Sometimes (Stevie) There Are No (Stevie) Extreme Answers (Stevie)

Sometimes (Stevie) There Are No (Stevie) Extreme Answers (Stevie)

Stevie Johnson, not Demarcus Cousins. Though now that I think about it…

Many times I’ll refuse to settle into defending a hypothesis until — gasp! — I’ve looked at the numbers, so when I was ready to karate chop the world on Sunday evening after Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler went WD-40 on the ball and hopes for the Bills season… I reserved some time to look at some numbers.

Head to the * at the bottom if you want to see me give far more attention to Scott Chandler than is humanly interesting.

The wild conversation in our feast or famine sports culture, which exists to tell us only whether the someone is the best or the worst, is whether Stevie Johnson should be booted out of Buffalo or extended until he’s 900 years old because he’s “always open.”

What the numbers bear out is that Johnson is a very good receiver who is relatively reliable and whose drama makes him less than an ideal guy. Remember how I often said Lee Evans was a terrific No.2 receiver but one of the world’s worst No. 1? Stevie’s a great No. 2 receiver and a “meh” No. 1.

First, the bad: Fact is for his eight career 100-yard games the guy has four game-vomiting misfires. That’s not a good ratio. There was Sunday’s buttery ball work against Atlanta, crucial late fourth-quarter drops against New England this year and the Jets a couple back, plus the time God took his time away from all the violence in the world to make sure the Bills lost to Pittsburgh.

Additionally, the Bills are just 4-4 in those 100-yard games and, while this certainly is just picking a relatively arbitrary number, Buffalo is just 11-9 when he makes six or more catches (Why six? If a player averages 6.25 receptions per game, he’ll hit 100 receptions in a year. Considering Eric Moulds, the rich man’s Stevie Johnson, is the only Bill to do that at an even 100, it’ll work for me). There are plenty or variables at play here (more passing in losses, bad teams pass a lot in general), but I would posit that calling Johnson a No. 1 receiver or an elite route-runner or whatever the Stevie Stars like to roll with these days is foolhardy.

That said, he’s pretty good, if not solid. Sure he barely crossed the 1,000 yard plateau for the last three seasons and that figure is merely important because it has four digits, but at some level he’s doing something precious few players are doing. Johnson may not catch a ton of balls, but the fact that he’s the first Bill to record 1,000-plus yards in three-straight seasons glosses over another sublime fact: only Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White and Marques Colston entered this year having achieved the feat in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

So even if I entered the idea of this post kinda hoping it would tell me I’ve overrated No. 13, here’s my take: You don’t need to send Stevie Johnson to another NFL team (unless someone is absurd in how they value wide-outs and wants to give you a way-too-high pick. Then do it ASAP). He’ll be perfectly fine doing his thing as a Buffalo Bill, but the sooner Buffalo has a better No. 1 option, the better. His drama is unnecessary and — get this — there would be far less of it if the wasn’t the receiver everyone talked to every week. If the Bills grabbed a Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins, we wouldn’t have to hear from Stevie every single day (Also, I’m gritting my teeth in not giving my input on which WR to covet since my oft-repeated-but-failed notion that Limas Sweed would be an NFL stud. Cough, seven career catches, cough. Cough, I love Odell Beckham, Jr., late, cough.).

*Chandler’s an easy one. Dude doesn’t need to leave town but characterizing him with even the potential of a top tier tight end is silly. Bills fans are simply caught up in thinking Robert Royal, Michael Gaines and company are sort of tight ends that most teams have on staff. Chandler’s a notch above most Bills, but his zero receptions over 40+ yards tell you a little about any sort of game-breaking speed or athleticism. There have been 30  40+ yard catches this season, and six players have more than one.

On pace to set personal bests in receptions and yards, he made his weekly mistake in a terrible spot. The fumble in overtime doesn’t change that he’s a serviceable tight end, nor does anything else he does catapult him near the top of the league. He’s been a tall safety valve who drops 1-2 easy balls a game. He’s 15th in receptions and yards and has more 20-yard receptions than anyone not named Gronkowski, Davis, Gates, Graham, Olsen and Witten. You’d love the guy as your No. 2 tight end, there for emergencies and on clear passing downs but not to hang out on important downs in overtime (And yes, I’m aware that you should want to trust a player on every down and that there’s no metric for clutch but if sports had no “intangibles” — a word that Stevie absolutely murdered on Sunday — sports wouldn’t be fun. Hashtag Claude Lemieux).

19 Responses to Sometimes (Stevie) There Are No (Stevie) Extreme Answers (Stevie)

  1. I concur that Stevie’s role is more suited for being a “possession WR2” than a WR1.

    But, I think the problem with hearing Stevie every day was rooted in how Chandler Gailey treated him. Not only was Stevie the unquestionable WR1, he was given power to run his own routes nearly every play, which is unheard of. Stevie wasn’t the best guy to be given this, both from a talent and personality perspective. AFAIK, his constant nuisances have calmed down under the new staff.

    Trading Stevie is tempting. He has a ~$8.5M cap hit the next 3 years, and dead money isn’t crushing. He’s not grossly overpaid, but if he becomes our WR2 like we think he should, that’s not optimal. And if they draft a guy, where does Stevie fit? Robert Woods is already a fine option as a outside WR2. Goodwin has been a nice addition as a slot, speed guy. I can see the Bills wanting to move on from Stevie. For a 2nd rounder, I’d bite. (Marqise Lee is the guy I really want, btw. Great value since he’s been hampered with injury and the worst garbage QBs this year. If he commits, which I wouldn’t)

    But, they’ll probably keep Stevie and not obtain a WR1. Which is fine.

    Chandler’s a slow TE and a poor blocker. Whatever, he’s just a guy. I’d rather draft Eric Ebron than any WR.

    Nice “always open” mention, btw. i c wat u did der

    • Just a point of clarification. He didn’t get to “run his own routes”. He had to be at a specific place at a specific time, but how he got there was up to him.

      • True, I know Ryan Fitzmagic (he went to Harvard so he’s smart, it’s been a while since I was reminded of that every week) would have a difficult time throwing to Stevie not knowing where he’d end up

  2. Nick,
    At least DeMarcus Cousins is “trying” to be more mature this year and actually taking a leadership role in Sacramento. I have yet to see that side of Stevie, and really want to. If it happens at all, it does need to happen soon for Stevie, before he runs out of time.

  3. Dear Nick & Leelee,

    You just don’t get it, do you? Stevie IS always open. Always. He’s the best route runner, like, ever. He’s impossible to cover. He’s a true #1 WR. He’d be a superstar except for, except for, except for, well, he’s just GREAT. I know this because I watch the ALL-22 every week. And I study analytics.

    (But, um, pay no attention to those phony analytics that just came out about EJ Manuel being one of the least accurate QB’s in the League. Whatever. Those ones are wrong; EJ will be GREAT, too)

    Just like Stevie. Forever open. But, forever misunderstood by Buffalo fans. (You feel me?)

    You Know Who

    Now, back to reality…

    Personally, I’m in basic agreement. Stevie is a good player, and a pretty good guy, with lesser antics these days. I would like him to stay, mainly because I don’t think we could get fair value in a trade, given his salary. But, I wouldn’t mind bringing in a true #1 and let Stevie be a high-paid #2 for at least another year. Woods could eventually fill that role. But, even right now…Johnson, Woods, Goodwin as a top 3 isn’t too shabby.

    Chandler is a mediocre TE, whose days may be numbered. His contract is up, so he may have to take a pay cut to even have a chance to stay. Plus, his old Iowa buddy Moeaki is now looking over his shoulder.

    Anyway, the Receiving Corps is far from our biggest problem right now. And we all know what that is…

    It’s all Jon Bon Jovi’s fault! ;)

  4. Running out to drop the kid off at school, but for the record I would welcome a TE. I still want that Dwayne Allen pick to happen (64th overall and 45 catches as a rookie!! But he went five picks before TJ Graham, who I do not have the energy to talk about right now, but suffice it to say the next WRs taken were Sanu, Hilton, Givens and Benjamin).

    In any event, if Ebron, Amaru or someone else project out as “that guy”… I’m in.

    And I won’t pretend to be a Lions aficionado but I’d love to see what Brandon Pettigrew could do up close and in person. The FA list might be more advantageous than the draft (if this is an active list:

    So much for running out the door…

  5. Pro Football in Buffalo, NY…

    Where you have a “different feel” with Doug Marrone.
    Where you have the “franchise” with EJ Manuel.
    Where you have a “legend” with Kiko Alonso.

    Where in fact, at 4-9, you’ve got exactly what you deserve.

    P.S. Re-sign Thaddeus Lewis. For he may be the starting QB by the mid-point of next season.

    • Kiko’s had a couple tough games, but he’s still quite good. He’s a keeper.

      Manuel is what I thought he’d be. Inaccurate, not much of a runner, not terrible. I’d draft competition for him, but that’s not happening.

      Marrone has to go. How can his message continue to work? Work harder, “WNY attitude”, “winning culture”, blah blah blah. It is beyond me why most still think he’s any good. He is absolutely terrible at game management. Hired his young buddy OC that’s been unimaginative and is openly holding down Manuel to uselessness now. What has Marrone ever done?

      I can’t believe Nolan is a coach here either, but he actually brings that hardworking, blue-collar crap to his team, even if they still suck. Where is there any proof the Bills are “hardworking”?

      And it all starts with Russ Brandon, who is an absolute joke. As I stated when everyone was screaming CHANGE! in the offseason, not happening with Ralph’s robot yes man in charge. Let’s debate the inventory in a grand manner. Brandon is such a tool.

      • Agree on most points except…

        I’m still not as high on Kiko. I like him, and he’s an upgrade, but the hyperbolic “legend” stuff rankles. He makes plays, has all year, but he misses plays, and has ALL YEAR, not just recently. I could list at least a half-dozen TD’s (and even more big gainers) that were directly his responsibility. If he is Pro Bowl material, then I don’t know what a truly great MLB looks like anymore.

        Concur that OBD will not admit their mistake about (and let’s now simplify our already vanilla playbook for him) EJ Manuel and draft another QB high. And they will probably not bring in a veteran free agent, for fear that he would intimidate EJ, thus my reasoning for re-signing Thad. (Who, right now, is the best QB on the Bills roster)

        Russ is a brilliant marketing guy (smoke and mirrors) but had no business being a GM, nor any business now making ANY football decisions. He searched the globe and found Mediocre Marrone, and his little brother Skippy Hackett, two hours down the 90 East.

        Marrone’s “consistency, work-our-butts-off, not-good-enough, I-am-mad, I-am-sad, I-am-gonna-fix-this-thing, routine wore VERY thin weeks ago. And based on what E. Wood and Kyle W. had to say today, some players have now tuned him out. They both talked about certain guys not pulling their weight.

        Now, rumors are rampant that heads are going to roll. Maybe some big names (like Stevie, or CJ or ?) will be sacrificed. Well, maybe some guys DO need to go. But would Russ and Marrone and Whaley have the guts to actually admit…

        Their favorite mistake?

        Hint: The 16th player taken overall in any NFL Draft should NEVER be considered a “project”.

        P.S. Methinks the wrong heads are about to roll.

        • Kiko has played well overall, though. He overpursues a lot like Poz and Fletcher does.

          I don’t hate Manuel yet, he has his moments. It’s getting concerning how consistently bad he is the road. Accuracy isn’t there, but he’s been effective enough to be in that 20th overall starter range. But I fear the “he’s our guy” talk. That’s old NFL thinking. The QB position is so important that you must always try to improve. The problem is that Buddy needed to draft “his QB” in the wrong year. This is such a bad organization.

          Marrone’s message has to be falling on deaf ears in the locker room, or soon must be. Every time he talks, it’s that stuff you said. He never talks strategy or the opponent or intelligently in any way, just blah blah about being better. He says he’s open to learn, and never does. Marrone honestly seems like a dumb putz to me.

          That Chris Brown rumor is probably true since he’s the Bills PR man. I think Stevie’s gone, and he’ll make a fine scapegoat.

  6. I know I seem very harsh on Kiko, but I do actually like the kid. It’s just my natural abhorrence of any titles, honors, or plaudits that are *unearned* which upsets me. He’s good, not great. He’s solid, not spectacular. No legend is he. But, for this, I do not blame him; but rather, the mindless fans and media that seek to create hype and heroes where they do not exist. Kiko himself is talented, hard-nosed, dedicated, unassuming, with a natural shyness that will never lend itself to self-promotion. He’s a football player. A good one. I’m glad we’ve got him.

    Plus, all the ladies seem to think him “dreamy”. And I will never begrudge any man that distinction. ;)

    I hated the Manuel pick and, thus far, nothing has persuaded my thinking that it was anything but a huge mistake. If we wanted a 20th ranked kind of guy, we had him: Fitz. The howlers screamed for someone, anyone, better than the 7th Rounder from Harvard; yet what they’ve got is a 1st Rounder who isn’t nearly as effective. And may never be. Thanks, Buddy.

    Marrone is a former lunkhead O-Lineman who has tried to better himself in life. Good for him. But he has shown no signs of being a competent strategist or tactician. When a man must rely on nothing but meaningless football jingoism and bluster, then he is floundering, and deserves to be held to higher account by the so-called professional media.

    If Stevie is made the scapegoat, it will only lower my already diminished respect for the brass at OBD. Draft a better receiver, fine. But, also allow the other guys (TJ, Goodwin, Woods) to first prove their worth on field. You do not get rid of your best player at that position unless and until you have better and more proven guys firmly in place.

    Or, you could just get Stevie a better QB.

  7. Having lost my own mother too young, my heart goes out to Steven Johnson.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

    • Me too.

      And for whatever faults Stevie may have, he has always done whatever he can to get on the field.

  8. Lo, what surprise gift did Santa leave for all us good little Buffalo girls and boys? (Keeping in mind the words of Greg Lake – “The Christmas we get we deserve.”)

    Along with proof of being a demonstrably inept mathematician, Doug Marrone has given us a perpetuation of the disturbingly unctuous trait he first exhibited at his introductory press conference:

    Lies. Doug Marrone lies.

    But, could not the servile local media still give us a happier new year by rising from its knees to excoriate these calculated public prevarications that Marrone utilizes as some sort of misguided propaganda? For only then might the media expose an even bigger hidden truth: The cover-up is often worse than the instigating crime.

    P.S. Yet, isn’t it possible to be 111% glad for Thad? :)

    • I’ve learned to ignore everything Marrone says, hoping it’s only “coachspeak” and he’s not this useless dealing with the team.

      This is going to be a tough offseason to sell this team. One is trying hard if they really believe Manuel will lead us to the playoffs. They can’t significantly improve at any glamour positions beside TE, really. Just replace guys like Stevie. I suspect Russ kills the Toronto deal for goodwill, something of that ilk to build hype.

      • The only reason I still listen to Marrone, at all, is to monitor the negligence of the local media in not calling him out on his numerous gaffes, ramblings, and outright lies. But I do expect that to change next season. He’s not a “rookie coach” anymore, and I think the knives will be out early if things are as bad as we expect them to be.

        Yep, the Wonder Boy (Russ) will have his hands full this off-season trying to conjure even thicker smoke, and even bigger mirrors, as his yearly magic show begins. At least, according to Whaley today, they are not dumb enough to kick Stevie out the door. Yet. And Marrone said he was “happy with production” of his TE’s this year. So I’m not expecting a big splash there, either.

        They will probably go unsexy O-Line in the draft (which could have been avoided by paying Levitre) or maybe run-stuffing LB (for the “legend” needs help there) or true #1 Receiver (which would be fine) or anything of course but QB (which they still need). Picking Mack would help to sell tickets, and would be a good move, as well. If they can do it. But, the biggest problem will remain in place…


        I gave it a year to judge. Well, I am now of the opinion that the Bills will never be contenders as long as one (or probably both) of those men are in place. They are not, to my eyes, a winning Coach/QB combo. And Skippy Hackett still leaves me cold. Although I like Pettine’s aggressive style (sacks are all well and good) but if he does not fix that run defense, he will ultimately fail here too. Special Teams (Carpenter aside) is quite below average. So, without major changes (which are not coming) I see another losing season next year.

        So, there you have it, Bills fans. Happy New Year!

        P.S. Anyway, Thad ain’t bad. :)

        • Marrone is the type of guy the media likes. He’s always willing to work with them, he’s desperate to be liked by them, and he can babble for a long time. And the majority of local fans will never turn on him, so I don’t see this changing much.

          I listened to the entire Black Monday State of the Team Thing.

          1) They’re going to stick with EJ until the bitter end. No surprise.

          2) Marrone thinks the best “analytic” way to win is to reduce turnovers (which you can really only do with an awesome QB) and run the ball. Great, we’re stuck in the 70s. I know that they had QB issues (despite Manuel and Lewis basically being the same guy), but the run/pass ratio of the Bills compared to the rest of the league is beyond frustrating. Evolve, you simians.

          3) The Stevie response by Whaley was interesting. It suggests they’re not cutting him, at least. That’s good. So, who was PR Lackey Chris Brown referring to…

          4) Whaley’s tone changed when mentioning Dareus. As I long suspected and heard rumors about (there is a disturbingly large amount of groupies connected with him…), Dareus is gone when he can be. He never wanted to be here. He’s a mama’s boy from the South.