Is Ralph Wilson stuck in the wrong era?

OK, I know.

Judging by the headline you probably think I’m going to bash Wilson’s spending habits. Well, not today, but I may have a blog about that in the near future. However, this blog is about whether Ralph Wilson’s vision of creating a football team is up to date. Actually, it’s more like dissecting the way Ralph Wilson would construct his team.

Before I get into Ralph’s blueprint for a football team, I just want to make one thing perfectly clear: Ralph Wilson will always have a say in personnel. Jerry Sullivan has mentioned it a bunch of times on how Ralph was all over the drafting of Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards. Plus, there’s a reason why Tom Modrak is still with the organization: He gets along with the owner. Bottom line: Ralph has a major say.

From one owner to another, fans and media members who follow the Oakland Raiders have mentioned that Al Davis always sticks to his guns for the way he builds his teams. Since the 60’s, the emperor of Raiders Nation has always been in love with the following:

1) The vertical passing game.

2) Strong armed quarterbacks.

3) Loves speed more than a drug addict and Richard Petty.

4) Loves cornerbacks.

Now, over the years, Davis has been getting a ton of backlash from fans and media for being hard headed with his ways. Seven straight seasons of 10 losses or more will do that to you. I can only assume that Davis won’t change his ways because he has three Super Bowl rings as the architect of the Raiders. So, who would know better to construct a Super Bowl team than someone that has multiple championships? I’m sure that’s Al’s thought process. It’s funny when you listen to the owner’s interviews. For instance, he spoke to reporters on how Jason Campbell reminds him of Jim Plunket. Al always seems to reach into the old memory bank to compare his players of today to yesteryears. I can’t help but think that maybe another original AFL owner might have the same thought process.

Like Davis, Wilson has been around football for over five decades and I think his criteria of building a football team may have stayed the same. Here are a few football philosophies that I have come up with about Wilson:

1) Ralph Wilson loves running backs. Since 1997, the Bills have drafted five running backs in the first two rounds of the draft (A. Smith, Travis Henry, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch and CJ Spiller), which ties for the most backs selected by a team (Carolina Panthers) in those rounds.

2) Ralph Wilson doesn’t care about tight ends. Since 1985, the highest the Bills have drafted a tight end was in the 2nd round (the immortal Lonnie Johnson)

3) Ralph Wilson doesn’t use first round picks on quarterbacks as much as you think.

4) Ralph Wilson use to NOT pay for cornerbacks.

My View on Wilson’s love for running backs
I’m sure we all know how many experts and fans have spoken up about running backs being a dime a dozen. I could give a list of pro bowl running backs that have been selected on day two of the NFL draft. So, why do the Bills continue to draft running backs in the 1st round and give $31-million in guarantee money to Lynch and Spiller?

Maybe, because Ralph Wilson selected OJ Simpson with first pick of the 1969 NFL Draft. Think about it, before Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas walked onto the field at the Stadium, OJ Simpson was “Thee Guy” in Bills folklore. He made a lot of money for Ralph Wilson and was the sort of player you would pay to see. Wilson may think that lightning may strike twice by drafting running backs so high.

Now in fairness, Wilson has actually had a nice track record with picking up running backs early in the draft. Now, when I say that, I’m disregarding off the field issues (OJ with the missing glove and Marshawn Lynch with the missing license plates). Joe Cribbs and Thurman Thomas were former 2nd round picks who played exceptionally well for the Bills. Say what you will about McGahee, but when he started for the Bills in 2004, he was as dynamic of a running back as you can get.

Bottom line: Even though you can find a running back off the streets or late in the draft, Mr. Wilson isn’t about to test that theory.

My view on Ralph Wilson not caring for tight ends
I could go on forever about my disdain towards the way the Bills have treated the tight end position. Do we even know who our starting tight end is this year?!! The Bills have never had a tight end go over 70 catches or 700 yards for a season and I couldn’t even tell you the last time one went over 100 yards in a game.

Now, back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the tight end position hardly ever made a impact in the passing game. Hell, I couldn’t even name you five tight ends that played during that time frame. The reason being is that tight ends were hardly used in the passing game and were mostly used for blocking.

Did you know that up until 1994, only four tight ends had gained over a 1,000 yards in an NFL season? Like..EVER?! I’m talking 70 years worth!

Those players were Kellen Winslow Sr., Ozzie Newsome, Joe Senser and Todd Christensen. Not to mention, there were no tight ends that went over 1,000 yards during the 70’s. Last year alone, three tight ends went over the 1,000 yard mark. Do I even need to really dissect the history of the tight end for the Bills? Robert Royal? Lonnie Johnson? Mark Campbell? Keith McKellar?

And I’m sorry, I know there are some Pete Metzelaars fans up in here, but the guy was awful in the passing game. He would do the same thing every time he caught a football. You know how in school they would teach you that if you get catch on fire, you should just fall to the ground and roll? Well, that’s how Metzelaars would react after catching a pass. He’d make a reception 5-7 yards down the field and then he’d just drop to the ground and roll. Yes, I know, he’s a great blocker and Jim Kelly loved him.
Back to the present, and in a nutshell, lets just say that if you play fantasy football, more than likely, a Bills tight end isn’t going to be on your roster. I don’t know what gives with the Bills, but the team has failed to utilize their tight ends. One would assume that drafting guys in the 5th round or cutting Joe Klopefenstein 10 times aren’t the answers. Again, I’d like to think that RW understands that the tight end position has evolved over the years. However, judging by the production, it doesn’t seem like he does.

My view on Ralph Wilson using first round picks on QBs
Honestly, this is probably the weakest reason for figuring out Wilson’s methods of building a team. The Bills owner has had mixed results in using first round picks on quarterbacks. However, when he hits on them, it’s blackjack and when he doesn’t hit, it’s a HUGE bust.

Here’s the strange thing about Wilson and the history of starting quarterbacks for the Bills: If I were to ask you to take a guess on “how has the franchise found their starting quarterbacks?” I’d bet that 7 out of 10 people would say that the team has mostly drafted a QB in the first round.

Actually, it’s not really the case.

In the Bills 51 years in existence, they have only drafted three quarterbacks in the first round: Richie Lucas (1960), Jim Kelly (1983) and JP Losman (2004). Now, the Bills had traded two first round picks for quarterbacks (Rob Johnson in 1998 and Drew Bledsoe in 2002). So really, the Bills haven’t addressed the quarterback via the first round as much as we have probably thought. I’m not sure where the thought process is nowadays for the Bills. They haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since 2004 and NFL teams for the most part, besides the Saints and Patriots, have starting QBs who were drafted in the first round.

My view on Ralph Wilson NOW paying for cornerbacks
I use to always give Wilson crap for using first round picks on cornerbacks; only to let them leave after their rookie deals expired. Guys like Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements, Thomas Smith, and Jeff Burris were all first round picks that didn’t see 2nd contracts from the Bills. You can also include Nate Odomes and Jabari Greer in that mix.

That changed last year. Wilson did the unthinkable by giving Terrence McGee a multi-year contract extension. I don’t know what made Wilson decide to change things up. It’s interesting, because this day and age, the referees are calling a lot more illegal contact penalties down the field and cornerbacks are now being pushed to the back burner of team requirements. Bill Parcells (Who I hold a candle to) said that he would never spend a high draft pick on a cornerback because of how the NFL rules are now more in favor of the receivers than the corners. Hey, the NFL wants a passing league and will do everything to get the job done.

So, maybe Ralph is done with the whole drafting corners in the first round and that’s why he extended McGee. Then again, if corners are being downgraded, then why give a lucrative contract extension to McGee?

BTW, I’m sure a lot of you would have mentioned paying mega bucks for coaches and more scouts, but for this blog, I decided to go about it on the field.

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2 Responses to Is Ralph Wilson stuck in the wrong era?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think Ralph has a history of never hiring big name free agents. i know you are going to say TO, but besides TO and maybe Spikes, what other Big name Free agents has he gotten?

  2. joe says:

    Well, ralph was active from 95-04..He signed Bryce Paup, Ted Washington, London Fletcher, Spikes, Milloy, Adams. He even overpaid for Dockery and Walker. I'll say this, since 2007, the Bills have been more quiet on the FA front.

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