It feels like we’ve seen this story a thousand times, doesn’t it? No matter how well a Buffalo Bill performs in a given year, they are often ignored by national media outlets. They are one of, if not the least covered team in the league. It’s part of the reason players like Stephon Gilmore and Willis McGahee rejoiced as they left the city, voicing nothing but criticism about the organization, and the region in general, following suit with the national narrative.
After nearly two decades of futility, it is a trend that the team and its fans have grown accustomed to. It has, at times, even caused the Bills faithful to accept the status quo (*cough* Tyrod Taylor), a phenomenon that has been referred to as “battered Bills fan syndrome.” It’s why some fans would rather have a “blue collar” player (whatever that means) over a talented one. We love being the underdog, because we don’t have much choice.
Amid all of this adversity, the very culture and mission of the Bills’ fan base have evolved, and slowly but surely, the perception of the franchise is shifting. Sure, the team is probably more popular for the antics by the fanbase, which over the past few years have made their mark across the internet, but under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, a new sense of pride has emerged among players who truly appreciate the fans, and what it means to wear the uniform.
Players like TreDavious White will not allow his efforts and the effort of his teammates go unnoticed. On two separate occasions this week, White’s name was snubbed from lists created by national football pundits ranking the top-10 cornerbacks in the NFL, and the top-10 second-year players respectively, despite a rookie performance that earned him a nomination for Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year.
Story of My Life … 🤷🏾♂️ https://t.co/BbG3Gkqesp
— Tre'Davious White (@TreWhite16) May 27, 2018
That’s two different writers in James Jones and Nate Burleson who left him off of their respective lists on NFL.com. This happened after White inexplicably didn’t receive an invite to the 2017 Pro Bowl, despite being named as a second-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus. Due to fan uproar on social media, Burleson did admit that he forgot White when assembling his list and later apologized to him via Twitter. It goes without question that had White played for a team like New England, Pittsburgh or Dallas, his stellar inaugural campaign wouldn’t simply have been “forgotten” by anyone.
Some attribute this routine disrespect as a symptom of the market in which the Bills play, but there are holes in that theory. While the Bills do rank near the bottom of the league in terms of regional population, they rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to television viewership, an arena where the league makes a substantial portion of their money.
On top of that, cities with comparable populations like Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have always held their fair share of the national spotlight. So if the market isn’t to blame, then what is? The explanation can be boiled down to one word.
Up until last season, the Bills held the longest active playoff drought in the league by a wide margin. After 17 years of hitting the golf course early, national media along with the 31 other fan bases considered Buffalo as nothing more than a punchline, condemned to lose for eternity in a frozen wasteland. Organizations like Cleveland and Jacksonville have suffered similar fates, albeit to a lesser extent.
Think about it. Television outlets like CBS and FOX care so damn little about Buffalo as a market, that they run the same b-roll footage of Niagara Falls and chicken wings being tossed for the last 20 years on their broadcasts! As if all Buffalonians just stare at a waterfall and stuff their faces with chicken while we freeze our asses off in a perpetual blizzard. Last year was the first time something different was shown on the cutaway footage (Canalside), which actually caused a celebration of sorts from Bills fans on Twitter.
But wait, didn’t the Bills make the playoffs last season? Shouldn’t they be receiving more national recognition as a result? The answer is no, but that’s where McDermott, Beane and their beloved “process” come in.
Instead of following the trend of accepting the status-quo, this tandem has gone to extreme lengths to defy it. Take the quarterback situation for example. Mid-way through a season in which they had a winning record, McDermott elected to make a change at quarterback. While Tyrod Taylor wasn’t horrible last season, he still wasn’t good enough. Though the Nate Peterman experiment imploded in spectacular fashion, the decision was the type of bold move that Bills leaders have been reluctant to make over the years.
It’s something fans have clamored for since 1999. A coach who isn’t afraid to do something gutsy in an attempt to free his team from the shackles of “good enough”, and propel them toward greatness. It’s a calculated, no-mercy approach that the city has fallen in love with, and the players have had nothing but positive comments pertaining to the franchise’s new direction. The duo lovingly dubbed “McBeane” couldn’t care less about the Bills’ past failures. They could give a damn about the national narrative. They’re focused on long-term, sustained success.
It’s how the Burlesons of the world are going to start recognizing the team on a regular basis. Not by watching fans jump through flaming tables or drunken video clips, but by victories. White wasn’t the first player to feel unacknowledged while wearing Buffalo blue, but if he and his teammates continue to buy into what the brass is trying to build, he could be one of the last.
Editor’s babble: When NFL Network’s list of the “top ten” second year players left off Tre’Davious White, I just shook my head. And then I smiled. Mr. White will use all these snubs to propel him to new heights this season. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his terrific contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.