Both Duo’s stats don’t tell the story
Since most Bills fans always get gushy and teary eye when they think of the 90’s Bills. Let me use a little name association. James Lofton and Andre Reed. Both hall of famer’s (Reed is in my book) games were very complimentary towards each other. Reed was the go over the middle guy whose claim to fame was his yards after the catch. The dude was tough as nails and made a living off breaking tackles and taking it to the house. James Lofton on the other hand was all about speed. Growing up as kid I can remember watching Lofton make it look so easy. Kelly would just air it out as far as he can and Lofton wouldn’t even look back at the ball. He would always make the same over the shoulder catch for 50 yards and a touchdown. The two of them played together for 3 years and combined for 350 catches, 5,541 yards, and 39 touchdowns, which ranked #1 for wide receiving duos in the NFL for that stretch. I’m sure you readers know where I’m going with this. Comparing Lofton and Reed to Owens and Evans. But the stats don’t tell the story about what both duos had in common.
Lofton was going on his 3rd team in five years and his best days seemed to be ancient history. Lofton was drafted 6th overall in the 1978 draft by the Packers. The future hall of famer had a very successful run with Pack for 9 years and average an eye popping 18 yards a catch and almost 10,000 yards receiving. Lofton was then signed off plan B by the Raiders in 1987. Lofton’s numbers slid to only 1,329 yards receiving in two years with LA. The Raiders thought Lofton’s days were numbered and was subsequently cut during the 1989 season. At the age of 34 and in the twilight of his career the Bills took a chance. Lofton wasn’t expecting to make much of an impact let alone make the Bills team. Terrell Owens doesn’t have to worry about making the roster but like Lofton, T.O. is in his mid 30’s (35) and people are saying his best days are numbered.
Andre Reed on the other hand was entering his 6th season in the NFL and was just coming off his first pro bowl and 1,000 yard season. But the Bills lacked a play making number 2 wide receiver, hell I’ll go one better then lack, they were god awful. Their 2nd leading wide receiver was the immortal Flip Johnson, who had 25 catches for 303 yards. More importantly, Reed had struggled down the stretch of the 89′ season, catching just 23 passes for 336 yards in the team’s last 5 games. Reed’s issue was that teams knew he was the Bills biggest weapon in the passing game, and when teams doubled Reed there was no way Flipper Johnson was going to make them pay. Like Reed, Lee Evans is going into his 6th season and has been a victim of the double team and not having a legit number two receiving threat.
Lofton and Reed were match made in heaven and more importantly they needed each other. Reed was looking for that edge to put him in elite status in the NFL, while Lofton was looking for one more day in the sun. Lee Evans has always been the guy everyone outside of Buffalo knew was a special player, but hasn’t been able to make that jump from a good wide receiver to an elite one. Owens may not be in the same “left for dead” situation as Lofton was, but his critics have been on him for dropped passes and his skills not being what they once were.
Owens has the same game that Reed had (working the middle), and has the same chip on his shoulder that Lofton had trying to prove that he still got it. Evans has been that deep ball threat that Lofton was, and is just entering his prime as Reed did. Going into this season you have to wonder, who needs each other more, Evans or Owens? I really can’t answer that question, but I can tell you who needs that duo the most. They happen to be the same team Lofton and Reed played for.
“Reed is a HOF, end of story”