Gone are the glory days of being a Buffalo Bills fan. An all too long playoff drought combined with countless misses in the draft have left a passionate fan base distraught and yearning for a postseason berth. 1st round busts have seemed to become the norm in the last decade for the Bills, missing horribly on the likes of Mike Williams, J.P. Losman, John McCargo, Leodis McKelvin and perhaps the most despised of all, Aaron Maybin. Ask anyone in Buffalo, the draft has seen more misses than hits and it is not even close. However, be it through luck or impressive foresight by Buffalo scouting, the Bills have found some true gems. Buffalo was able to sign free agent tight end Jason Peters from Arkansas after the 2004 draft and turn him into one of the best left tackles in the league. A disgruntled Peters pushed his way out of Buffalo, however, as the refusal by the Bills front office to restructure his abysmally small contract sent him packing. Teams spend countless picks, including the Bills (see Williams, Mike), trying to find left tackles to anchor their line and the Bills let one of the best and youngest walk away. Teams need something to build around and Buffalo has been grasping for more than a decade, only finding disappointment at every turn. Finding a special talent, as one would expect the Bills to fully grasp, is far from easy. Allowing talent to shine elsewhere sets franchises back years and given the frustration Bills fan have endured for more than a decade, it is something owner Ralph Wilson and the Bills cannot afford to repeat. Re-signing Stevie Johnson is the most important move the Bills will make this off-season. Will the Bills take it as serious as they should?
The 2nd to last pick for the Buffalo Bills in 2008 was little known wide receiver Steve Johnson out of the University of Kentucky. Injuries appeared to be the biggest detriment to Johnson seeing the field extensively in his first 2 years, but by 2010, sporting a clean bill of health, Johnson earned a starting spot opposite Lee Evans. Johnson did not disappoint, outshining Evans and posting 1037 yards receiving in his first full season along with an impressive 10 touchdowns. Johnson quickly became a fan favorite, playfully poking the league and opponents with his antics and infamously asking God via Twitter, "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!! THX THO…", after dropping a game winning TD against the Steelers in overtime. The tweet caught nearly everyone off guard, but few understood the budding star's oft joking and playful personality quite yet. Johnson exhibited superb quickness, crisp route running and knack for finding the end zone. Perhaps Johnson's most glaring attribute in 2010 was his ever apparent connection with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The two brought excitement to an offense that under previous head coach Dick Jauron was frustratingly boring. And unlike previous Bills offensive stars, he embraced the city of Buffalo like no one had since Doug Flutie. The city of Buffalo was smitten with Stevie Johnson and for the first time in a long time, the feeling was mutual.
If there was any concern about Johnson being able to repeat the numbers from 2010 in his second full season, those were quickly put to rest in week 1 against Kansas City. The Bills, having shipped veteran number 1 wide out Lee Evans to Baltimore in the preseason, exploded for a 41-7 beat down. Johnson put up a touchdown and nearly 70 yards in essentially one half of football. By the end of the season, Johnson nearly matched his 2010 totals, but his output was far more impressive when one considered Johnson was essentially the only true receiving threat on a very young Bills team. Teams repeatedly bracketed and double-teamed Johnson and yet, he performed. Evans was gone and teams were more prepared for Johnson, but the numbers were still there. Johnson tweaked his hamstring in the preseason and the injury lingered for the duration of the season, but Johnson delivered. Johnson broke a bone in his hand during the season, but he still reached the 1000 yard mark. Even the mega-hyped Darrelle Revis and his scary island could not keep Johnson down. Facing Revis and the Jets 4 times, Johnson has put up 262 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Revis has shut down the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Brandon Marshall. However, the Bills one vertical threat has found a way to consistently beat the best corner in the league. Adding to the importance of Johnson's successes against Revis; it is a division foe. If the Bills are going to make that leap to potential playoff team, they need to win within the division and Johnson gives them a great chance twice a year against what has been a dominant defensive foe. Consecutive years of success, despite the injuries and attention, should be more than enough to convince the Bills front office of the importance of Stevie Johnson to the Buffalo Bills future success.
Ask any Bills fan to name the last (and only in Bills history) wide receiver to register back-to-back 1000 yard seasons. Eric Moulds may come to mind, but that would be incorrect. Lee Evans? Nope. Hall of Fame candidate Andre Reed has to be the guy, right? He dominated for nearly a decade on one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Shockingly, even Reed could not stake claim to such a feat. Stevie Johnson is the only Bills player to have consecutive seasons of at least 1000 yards. If that is not enough to convince Buddy Nix and co to re-sign Stevie Johnson, it may be time for Bills fans everywhere to find a new team to root for as these guys clearly have not been paying attention, especially when one considers the talent (or lack thereof) surrounding Johnson. Stevie does not have Calvin Johnson's freakish size and speed, nor does he possess the mid-jump grace and hands of Larry Fitzgerald, but no one in the league does. These are once a generation guys. Johnson's eccentric personality has brought flags and fines, but to pretend his "Happy New Year" memo to his son is comparable to locker-room fracture artists like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens is asinine. Johnson's effervescent demeanor is magnetic, has brought life to a once proud but recently dead franchise and his importance to the city cannot be overstated. The outbursts, if one can call them that, are playful at heart and are not the concern one division foe's mid-huddle selfish bursts are. There is a reason the NFL asked Johnson to interact with fans during the Super Bowl; the man can connect to fans like nearly no one else in the NFL can. The past decade plus has been beyond difficult for Bills fans. Stars have sloughed their way out, dissed the city itself and even ran over the people of Buffalo in their cars on their way out. Like the movie Stevie referenced with his "Why So Serious?" message to the Bengals, the Bills and the city of Buffalo need a Harvey Dent. Stevie Johnson can be that light and help bring the playoffs back to the once proud franchise. Stevie has shown an interest in returning long-term, now it is time for the Bills to reciprocate. It is time to get serious Buffalo and sign the emerging star of the franchise to a long term deal.