Watching Big Ben and Aaron Rodgers the last two weeks shred the Bills defense got me thinking. What could have been if we lost one more game. It was the 2003 Season, and the Bills were in the mists of one of their biggest disappointing seasons to date. It was the year after the Bills traded for Drew Bledsoe and made 3 huge splashes in the offseason by signing Takeo Spikes, Lawyer Milloy, and Sam Adams. The Bills had an incredible offense in 2002, but their defense was a disaster. With the signings of the 3 pro bowlers on defense, the Bills seem to be on the right track to having a balance team in 2003.
Of course, that didn’t happen and the Bills were a disaster. The offense broke records in offensive futility for the team. The Bills were 4-7 and going no where fast. Of course lady luck came shining on the Bills in week 13 and 14 of the season. Buffalo was pitted against the lonely Jets and Giants, and the rest was history. The Bills ended up beating both teams in back to back weeks to climb to an uninspired 6-7 record. The Bills ended up losing the last 3 games by 50 points combined. Why am I bringing this up? The Bills, Jets, and Steelers finished with identical 6-10 records, and because the Bills had a better division record than the Steelers and Jets, the Bills picked at 13th in the 2003 NFL Draft, while the Steelers and Jets picked 11th and 12th.
The Steelers and Bills both needed quarterbacks for the future. The Bills had the aging Bledsoe, while the Steelers had Tommy Maddux. The Jets didn’t need a QB, because they had a young Chad Pennington (before his arm problems). With the 11th pick in the draft, the Steelers selected a MAAC quarterback from Miami of Ohio. The guy’s name was Ben Roethlisburger. Two Superbowl trophies later, he’s the biggest fixture for the Steelers since Terry Bradshaw. Why couldn’t we just throw one of the NYC games?!
Of course, with the Bills not having Big Ben on the board they went with Lee Evans with the 13th pick. Some experts thought GM Tom Donahoe panicked by not getting Big Ben. The GM gave up a 1st (2004) and 2nd round pick (2003) to Dallas to move back into the first round, and select JP Losman with the 22nd pick. Besides losing Big Ben and gaining Losman, what made matters worse was what the Bills gave up. Dallas used the Bills 2nd round pick to select running back Julius Jones. Even though Jones was a bust for the Cowboys, the next pick was by the Colts who selected Bob Sanders, who has a NFL defensive MVP award under his belt. Think he could of looked good in a Bills uniform?
The nightmare doesn’t end there. In the 2004 NFL Draft, the Cowboys used the Bills 20th pick in the first round to select Marcus Spears. A pretty good player in his own right, but just 4 picks later the Green Bay Packers were on the clock. Just like the Bills the year before, the Pack needed to find a young QB to be the heir apparent to Brett Favre. The Packers selected a QB whose draft stock was slipping at the time. Aaron Rodgers became the Packers 24th pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. DOE!
Flash forward to the present, Aaron Rodgers is coming off an outstanding first year as a starter in the NFL. Big Ben may have issues with his motorcycle and girls, but he’s going to be apart of the Steelers for at least the next 10 years. JP Losman is playing slots in Las Vegas preparing to be the face of the UFL League (yeah, that will put butts in the seats). Tom Donahoe hasn’t been heard from since being fired by the Bills after the 2005 season. And Drew Bledsoe is retired in some log cabin in Montana. Pretty fitting to be surrounded by trees that have more movement than he did in the pocket.
Can you imagine where the Bills would be now if they didn’t beat one of the NYC teams or had they not panicked about not getting a QB in the 2003 draft? Maybe Tom Donahoe would still be running the team. Maybe the Bills would of made the playoffs by now. Hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to losing for over a decade, you can’t help but feel a little down.