The Buffalo Bills became the Buffalo Bills we now know–so to speak–five years ago today.
By the time August 2017 rolled around, head coach Sean McDermott was a mere few months into his role. General manager Brandon Beane had spent even less time than that in Buffalo.
Their staple did not come until late summer.
Just as the Bills were wrapping up their first training camp under the “McBeane” watch, shockwaves were sent across the NFL.
A day after the two were in Orchard Park for a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, there were two trades made. They were nothing short of a blockbuster.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby were sent packing by the Bills.
Watkins was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams along with a 2018 sixth-round draft pick in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-round selection. In a separate trade, cornerback Ronald Darby was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles for wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round selection.
It was a puzzling move at the time.
“Rosters change over. It’s a new regime, so to speak,” Beane said at the time.
Correct. But the true statement came later in Beane’s comments on the trades.
“We’re trying to do everything that we can to build the right team the right way. Sustained success is the word I used the day I took this job and that’s where I’m at today,” Beane said.
That’s what the Bills front office was aiming for in Buffalo. A total change of culture which has blossomed into a Super Bowl challenger in 2022.
Talent and stats aside since the trades, the Bills moved Watkins, a No. 4 overall selection that the team previously traded up for at the 2014 NFL draft. Then there’s Darby, who was not a first-round pick, however, when he was drafted in Round 2 in 2015 he was Buffalo’s first player selected.
Two cornerstone pieces were gone.
Time sure flies and those were certainly some good calls to make in the long haul.
Not only are the Bills sitting pretty now thanks to that culture shift–that second rounder from the Rams? Later traded so Buffalo could move up and take quarterback Josh Allen at the 2018 NFL draft.
Not to mention, that Round 3 pick from the Eagles ended up as defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, too.
Oh how little did we realize about this day five year ago…