo isn't going anywhere soon. He'll be an unrestricted free agent, but the Niners can either franchise him or sign him to a long-term extension in the $100 million range. Either way, he's seen as a lock to be San Francisco's starter next season.
Garoppolo was terrific after being traded from the Pats to the Niners, going 5-0 down the stretch. I imagine he'll be eager to build on that next year in San Fran. Daboll was the tight ends coach when he and Garoppolo were in New England. There's hardly enough history to entice Garoppolo to Buffalo.
Bob Shivinsky asks: If you had to choose, a basketball team or hockey team for our city?
Sully: I've said many times that I would trade the Bills AND Sabres for an NBA franchise. That's how much I love the league. If I had to choose between the other two, I'd go with the NFL.
Bob's email included the message "Honor the Buffalo Braves." The issue of honoring Buffalo's NBA heritage at the downtown arena has come up numerous times in the past. Sabres management feels it's just a small minority of old basketball fans who care.