AFC East: Rob Johnson
A first-round pick from the famed 1983 draft class appears on every list.
Quick take: It's strange to see Flutie on the Bills' all-time list. When I arrived in Western New York 11 years ago, the area was hotly divided over him and Rob Johnson. Some fans wanted Flutie to just go away. But I agree with the list and, as Tanier, points out in his piece, this goes to show how few great quarterbacks there've been over the years.
Quick take: The Dolphins have a two Hall of Famers in their history, but you can see how much trouble they've had finding a replacement for Marino when you consider their fourth- and fifth-best quarterbacks are known for being quality backups. Granted, Morrall came off the sideline to help maintain the undefeated 1972 season. But he started 14 times over five seasons with Miami and just 40 percent of his career games.
New England Patriots
- Tom Brady
- Drew Bledsoe
- Babe Parilli
- Steve Grogan
- Tony Eason
Quick take: This is the only AFC East team with an active quarterback on the list. The rundown couldn't be more straightforward to me. Maybe you could flip Grogan and Parilli because of longevity and the neck roll.
New York Jets (from a previous Football Outsiders column)
Quick take: Tanier notes that if you wanted to rank Sanchez fourth right now, then he wouldn't argue. Neither would I, although I'd be more comfortable with Sanchez replacing Todd on this list. Tanier also claims if Pennington had avoided one of his lost seasons, he might be the greatest quarterback in Jets history -- from a statistical standpoint.
Moulds covered a lot of ground in the interview and gave blunt assessments of the current Bills, noting a glaring lack of leadership and his disdain for playing games in Toronto.
Purely by coincidence, Moulds' best comments pertained to the firing of Wade Phillips -- 10 years ago.
Phillips was the last coach to take the Bills to the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys fired Phillips on Monday.
"I think we were onto something good," Moulds said of the 2000 Bills. "I think that move [firing Phillips] set us back 10 years as an organization, and the Bills are still trying to recover now. We had a playoff team, great coaches and a lot of Pro Bowl players, and the powers that be just ripped it up like a piece of paper. Still till this day it bothers me."
Moulds, without naming owner Ralph Wilson, also pointed a finger at "the powers that be" above Phillips for switching quarterbacks when the Bills began the playoffs after the 1999 season.
Doug Flutie started every game until the regular-season finale, getting the Bills to a 10-5 record. Rob Johnson started instead and remained the starter for the playoffs.
"I thought it was the dumbest decision made in history of pro sports," said Moulds, a three-time Pro Bowler. "It's a story that I wish ended differently."
The season ended with the Music City Miracle. The Bills haven't been in the playoffs since.
A few months ago, when Buffalo Bills icon Jim Kelly lobbied hard for the Buffalo Bills to draft a quarterback -- preferably Tim Tebow -- he warned them to stay away from Californians.
While he was referring specifically to the Bills' failed attempts to replace him with Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards, Kelly was promulgating a common belief that warm-weather quarterbacks can't perform in the cold.
A couple weeks ago, Edwards called Kelly "a little bit na´ve."
Barnwell decided to find out whether that's true. His research shows Edwards was right.
In an educational column for ESPN Insider, Barnwell runs game data from games back to 1993 and finds QBs who grew up in warm-weather states fare better in the cold than quarterbacks raised in chillier environs.
Barnwell defined the quarterbacks geographically by where they played in high school, but the home state had to be clear-cut one way or the other. Barnwell then sorted their stats in outdoor games where the kickoff temperature was no higher than 35 degrees.
The numbers then were broken out in three charts that pitted cold-weather QBs versus warm-weather QBs: in all cold games (cold-weather QBs had minor advantage), in cold road games (warm-weather QBs had noted advantage) and in road games that didn't qualify as cold (warm-weather QBs had an advantage, but not as much as they did in cold games).
The third chart, used for control, was the clincher for Barnwell.
"The warm-weather quarterbacks are better than the cold-weather quarterbacks specifically in cold-weather games," Barnwell writes. "Not only is Kelly's theory incorrect, the truth is the exact opposite of what Kelly suggested."
A former coach delivered a reminder about Drew Brees that must feel like a punch in the gut and followed it up with a cheap shot.
Gregg Williams was a guest on Nashville sports-radio station 104.5 The Zone and sounded happier to be New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator than the Bills' head coach.
"I'm kind of at that point and time in my career," Williams said, "where the three W's are the most important of the choices that I make from now on in coaching: What am I doing? Where's it at? Who's it with?
"I'm never going to discount again on who's it with. I've been able to kind of pick and choose now after all these years about where I want to go to, and I really, really, really wanted to draft Drew Brees when I was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and thank goodness that didn't happen otherwise I'd still be stuck up there in cold Buffalo.
"Now I'm here. I do have a chance to go with him into [the Super Bowl]."
The San Diego Chargers selected Brees with the 32nd overall choice in 2001, Williams' first season with the Bills.
The Bills took cornerback Nate Clements with the 21st pick and also owned the 46th pick. As Williams explained to Sports Illustrated's Peter King in the fall, the Bills hoped to trade up to get Brees but couldn't find a willing partner.
"I almost pulled a hamstring in the draft room, jumping up and down because I was so mad,'' Williams told King.
The Bills eventually drafted defensive end Aaron Schobel with the 46th pick. A very good selection.
But instead of having a franchise quarterback for the next decade, the Bills' starting quarterbacks in 2001 were Alex Van Pelt and Rob Johnson. They traded for Drew Bledsoe the next year and have since called Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm starters.
Williams lasted three seasons as Buffalo's coach. He went 3-13, 8-8 and 6-10.
The Buffalo Bills will avoid a quarterback controversy for at least another week.
Bills coach Dick Jauron already has announced concussed starter -- or at least he used to be the starter -- Trent Edwards will not play Sunday against the Houston Texans in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills have gone 2-0 with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick running the offense. They haven't transformed into the 1984 Miami Dolphins, but the offense has gotten better with Edwards off the field.
Jauron said "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it" in response to a question about who the starter will be when Edwards has been cleared to return.
In other words, Jauron -- ahem -- might be willing to check down.
The Bills hoped their quarterback quandary days were over when they rid themselves of J.P. Losman and signed Fitzpatrick to be the unquestioned No. 2. Edwards was the no-doubt starter.
An injury, which given Edwards' history was inevitable, wasn't expected to make a difference. Fitzpatrick simply didn't have the pedigree to warrant cries of a switch.
But, in a big way, Edwards has fallen out of favor with Bills fans. They call him Captain Checkdown, and based on the mailbag submissions I receive, they generally would prefer he check out of town.
Bills faithful have been debating the merits of the two quarterbacks on the same roster almost since Jim Kelly retired 13 years ago. Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Van Pelt again, Kelly Holcomb, Losman, Edwards ...
The Bills are almost there again. Once Edwards is healthy, the Bills will have another QB dilemma to deal with.
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor is ready to contribute again in Miami.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Jason Taylor was wary about the constant change and weary of prolonged rebuilding.
The Miami Dolphins defensive end hadn't been to the postseason since 2001 and hadn't won a playoff game since a year before that. The club was working with yet another new head coach, its sixth in 10 years, after a desolate 1-15 season.
Taylor's brother-in-law, Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, was given his sweet release.
A soap opera involving Taylor and Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells materialized. Parcells was said to be aggravated by Taylor's decision to participate on "Dancing With the Stars" rather than attend the offseason conditioning program.
The tension between a franchise player and an overshadowing figure intent on making the franchise his own led to the inevitable: Parcells traded Taylor to the Washington Redskins for a couple of draft picks.
The move didn't work out for Taylor.
"I was away for a year," Taylor said. "It felt about five years, to be honest. It was an interesting learning experience."
Now he's back with Miami, obviously willing to stand for change. Taylor, who turned 35 three weeks ago, signed a modest contract to return in a different role than he was accustomed to. He will make his homecoming when the Dolphins open their Land Shark Stadium schedule against the Indianapolis Colts on "Monday Night Football."
Taylor compiled Hall of Fame-caliber credentials as a right defensive end, his hand on the ground and rushing the quarterback.
In head coach Tony Sparano's 3-4 defense, and with reigning AFC sack king Joey Porter handling the weak side, Taylor crouches into a two-point stance and has coverage responsibilities as the strongside outside linebacker.
"I think I'm still more comfortable in the three- or four-point," said Taylor, the NFL's active sacks leader with 121.5. "I've done it for so long. I feel more explosive. I feel a little better coming out of it.
"I need to learn how to create that same explosion and quickness out of the two-point. It’s a work in progress. At times I catch myself wanting to inch down and get back into a three-point, but I'm working on it."
Taylor's season with the Redskins certainly contributed to his willingness to adapt.
He gained a newfound appreciation for the Dolphins during his brief separation. He couldn't avoid playing for a rookie head coach, was miscast in the Redskins' defense (17 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks), didn't make the playoffs while his old team won the AFC East title, saw snow and suffered a freak calf injury that could have led to amputation.
|Scott Cunningham/Getty Images|
|Jason Taylor had just 17 solo tackles and two sacks during his one season in Washington.|
Other than that, Taylor had a blast.
He already has half as many sacks as he did last year. In a season-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons, he dropped Matt Ryan, the 64th quarterback on Taylor's career victims list. The sack also tied him with Clyde Simmons for 13th all-time.
Taylor, for the record, has sacked Colts quarterback Peyton Manning five times, tied for fourth on his list with Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington and behind Tom Brady (9.5), Drew Bledsoe (6.5) and Rob Johnson (six).
"Jason's always been a guy that plays with a something-to-prove attitude," former Dolphins linebacker and defensive end Kim Bokamper said. "Jason's last year, obviously, was disappointing. I think he'll be coming after people.
"He's out to prove he's not a part-time guy, that last year was an aberration. There's really good motivation for him to show people he's still Jason Taylor."
The belief is that Taylor was brought back to rush on obvious passing downs, with burly incumbent Matt Roth there to stop the run. But a groin injury kept Roth off the field throughout training camp and all four preseason games. He opened the season on the non-football injury list, rendering him unavailable for the first six weeks.
Not having Roth hurts Miami's run defense, but there's a benefit to not switching out personnel that would telegraph a defense's intentions.
"The thing I saw with Matt last year that I thought he did extremely well was just punish the tight end," said Bokamper, who is around the Dolphins on a regular basis as a sports anchor for Miami's CBS affiliate. "He completely took them out of the game and then collapsed the corner. He was such a strong run defender.
"Having said that, I've always been a big believer of when you have a guy that can do both, you don't have to change personnel. It's advantageous. It may sound like a little thing, but sometimes little things make a difference."
Bokamper's familiar with the type of change Taylor is making, though Bokamper did it in reverse. He started out as a strongside outside linebacker, making the Pro Bowl in his third season. He finished his nine-year career as a right defensive end.
Bokamper likened the transformation to a NASCAR driver making right-hand turns or a natural righty throwing left-handed. It's mentally tricky, but not unworkable.
Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson pointed out that the switch will match Taylor more often against right tackles, who generally are better run blockers compared to left tackles and whose main responsibility is blind-side pass protection.
The change also should be beneficial for career longevity.
"It's a lot less physically demanding to play that standup outside linebacker than it was to be a down defensive end," Bokamper said. "Going against a tight end, you're facing a guy who's usually not as strong as a blocker. For Jason, being toward the latter part of his career, it probably works out better for him."
The situation in Miami, despite the positional adjustment, already is working out better for Taylor than in Washington.
"One of the neat things for Jason right now with this position," Sparano said, "is it’s not something that he can get bored with. He was playing kind of the same position for a long time in this league. As close as a guy can come to perfecting that position, you’d have to say he did.
"With what we’re asking him to do at his stage in his career right now, I think that every day he comes to work he’s pretty curious. He's curious to find out what today brings, what new things we have in store, how this position correlates to some of these new things that we have.
"It’s kind of keeping him on the edge of his seat a little bit, and ... he's starting to get the entire package."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Trent Edwards is tiring of the questions.
He acknowledges the thrill of playing quarterback in the NFL is worth whatever hassles come with it, but the make-or-break theme that has enveloped him isn't enjoyable.
|Paul Jasienski/Getty Images|
|Trent Edwards is 12-11 as Buffalo's starting quarterback.|
Another question about pressure, a crossroads, put up or shut up ...
"You guys are kind of forcing me to try to think that way," Edwards said Tuesday afternoon after the Buffalo Bills' first minicamp practice. "I get that question a lot. I feel like every offseason I get that question. It's kind of a go-to question to ask a quarterback."
Edwards is entering his third season with Buffalo. That's seems to be about the amount of time a quarterback gets around these parts.
Doug Flutie was here for three years. Rob Johnson was here for four years, the starter of choice for two. Drew Bledsoe was here for three years. J.P. Losman spent three years as the starter before Buffalo gave the job to Edwards.
The town's patience -- and perhaps the owner's -- haven't lasted much beyond three years after Marv Levy and Jim Kelly ran the show.
Since Levy retired as head coach, his next three successors were given similar terms. Wade Phillips and Gregg Williams lasted three years apiece. Mike Mularkey was given a third year but resigned.
That cleared the way for Dick Jauron, who was given a fourth year much to the fan base's mortification.
So the trends certainly point to this being a make-or-break season on several counts.
Chad Pennington enjoyed his reprieve.
"I didn't have to worry about him hitting me in the blindside like I have for the previous eight years," Pennington said with a laugh Monday.
Taylor harassed Pennington for years in the AFC East. But the relentless pass-rusher was traded to the Washington Redskins last summer.
Taylor, a free agent, might be headed back to the division. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft twice has declared Taylor is welcome on the roster. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has expressed his fondness for Taylor many times over the years and needs an outside linebacker for his 3-4 defense.
"You just know, 'All right, we've got another game-changer to worry about.' Every team has a game-changer," Pennington said, "and a lot of times it's that defensive end on your left side if you're a right-handed quarterback.
"He's a guy that you always have to take into consideration when you're game planning. He makes you change protections. He makes you use more than one guy to block him. He's one of those guys that affects the outcome of a game with one play."
Pennington has spent his entire career in the AFC East. He joined the Dolphins last year after being released by the New York Jets, the team that drafted him in 2000. Taylor played for the Dolphins from 1997 through 2007.
"He's obviously made his mark on this league with how he plays this game," Pennington said. "He had a great career while he was down here in Miami.
"I don't know exactly what's going to happen, but I at least had one year where he wasn't on my back. That was kind of nice."
- Marshawn Lynch's mother says she's prepared to yank his leash, writes Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Buffalo News reporter Allen Wilson reminds us the Bills once owned the draft pick that was used on running back Fred Taylor, but traded it for quarterback Rob Johnson.
- Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero explores the growing trend of teams restricting access to the media.
- Lost in the combine coverage was this Palm Beach Post spring-training story from over the weekend about Bill Parcells and his love for baseball.
New England Patriots
- Boston Herald reporter Karen Guregian previews Fred Taylor's meeting Wednesday with the Patriots.
- Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Vikings assistant Chad O'Shea is joining the Patriots as receivers coach.
New York Jets
- New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini writes the Jets might have made a big mistake by cutting right guard Brandon Moore.
- Dave Hutchinson of the Newark Star-Ledger reports kicker Mike Nugent has rejected a contract offer and will go to market.
- Bergen Record reporter J.P. Pelzman takes a gander at the attractive free agents Rex Ryan might woo from Baltimore.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
After two weeks of polling, all the ballots have been counted to determine your picks for the Mount Rushmore of each AFC East team.
To play off ESPN's quest to determine the best sports Mount Rushmore from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, I asked for your thoughts on the four legends who best symbolize the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Readers mentioned 13 Bills, the fewest among the four teams, but the final foursome was clear cut.
They are quarterback Jim Kelly, defensive end Bruce Smith, running back O.J. Simpson and head coach Marv Levy.
That Rushmore includes four Hall of Famers and matches the one I suggested. Running back Thurman Thomas was the closest to breaking into the monument, receiving one fewer vote than Levy.
Here is how the top-10 voting broke down:
- Jim Kelly
- Bruce Smith
- Marv Levy
- O.J. Simpson
- Thurman Thomas
- Ralph Wilson
- Jack Kemp
- Bill Polian
- Joe DeLamielleure
- Billy Shaw
And a few comments from those who voted:
Stein in Canandaigua, N.Y., writes: My Bills Mount Rushmore 1) Jimbo- Quite possibly the most popular Bill ever. He was the face of the franchise during his playing days, and may be once again if he has a hand in keeping the Bills in Buffalo. 2)Ralphie- You've got to give credit to the man who gave Buffalo the Bills, and who allowed us to keeep them. 3)Marv- The greatest coach in the team's history. Because of Marv the Bills franchise had the highest winning percentage of the 90's (im pretty sure. TG?) 4) BRUUUUUUUUUCE- Though Bruce may not have been the most popular Bill, he is the only player on the Bills that can be considered the greatest of all time at his position. Honorable Mention to the Juice- Clearly one of the greatest Bills of all time, but obviously can never make it to Mount Rushmore
Jay in Naples, Fla., writes: Bills fans were called out, so I am offering my Bills Mount Rushmore. Billy Shaw (G 60's), Joe DeLamielleure (G 70's), Jim Kelly(QB 90's), and Bruce Smith (DE 90's). I think Bills fans are hard pressed to create this list because those teams in the 90's are so much about team and not individual players. How do you include Kelly and not Thurman Thomas or Andre Reed? How do you include Bruce and not Darryl Talley? Also, Marv Levy is as deserving as any player. In the end I made my choices based on the blue collar work ethic of the city of Buffalo and its rich football history. AFL great Shaw, DeLamielleure part of the great Electric Company O-line, Kelly and Smith as representitives of both sides of the ball on one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
elway79798 writes: Well, Doug Flutie would be on the mt. rushmore, but Wade Phillips would sneak up in the middle of the night, and change the carving into Rob Johnson.