Hello, it’s me; the dude that synthesizes for your (hopeful) enjoyment.
I’d love to say this was a sponsored article by the fine folks at Thunder Road Films in an effort to drum up more eyeballs to see John Wick 2, but alas, it’s just yours truly waxing philosophic.
Josh Norris of RotoWorld calls it “Where he wins”; the idea that when scouting a player coming into the NFL, you focus on the traits that lead to the player’s success, rather than focusing (or hyper-focusing in the case of quarterbacks typically) on potential failure points. For me, it’s finding your Keanu, then making your John Wick.
(Bear with me, it’ll become clearer as we go.)
Let me preface this by saying, despite at times all evidence to the contrary I am an unabashed believer in people and that propels a lot of how I look at prospects pre-NFL and players in the league post-draft. While I think what they show on field
Now, to my theory.
For those of you who do not watch films, most have a set “Keanu face” when it comes to Mr. Reeves. It probably looks like this:
Few, however, expected him to be successful with this:
Keanu Reeves, for the most part of his career, has been seen as an actor that was limited emotionally on-screen and would not be trusted to carry a film as the lead without “gimmicks”. From films like Speed to Point Break to The Lake House (don’t judge) Keanu was the king of “Yeah but” in terms of movies that did well (except the Lake House) at times despite his acting. Even in the Matrix (the second photo above) a lot was made of the fact he still did “Keanu face” while flying around and having all manner of silliness FX wise around him.
When Reeves did John Wick, most thought it would be another “here we go again” situation. Not so. Not only was the movie considered a success, but it started a mini renaissance for the 53 year old mainly because the director tapped into the best of him without the “yeah buts” being visible parts of the act. Reeves was stoic, pained even throughout the film and with good reason; when he had to talk with other characters his mood and style fit the scene; and in the action scenes he was a revelation. The director knew his subject and was focused on stripping away anything but the best of him and the movie was great as a result.
Bill Barnwell’s comment in a recent ESPN article that the Bills have not developed a quarterback fully from draft day to the field since Jack Kemp is a telling stat, not only as a reminder that Jim Kelly had the USFL time to “develop” outside of the NFL while trying to duck the Bills, but also as an indictment of every quarterback draftee and coaching staff since. The Bills, and we those happy few as a fanbase are not patient people. While I am a huge fan of hiring teachers at their core to coach, most do not want to hear at this point winning will take longer than it has to this point.
Enter my theory. I mention this because I realized, while watching John Wick: Chapter 2 that is why I’ve had a hard time hopping on the “this is why they suck” parade with the Bills – and some of their players in particular. When I see the Bills in the top 10 scoring, I’m not looking for the passing TDs to be superior to the rushing TDs, I’m looking at how to make the defense better to make that scoring mean something. Much of what was done to make Reeves successful can be applied to football.
1. Be Simple – Find “Where They Win” in Complimentary Ways
If I’m Doug Whaley, I’m not looking to be right – I’m looking to get wins, anyhow and anywhere I can. Right now, the general manager is hearing on a national level from folks like Jason La Canfora that his personnel moves suck, and on the local level he’s been turned into a combination of Michael Scott meets Tom Symkowski from Office Space. The leaks emanating from One Bills Drive regarding a decision on Taylor being pre-made don’t help. If you don’t think that you want to commit to Taylor, even for two years, then you better find someone you believe in and that your coaching staff believes in and hide every fault.
I don’t care how many all-22 articles come out showing how bad they are throwing x pass route; I want to see how you put him in positions to make the throws he is good at. Additionally, find folks whose calling card in terms of winning traits accentuate the playcaller and vice versa. If he throws deep a lot to the sidelines, find receivers that excel at jump balls; if he’s more of a short-to-intermediate passer, find receivers that are masters at run after the catch. I operate as a fan and outside to this grand game working under the assumption if you haven’t found a “perfect” quarterback in 50 years, so don’t look for perfect. Look for someone that you can win with.
2. Be Smart with Assets You Have
As an evaluator of talent, you don’t have the picks to be trying to be “right”; if anything your penchant for trading up is killing this point entirely. The more picks the Bills can get in a given draft, the less pressure inherently on each pick and as a result the more likely the picks collectively can be helpful without one specific player needing to be “the guy”.
John Wick was made on a 20 million dollar budget, a pittance for most big-time films. I’m not saying the Bills need to embrace the Money Ball approach with regards to player acquisition, but this year cap wise will be a lean one – at least 15-20 million in operating cap space prior to any moves, with around 61 million or so in 2018. Getting as much cheap talent on board will allow you to find targeted vets far more than trading everything to get a player. If the Bills moved on from Taylor, on what planet does it make sense to trade everything for a quarterback only one man in the room wants? That’s like a studio head forcing say Brad Pitt into the Wick role because he heard “he’s got juice with the demos we need.” That doesn’t help your vision, unless your vision called for Pitt.
(Stay with me, I promise we’re almost there)
If your offense is based on a zone run game and bootlegs, don’t draft someone that can’t do it. If you want your defense to be a zone-based, one gap scheme, don’t draft a linebacker that can run. These moves in a vacuum lead to bigger decisions down the road in terms of signing vets to cover mistakes. Those vets cost money. And since fans aren’t big on players being paid, finding players in the draft, free agency and undrafted will help you “break even” in terms of those monetary decisions. Trading back in this draft will give you more of those cheaper assets that can again compliment one another for the betterment of the Bills.
3. Know Your Cast and What Motivates Them
This is as important for the vets on your team as it is the rookies. Finding out where they win is one thing; finding out how to get to them is quite another. I won’t make excuses for the mistakes made by Marcell Dareus for instance, but coming from a place where you do what you can to help him, including getting the help he needs off the field is as helpful for you as it is him as a player and a human being. For a rookie like Kolby Listenbee or Reggie Ragland, knowing you missed a season due to injury shouldn’t be considered a death sentence on your career. Being fair with your players and giving them a chance to prove you right in terms of selecting them rather than wrong goes a long way in that process as a team.
That should also go for undrafted players or players that haven’t been signed with much fanfare. The more you cultivate an environment that is a true meritocracy, rather than “the more you make/higher the draft pick the more you are protected” situation, the more likely you give way to exemplary players rising from unexpected places mainly because you gave them the platform to do so. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many coaches and executives refuse to follow this simple foci.
Ultimately, the Bills will not live and die as a team by these suggestions; but this would go a long way towards setting up an environment that would be successful year-in, year-out. More than an ad campaign, the Bills need an ethos – and what I described I 100% believe eliminates the drek in their decisionmaking. You don’t need to take the credit if you’re focused on winning.
So that’s my theory. Shoot a hole in it, let me know your thoughts and as always thanks for reading.