Anytime life pulls me away from writing for a period of time, I can count on WGR radio waves to say something incredibly inane to get me fired up and spilling ink again.
Remember that horrible “Stevie Johnson doesn’t lift weights, maybe he should be cut” bit of awfulness from Schopp and the Bulldog this spring? In an event the term “ironic twist of fate” was made for, Stevie fractured a vertebrae doing the big power rope thing in a team video proving he does lift weights.
Now, if I were in charge of the Bills media, I would not feel it necessary to dignify the “controversy” by responding to it. Either way, the injury is minor and should be fine by the time camp roles around.
But when you’re the hosts of First Take: Buffalo Edition, you can’t let little details like that stop you from a juicy segment. So, last week, Schopp and the Bulldog trotted out professional troll Jerry Sullivan for a guest spot. The details are unimportant, but in essence Sullivan started skewering Stevie for not being good enough to be a #1 receiver, his three 1000 yard seasons not meaning anything, and not having what he felt was the right level of humility for a player on a losing franchise.
Whoa. Quite a bit to unpack here. Let’s address these one at a time.
Stevie’s Not Good Enough to Be a #1 Receiver
This is a line often trotted out by football yappers that is vaguely abstract at best and a meaningless cliche at worst. There are probably 10 to 20 receivers in the NFL who would improvements over Stevie, which would put him as a middle of the road #1 receiver. However, that still doesn’t say much. Really what offensive coaches are looking for are guys that are either excellent at beating man coverage or capable of blowing the top off of a defense (these aren’t mutually exclusive ideas, ideally a receiver has the ability to do both).
Stevie is among the best in the league at shaking corners in one one coverage, just ask healthy Darelle Revis. And while not a burner, Stevie is still sharp enough to get downfield if the corner turns the wrong way. Plus just about every other WR on the roster is a burner at this point, so all it takes is one to step up and the Bills will be fine at the position.
His Team Record Three 1000 Yard Seasons Don’t Mean Anything Because The Bills Haven’t Had a Winning Season
Sure. The only stat that matters is DUBYAS. Totally agree.
HOWEVAH, Jerome, let me propose that the main fault in the Bills struggles is NAWT one of the handful of productive Buffalo Bills players during that time. Football is a team sport to be certain, but a receiver’s ability to produce is uniquely limited by another player, the quarterback. Just at look Larry Fitzgerald’s underwhelming recent seasons.
And the QB for most of that time period was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who despite flashes of promise, was more inconsistent than anything. I don’t need to spend a lot of time to convince anyone of Fitz’s shortcomings, but shouldn’t that make what Johnson was able to accomplish more impressive? 1000 yard seasons with a guy who never went too long without a play like this:
Stevie Doesn’t Act the Right Way for a Player on a Losing Franchise
The first two silly points from ole Jerry are nothing more than a lack of any deep understanding of football. Lamentable for the top sportswriter in such a football focused town, but unfortunately that is too often the norm for lazy newspaper guys who treat the fall of print as license to mail it in.
But this last point really cuts at that heart of what is wrong with much of the media in Buffalo. Many have this idea that Stevie and others don’t “understand” Buffalo and the pain it’s felt over the years, especially with sports. That a exuberant, playful attitude towards sports is not what the stereotypical unemployed steelworker wants from his players. That Stevie doesn’t GET IT. They want Stevie, along with the rest of the Bills, to be scrappy grinders that understand what it means to REPRESENT Buffalo.
It’s patronizing horse crap. Buffalo, like every other fan base that passionately lives and dies with the successes and failures of their sports teams, wants to win. That’s all that really matters. Sure, there are athletes that fit the blue collar, workaday profile well, and tend to be popular here (Eric Woods comes to mind). However, it’s impossible to field an entire roster of this type of player and be competitive. In fact, the Jauron era Bills filled their locker room with likeable, hard working guys. Paul Posluszny types. But the talent sacrifices they made to have that roster put a limit on the team’s potential, and ultimately those teams will be forgotten by most.
The most ludicrous part about all of this hub-bub is that Stevie Johnson does just about everything you would want out of an athlete. He works his ass off (you don’t get to his position as a 7th round pick without doing so), he doesn’t get into trouble off the field, he produces. But because he has a unique personality and got a couple celebration flags, Sullivan thinks he’s a selfish loser.
Nothing’s further from the truth. At least at this little corner of the net, we appreciate our football players having a little bit of panache and who aren’t afraid to be individuals. It’s like Stevie’s mantra says: Have Fun, Handle Biz. Jerry would do well to follow that now and than.
Buddy Nixon is a Buffalo Bills blog that is an extension of how a few of us talk about the Bills. What you’ll find is an eclectic and irreverent mix of deep analysis, Buffalo Bills podcasts, draft coverage, and jokes you may only understand if you know who Fast Freddie Smith was. If that sounds like your kind of tailgate, unfold a chair and enjoy hanging with some of the most hardcore fans you’ll find. Better yet, tweet us, email us, or facebook us we’d love to here what you think!