There is a die-hard football fan base like no other in the western New York area that has been craving for a contender for far too long. The Buffalo Bills have faded into NFL obscurity for quite some time dating back to the departure of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith over 15 years ago. The Bills really haven’t had a cornerstone franchise type quarterback suiting up in blue and red since the days of Jim Kelly. That is why conventional wisdom would say that Buffalo is inclined to snag a top quarterback prospect in the NFL draft. Not so fast says Bills GM Buddy Nix, who claimed yesterday that just because Auburn standout Cam Newton visited the organization yesterday doesn’t mean it’ll be a slam dunk for the self proclaimed “entertainer and icon,” to be taking his talents to Buffalo if the Bills have a shot at him when they pick at No. 3 in this April’s draft.
The Bills do have the “Harvard Man”– Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, and he played fairly well in. But one has to think that the Ivy Leaguer is a only serving as a suitable, temporary stop gap. And there’s not much doubt that Fitzpatrick is a guy who could willingly and capably mentor a potential franchise quarterback. Buffalo has so many team needs to address after finishing at the bottom of AFC East at 4-12, that a quarterback is arguably not the biggest need, but the quickest fix to get a fan base really believing again is undeniably snagging a high profile signal caller early on in the first round. Lots to consider for head coach Chan Gailey, who must also contend with the unique dynamic of there likely not being free agency prior to this year’s draft pending an April ruling on the ongoing lockout sometime in April. Chan Gailey joined The Fan 590 in Torontowith Greg Brady to discuss what he was looking for in his meeting with Cam Newton yesterday, if he sees Cam Newton as a professional quarterback, his meeting with Buffalo Bills season ticket holders, does the lack of free agency due to the lockout change the way the Bills draft at the number three pick and if he prefer four preseason games.
When you meet with Cam Newton today are you looking to see how Newton can decipher the Bills playbook and how he would look running the offense?
“What you’re trying to do is get an overall idea whether he [Cam Newton] can handle a pro style offense. He was in a very unique offense at Auburn. He’s obviously as you said a great athlete. He’s displayed that. We’re trying to see can he handle a pro style offense? I’m not going to try to make him fit and do exactly what Ryan Fitzpatrick does. I’m not going to do that, but can he handle all what we might throw at him and what the defenses throw at him to play at this level. That’s what you’re trying to find out in a very limited amount of time without working with him.”
Do you see a potential pro quarterback in Cam Newton?
“Oh definitely. What people don’t realize is you take Cam Newton. You take Blaine Gabbert. You take Christian Ponder. You take Ryan Mallett. They have the talent to be a professional quarterback, but it’s not talent. It’s decision making and accuracy. Decision making comes from being able to decipher all that information that’s going on on offense and defense in 2.3 seconds. I don’t know….you can’t have a meeting with a guy to determine that. You have to kind of get a feel for it to see if you think a guy can do that.”
You met with the Buffalo Bills season ticket holders last night. What were some of the concerns, some of the positives, some of the negatives, that came out of the meeting that you heard fans address?
“Well the thing that happened in the event: Russ Brandon and I, our CEO, went up before I got up there, before Buddy [Nix] got up there, and addressed the group and said ‘Look we’re all frustrated. Nobody wants to go through this, but it’s just where we are right now.’ We are appreciative of the fans that you know all are sticking through thick-and-thin. There’s a bunch of them in Buffalo. I mean really in the Buffalo Bills nation there’s a bunch of people that are there win or lose games, good or bad, thick or thin. I think it was Russ’s [Brandon] way of saying ‘Thanks and we’ll get through this. It may not be pretty, but we’ll get through it.’ I then got to come up and just talk about football and the season and things like that. I didn’t hear a lot of the other stuff. I got to hear the good stuff and the stuff I like to talk about and that’s football and organization and where we’re going and what kind of football team I think we have a chance to have.”
This year you don’t have any free agency due to the lockout. Does that change the potential of who may be waiting there for the Bills pick at #3?
“Yes it has. The dynamics of this draft will be different if there is no free agency before the draft. I guess one of my worst fears, Buddy and I, have even talked about this, but one of my worst fears would be I guess the judge hears the first part of this deal on April the 6th. If she says ‘Well okay April the 23rd…okay ya’ll handle it…go back to the 2010 rules and free agency is up and going.’ I mean my goodness! You’re talking about a free for all four days before the draft. That could just be an amazing turn of events, so we are prepared. Buddy,the one good thing about it, Buddy’s prepared when free agency does hit. We’ve targeted guys in our mind. We’ve gotta go make contact and see what we can do with them, but if it’s after the draft it does. This draft takes on different look really.”
Can you do your job as a talent evaluator if you do not have four preseason games? Do you want the four preseason games? Would 2 preseason games make it easier to pick the roster? Do you buy into that analysis?
“I would not buy into that analysis. I want the four [preseason] games. I think you can practice and scrimmage all you want, but when a guy knows the lights are on and the people are in the stands, he knows that he’s being evaluated with every step he takes. I think that pressure is something that a guys need for us to be able to determine whether he can get the job done or not.”