Once I came down from the clouds after AJ McCarron led that “legendary” — if ultimately meaningless —win at the Bears on Thursday night, I was left to contemplate this question: How good is Brandon Beane at judging NFL talent?
For more than a year now, fans and media have been uttering the same mantra: That Beane and Sean McDermott have a vision and are a major step forward from the previous regime. While that’s true, it’s also true that being more visionary than Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan isn’t a terribly high bar. At some point, critical Bills fans will need to hold them to a higher standard.
The Bills hit the jackpot on a couple of veteran safeties last year in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, but that was after Beane was hired. I think the secondary is due to get a little exposed this season, but those two fortified a poor group and helped the Bills break the playoff drought. Fine.
Whaley made some good decisons, too. Every GM finds guys in free agency and trades. It’s the overall picture that matters. Beane is in his second year as general manager and first full year (remember, McDermott ran the 2017 draft), and he has assembled a team that could be the worst in the league. I know they haven’t played any regular-season games, but judging by the influx of new talent, you’d be tempted to think the Bills were, uh, tanking.
The offensive line is a joke. Russell Bodine, who was acquired from the Bengals to play center, has been a disappointment. Cincinnati didn’t want Bodine for a reason. Marshall Newhouse, who had 70 starts on his NFL resume, has been dreadful. If he makes the cut to 53, it’s mainly because the other players fighting for OL spots are even worse.
Vontae Davis was supposed to fill the hole at cornerback. He looks washed up to me. The second cornerback is a big issue heading into the season and you can bet teams will be attacking it during the regular season.
Corey Coleman is the latest wide receiver pickup who has been a non-factor. Coleman seemed to give up on a long bomb early in Thursday’s game. His commitment to the craft is very much in question. In the first episode of Hard Knocks, Jarvis Landry went into a rant about players not being willing to make the sacrifices to be great. He was clearly pointing at Coleman. At the start of the second episode, we see Coleman driving away from camp after the Browns traded him to the Bills.
Asked about Coleman on Thursday, Beane said “He’s trying.” Uninspiring.
Trent Murphy was expected to upgrade a sorry pass rush. He’s still nursing a groin injury, this after sitting out a year with injuries. I’m sure he has much to offer when healthy. Beane says there’s “a chance” Murphy will play in the opener at Baltimore.
McCarron was expected to be the starting quarterback after the Bills signed him in free agency. The more hopeful press, who are always ready to assume the best about every Bills move, called him a bargain at $4 million a year. He’s not an NFL starter. McCarron threw for 39 yards with two picks in the first half. The fact that he led a heroic comeback against backups who will be lucky to be on Chicago’s practice squad next week, hardly justifies his presence.
(UPDATE: McCarron was traded to the Raiders on Sunday for a fifth-round draft pick)
Kelvin Benjamin, the receiver Beane acquired last season to help Tyrod Taylor, is a No. 1 wideout in name only. He doesn’t get enough separation and isn’t a serious threat down the field. Beane needs to do more to strengthen his receiving corps. Zay Jones isn’t a proven No. 2, either, so once again they’ll be running out WRs who are inferior at their designated spots.
I know, they haven’t played a game and the Bills surprised us a year ago — making the playoffs with six-win talent. But fans need to start holding this franchise to a higher standard. That means not assuming greatness about coaches and executives just because they have the same base competence as the rest of the NFL.
Fans and media were aglow about the Pegulas’ other new GM, remember? Then Jason Botterill brought in a bunch of sad-sack new players and the Sabres finished dead last in the NHL. Botterill seems to have his team headed in the right direction (there’s only one direction when you’re last), so I’m willing to give him time putting his own team together.
But he’s still new, same as Beane. They should be treated that way. Beane has a lot to prove. He’d better hope that Josh Allen is the real deal.