Jerry Hughes is happy in Buffalo, and not just because he can afford to ride the Metro Rail underground. Chasing passers with Marcell Dareus and the Williams brothers is ultimately more satisfying than chasing extra money with some other team’s inferior defenders. Each of them can say that playing alongside three titans has created opportunities to thrive. Everyone’s helping everyone else get rich, which is why fans anticipate a valuable season.
Some successful athletes can’t get credit. Noting good teammates make play easier detracts from the contributions the individuals in question make to the whole. Hughes’s critics maintain that anyone could’ve replaced Joey Bishop in the Rat Pack. But should a competitor in a team game play with weaker teammates to prove how good he is? Buffalo’s defense is stocked with players happy to work with proficient compatriots. Highly-skilled players crave the chance to thrive simultaneously. Or maybe Scottie Pippen should apologize for playing with that Jordan guy.
Hughes gets to continue doing his part in the ultimate team sport. One of the most exciting Bills is easy to spotlight thanks to his nonstop determination to get off the field after three snaps. His value lies in playing as little as possible through helping the offense get the ball back quickly. Watching him dash past hapless blockers with palpable enthusiasm makes Buffalo’s fans wonder why Indianapolis kept him buried on the depth chart. It’s nothing against present Dolphin Kelvin Sheppard, but let’s call the trade a win.
Everyone helps everyone else. Spectacular comrades enable Hughes to play relentlessly, as he does for them. Instead of relocating again in pursuit of a slightly bigger check, he went for what’s best for both him and the team. Remaining together was mutually wise. Now, the pass rushers can continue to create chances for the other seven to make big plays. Breaking up throws is easier when they’re attempted by a harried quarterback, just as stuffing running backs is more feasible when offensive lineman try vainly to cope with their ominous counterparts.
A big salary is only relative, particularly when compared to the money a rich guy turns down. Players have the right to get every dollar they can out of any owner who will fork it over. The difference between, say, $21 million and $22 million guaranteed may not seem like much. But it’s still a million freaking dollars. Compensation for performance is not a matter of whether athletes can spend it all but a reflection of how much value they generate. Fans will collectively pay quite a bit to see the best footballers in action. The tears of quarterbacks are expensive to generate but worth the price.
There could be greater fortunes ahead. Taking slightly less money now than what’s available elsewhere can be seen as a career investment. He’ll find negotiating in 2020 favorable if he can continue his present production level. Staying with the franchise where he fits nicely is profitable for more than Hughes’s savings account. The league is littered with rueful players who chased a bigger paycheck only to find themselves used improperly or missing the dynamic chemistry they had. Having extra money to spend at Oakland-area malls isn’t ultimately a good deal.
Success is fleeting in athletics where impressive physical traits only last for so long. Wise workers cherish desirable circumstances once they’ve found them instead of desperately trying to grab more cash. Besides, taking less may pay off: staying with a proven act could lead to a bigger contract next time instead of a release after a disappointing season or two. Memories of signing for a bigger amount doesn’t offer much company while hoping another team offers a shot.
Not just anyone can do this job. If coaches could plug any player into a scheme, Mark Anderson would still hold Hughes’s roster spot. The premium on successful pass rushers reflects how tricky it is. It took Hughes awhile to get a hang of the incredibly valuable skill as a pro: he has 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons after getting five total in his first three pro years.
He’s succeeded whether or not he gets to introduce himself during broadcasts, as Hughes started one game his first year in Buffalo and all of them last year. Further, he’s also thrived no matter the alignment. The TCU man is back to finding himself concealed after being used in a more outright fashion during 2014. Hughes doesn’t seem to care about circumstances as long as he’s given the shot to disrupt a pocket.
Hughes’s role can be summed up with the number 55. It’s not a statistic but rather the one on his jersey. A player listed as a defensive end wearing linebacker digits makes life easy for his coordinator. The ostensible lineman is versatile enough to serve as a stand-up player. Put him wherever you’d like, and he’ll still prematurely end pass plays. An important cog in this franchise’s engine easily shifts into top gear. Hughes has made the most of his second chance with the Bills, so there was no reason to chance it with a third team.