It's ok to trust this process

Nate Geary takes a deeper look at Friday's shocking trades

August 13, 2017 - 2:21 pm

Nate Geary reporting
Twitter: @NateGearyWGR

On the Buffalo Bills' first offensive possession of the preseason last Thursday night, Tyrod Taylor targeted and found Sammy Watkins three consecutive times for two first downs and collective gasps could be heard throughout New Era Field. After three seasons of waiting, it appeared Bills fans would finally get an opportunity to see Taylor utilize a fully healthy Watkins.

It wasn’t always the injury issues with Watkins that frustrated fans. Undoubtedly, the most frustrating thing for fans and folks burdened with the job of reporting on a team who hasn’t been in the playoffs since Y2K was that even when Sammy was out there and available, they never seemed to fully integrate him into the offense like many had hoped they would after spending two first round picks to acquire him.  

Heading into his fourth season, I think everyone including Watkins himself, was excited about how the Bills might use him following three consecutive seasons of battling lingering injuries. Just the idea that he’d potentially be a better version of the player Bills fans saw in his first two seasons and the subsequent elevation of Taylor, it became the perfect storyline heading into this training camp.

That storyline changed dramatically on Friday and for the better. If you listen to me, follow me on Twitter or read my work, you know I’m not a Bills apologist. I’m comfortable being critical of the team when it’s warranted, but the moves to trade both Watkins and Ronald Darby shouldn’t be met with criticism.

The news of the trade was certainly jarring, there’s no question about it. But it’s the sort of jarring wake up call I think the organization and fans alike needed.

I compared this process to building a home. For 17-years, the organization has turned over plenty of coaches and general managers, but the flawed foundation always remained intact. Until this offseason, the same faces remained in the Bills scouting department. For the better part of 17-years, the folks in charge of evaluating talent never felt the heat the front office or coaching staffs felt.

Year after year, new general managers and head coaches alike have attempted to build a suitable home on a flawed foundation. They tried and tried, and every time they were seemingly presented with the same disappointing result. This regime has prioritized rebuilding the flawed foundation that’s been ignored for the better part of two decades, so why not be open to a new process?

You can’t simultaneously be sick and tired of not making the playoffs and being a seven-win team and also be against these trades. You can’t be on both sides. Is the team better this year without Watkins or Darby? No. But how much worse are they really?

The Bills managed to rank 10th in scoring offense last season with eight games from Watkins and a significant year-two step back from Darby. Conversely, Jordan Matthews, who was acquired in the Darby trade, has missed two games over the course of his career and has been incredibly productive.

There’s no question that out of the two, Watkins is the superior athlete. Matthews is a methodical and nuanced player. He’s successful despite his lack of elite athleticism. He’s been successful being physical at the top of his routes, creating separation with corners who are better athletes than he is. On top of that, he’s shown the ability to stay on the field and be a leader on and off the field. I truly believe he’s the carbon copy version of the sort of player Beane and McDermott are looking for in building their ideal roster.

I compel you to give this regime a chance. Not because you have to, not because you’re clearly stuck with these guys for the immediate future but because they’re acknowledging the flaws the previous regime left behind. They’re realistic about their ability to compete this season against the AFC’s best teams. They understand the process is a marathon and not a sprint.

The foundation of this franchise has begun a significant overhaul. I encourage you to be open to a regime wanting to build a team capable of winning more than nine games. I encourage being open to a regime building for a Super Bowl and not a Wild Card playoff appearance.

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