Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
When I want to find out what Buffalo Bills fans are thinking, I often stop by Two Bills Drive, a message board where passionate observers congregate to talk about their team.
Two Bills Drive sure was buzzing Saturday night. There was a mixture of bewilderment, exhilaration and anguish over Buffalo's decision to sign Terrell Owens to a one-year, $6.5 million contract.
Because I wanted to hear from diehard Bills supporters more than the casual football fan, I asked Two Bills Drive members to submit their thoughts to my AFC East mailbag for the purpose of sharing them here. The response was overwhelming.
Overnight, even with one less hour to work with, I received enough responses to shatter the AFC East mailbag record set back during the great Cassel-Brady debate of aught-8.
There were too many submissions to include in one post, so please enjoy the first of two installments of reaction to T.O. and Buffalo.
Ryan in Buffalo writes: I think that the Bills' signing of TO is one of the most significant things to happen to the Bills this decade. Bringing in a bona-fide future hall of famer is so unlike the Bills that it's turning heads all around the league. He definitely has the power to make Buffalo's offense competetive, and if things don't work out, then he's gone after one year. I suppose it's all on Edwards now--Owens being on the team frees up Lee Evans, and if Trent can get the ball in TO's or Lee's hands, then I honestly think that Buffalo's offensive woes will finally go away. But Edwards no longer gets the benefit of the doubt--with a strong corps of receivers like he has now, he has to step up and prove that he's a legit starter in this league.
Brendan in Camp Pendleton, Calif., writes: Great signing. I've missed most of the past two seasons due to deploying to Iraq. I already got my season tickets for this season and this signing makes it all worth it. For better or worse it shows the front office is trying and is willing to spend the money.
Michael in Albany, N.Y., writes: Tim, I live in Albany, holding the Bills flag highly here in Giants Country. The word that describes my state is "apprehension." Could this work? Maybe. Is there the possibility for a train wreck? More than maybe. That's what worries me. That said at least people are talking about my team. It is a brave new world for Bills fans and the Bills themselves.
Adam in Charlotte, N.C., writes: Shocked. Speechless. Buffaloed. This goes against all that is good and right in the universe! I called my best friend and fellow Bills fan and his comment was, "You mean I have to cheer for that jerk"? Signing T.O. goes against everything that Buffalo stands for: humility, hard work, and community. However, there is some genuine excitement about being relevant again. I despise T.O., but I love the Bills more.
Matt in Rochester, N.Y., writes: The Pats, Dolphins, and Jets all have secondary issues, and I think Owens, if employed correctly, could give the them fits. None of the aforementioned franchises have the corners to press Owens at the line. Whether they admit it or not, he's going to make them respect Buffalo's previously anemic passing game.
Dan from Parts Unknown writes: On the surface, signing TO seems like complete desperation. However, the Bills have sorely lacked a playmaker on Offense or Defense for years... and TO is just that. Not to mention, the Bills have had little identity or fire on the field for years. So, maybe it's just what the doctor ordered. Of course, it could blow up miserably in their face.
Dave in Fort Myers, Fla., writes: Forgive me for not buying into this whole "T.O-Lee Evans" nonsense. Seems to me that T.O. was in a similar situation last year with a WR by the name of Roy Williams, and we saw how that worked out. Not to mention that the Bills have no QB on their roster close to the talent level of Tony Romo. Why should I believe this offense poses a threat to my Phins and the rest of the East?
Stewart from Eden, N.Y.., writes: Tim - My biggest concern with the signing is the mental state of Edwards. At some point during the season TO is going to blow up and potentially turn this franchise into a three ring circus. How Trent responds and his susequent play will speak volumes about his leadership qualities.
Joe in Buffalo writes: I have to admit, I have always been a Terrell Owens basher. Nonetheless, this franchise needed something to jumpstart it's beat. This was a VERY proud franchise in the 1990's and I feel that Terrell, at the very least, will bring back on offense that has been missing here for over a decade! Nobody circles the wagon....like the Buffalo Bills!
Nick in Rochester, N.Y., writes: Owens will be a distraction - A welcome distraction for fans that have watched their team miss the playoffs for the last nine years.
Ken in Philadelphia writes: The T.O. signing seems like a desperate move by people knowing that their jobs are on the line. Now that the Bills have him, he needs to just shut up and play.
Mike in Grand Island, N.Y., writes: I am all for the TO signing both from a football stand point and a pr move. I had informed the Bills that I wasn't renewing my club seats but I may re-think that position. From a football point of view, it is a relatively cheap price to pay for a legitimate number two treat that should open the field for both Lee Evans and Josh Reed. Hopefully it also shows some other veteran's like Cato June and Kendall Simmons that this team is serious about winning and tip the scales toward Buffalo as they decide were to sign. The public relations bonanza is obvious and it should be remembered that while TO has had his problems in the past, none of those problems w
ere of the legal variety.
Dave in Albuquerque, N.M., writes: I think T.O. being a Bill is just what the Dr. ordered. And don't forget, we still haven't finished in FA or the draft! Go Bills!!!!
Shye in Ashburn, Va., writes: This is a desperate move by a team without hope, without character, and without a plan. The Bills have given us almost nothing to cheer about since the early 90's. I have stuck by this team, because upstate NY is an important part of my identity. There has been an utter lack of leadership from the top down in this organization for at least 10 years, and they have now veered completely off the tracks. Trent Edwards has shown enough talent to maybe be a legitimate NFL starter someday. T.O has demonstrated over and over again that he can not share the stage with anyone. He will never last in a small market that has such a strong emotional tie to this fragile, storied franchise. Have fun in Canada with your new OLD receiver Ralph - you just lost one of your most loyal former fans - along with my dollars.
Pat in Tonawanda, N.Y., writes: Having followed the Bills since the early 1960's I would argue that T.O. is by far the best wideout to ever wear a Bills uniform. This would include any generation, Dubinion, Chandler, Lewis, Butler, Reed (A and J), Moulds, Price, etc.
Clint in Buffalo writes: Tim, I am responding to your call for reaction on the TO signing from diehard Bills fans. I consider myself one so I thought I would pass along my thoughts, My initial reaction was,"Are they (the Bills) crazy?" I mean TO is past his prime, has a giant ego problems, and a distraction and even a dissenter in the locker room. But then I saw the marketing genius of it. It is a move they may or may not help the Bills win on Sunday ( I can only hope it does ) but it will sell tickets and guarantee the Bills will be one of the most talked about teams during this off season. Pure and simple this signing is a marketing ploy and one that I've lived through before.
Steve in Buffalo writes: I'm sure there are alot of mixed feelings on the T.O. signing in Buffalo. I for one want to give the Bills some credit on this one. The Bills FO finally velcro'd on a set and took a risk!!! This might work out well and it might not but the good thing is that it's only a 1 yr deal. The first year is usually when teams get the good T.O. I also believe that the Bills may now have a chance to attract other FA possibilities that might not have otherwise looked at the Bills now that they can see we are willing to take risks to make the team better and get over this loooong playoff drought.
Mr. Anonymous from Baltimore, Md., writes: From a diehard Bills fan via twobillsdrive.com: Most of us Bills fans have laughed at the problems T.O. has had in other places, but now that he is a Bill, I'm half startled and half excited. The odds were long that he'd sign, and even longer that he'll stay after a year, but Dick Jauron has no excuses anymore. The Bills have the tools to get to the playoffs with T.O., so I think Jauron's results will be the bigger story come November and December.
Jonathan in Rochester, N.Y., writes: The signing of Owens is something I really didn't want to see Buffalo ever do. His me first attitude has left many teams in shambles. However, the one year contract is genius. It's his last chance to show the world he can play nice and get another contract after this year. Going out appreciated by the media would only help his HOF chances.
Kenny in Brooklyn writes: Um, this signing is nothing short of awesome. I cannot understand how adding one of the best WRs in the game ever that can still play at a high level is a bad move. Lee Evans can now play without two guys in his face at all times. This opens up the offense. I think Bills fans really, truly only care about winning. As long as the guy isn't hurting anyone else who cares if he's selfish. This was the thinking behind drafting James Hardy that hasn't panned out yet. But I love giving Hardy (who clearly needs it) more time to recover and develop. I'm not going to say superbowl but I want to. Even if TO calls out the entire organization by week 5 I still love the move. And let's face it, if he called out the organization he'd probably be right on since they've really put out a weak product for years.
Bill in Livonia, N.Y., writes: It's good news for Bills fans. As far as any controversy is concerned, we all need to learn to live with it. It will make sports news more fun.
Dan from Parts Unknown writes: honestly, I'm a little shocked by the Bills signing T.O. It's seems like the Bills might be a little desperate. But, I think considering it's a one year deal, it could work out well for the Bills. Seems to me he fills the Bills offensive needs perfectly.
Josh in North Tonawanda, N.Y., writes: I hope the T.O. signing is the start of a new way of thinking of the Bills front office. Bringing in premier players like Owens will greatly help Buffalo's marketability. Hopefully this signing will result in more interest from football fans in Toronto and maybe get us some more nationally televised games. Lord knows we could use the revenue. Killing this playoff drought would be nice too.
Mike in Brooklyn writes: i'm tired of hearing about how this is going to ruin the team's locker room chemistry. we haven't made the playoffs in 10 years! what do we have to lose? the best teams we ever had were the bickering bills of the levy era. i'll take some passion over the lifeless teams we've been throwing out there under jauron.
Lori in Port Allegany, Pa., writes: Here goes: I'm not a T.O. fan, let's make that clear right off the top. I've always preferred the guys who quietly went about their business (Marvin Harrison comes to mind), not the prima-donna 'tude copped by so many elite wideouts. That said ... The one-year deal is good for both sides. Owens will be motivated to kick some butt this year and try to snag one more good contract, and if some blowup does happen and the Bills decide to dump him, they don't have to worry about eating a big cap hit. How much does he have left? Not sure, to be honest. But he WILL show up for training camp at St. John Fisher in shape, and as regards pure physical talent, he's light-years ahead of anyone else the Bills were going to line up across from Lee Evans. That includes Coles, Galloway, or anyone else they looked at in FA. My concern remains the mental side of it, especially with a young quarterback and a coach on the hot seat. This signing could be a stroke of genius ... or a disaster of Hindenburg proportions, if he starts brewing up a storm in the locker room. And right now, I have no clue which way it'll go.
George in Buffalo writes: We have missed the playoffs for nine long years. No matter what shenanigans TO pulls, it can't get any worse than it already is. If we continue to lose, at least it'll be interesting. Get your popcorn ready!
Mr. Anonymous in Buffalo writes: Bottomline is T.O is a playmaker and people here in Buffalo are going to love that. They are also going to mortified the first time he throws one of his hissy fits on the sidelines. Young team with a young quarterback and you bring in who? Oh my...
Rob in Salt Lake City writes: Last season I had had enough with Dick Jauron after the teams collapse. I had all but given up on the Bills and was not planning on making my yearly pilgrimage to Buffalo for
a game. This signing has me super excited about the team again and there is no way I'm going to miss out on getting to a Bills game this season.
Willy in Cheektowaga, N.Y., writes: Well the way I see it, why the hell not? I am so tired of the mediocrity that we continue to put out year after year after year. Thanks Dick and Ralph. I'm quite sure this was a reach by Russ as he saw that people are not renewing season tickets and that will ultimately cost him his job. In that light this is a stroke of genius getting him at he price we did and I already know that the move worked because of the buzz that people are saying they will renew their tickets. If you ask me, Russ Brandon just saved this franchise for at least a year and to the people who don't like the signing, tough.! I am so tired of spending so much money on club seats for what we get. Now at the very least I expect to win some games and see the playoffs again!!
Tim in Buffalo writes: Good move. Bills need a stop gap answer at wr until James Hardy is ready to start. Cheaper than Laverneus Coles turned out to be. Much better option than others available
Daniel in New York writes: To understand a Bills' fans thoughts on this, you have to understand where we're coming from. We finished in last place in 2008. We've been 25th or lower in offense the past six season, and we haven't been to the playoffs since the Homerun Throwback game. We've got a lame-duck head coach that the fan base has no faith in, and our only free agent moves have been to sign other teams back-ups. And we just got played for leverage by a player who went to Cincinnati. We were about as down as you could be on a franchise. And now this. Owens is a perfect fit for our offense. He's almost guaranteed to have more TD catches than our entire WR corps had last season. And there is little to no risk. He'll make back his one-year salary in ticket and merchandise sales, and he might even get us back to the playoffs (if we remember how to get there - it's been a while). Worst case, he just made a year where we were basically waiting for Ralph to fire Jauron a lot more interesting. Best case, he brings out the best in Edwards and Evans, he puts up double-digit TDs for the fourth straight year, and we are back in the playoffs. And then we can decide whether to extend him or turn the offense over the third-year players James Hardy and Steve Johnson. Sorry, but I fail to see the downside in all this. I am as excited as I've been about this team since Flutie was magic.
Pat in Buffalo writes: The Bills made themselves relevant again with the Owens signing. Not just that...he gives them a compliment to Lee Evans at WR. They have not had a viable #2 since James Lofton. I think Owens work ethic will be a good example for the young Bills.
Johnny in Fredericksburg writes: I have never really liked Owens as a person or as a teammate, but you cannot deny what he does on the field. The truth is, the Bills needed another WR opposite Lee Evans. They needed something to get us fans excited again. They needed something to give this offense the chance to be good. They needed something to get the media caring about them again. And they needed something to give this team hope for the playoffs. Owens is the only player in the league who can do all that.
Mike in Cincinnati writes: Tim - Someone on TBD put it best a few days ago - TO is the player that no one wants, now playing for the team that no one wants to play for. It could be a match made in Heaven! Regardless of the potential disruptions, the Bills now have a proven playmaker who will not (quietly) deal with the mediocrity that the Bills shown on the field the last few years. If nothing else, I hope that he is the voice of the fans and gets on players and coaches when they make bonehead plays/calls. LETS GO BUFF-A-LO (yelling it all the way from Cincy!!)
Dash in New Hampshire writes: Re: T.O. signing I have followed them since the Cookie Gilchrist days, have never wavered in my support (even in the two-win seasons)and have eternal hope that we will reach the promised land some day. Nevertheless, I feel this move is chiefly an attempt by the front office to make a media splash and sell tickets to a loyal fan base desperate for something exciting to cheer for. I do not think it will result in any net difference in their position in the standings. There are too many core problems with this team, beginning with the most inept game-day coach in the league, that only another major rebuilding will be able to address. T.O. will be an interesting sideshow, however, and I am not totally disappointed in the signing!
Mr. Anonymous from Georgetown writes: The signing of the poisonous T.O. shocked me deeply, and I really have disliked T.O. ever since he began throwing tantrums in SF. Yet, with Hardy being hurt and not likely to be able to contribute much in 2009, T.O. will give the Bills a year of finally having two top WRs and a year to get a solid replacement or for Hardy to get healthy and develope. I would be shocked even more if T.O. plays more than a year for the Bills, but the signing makes sense. He is still a serious weapon on the field.
Mike in Milford, Conn., writes: I think the we are a better team today we'll see how I feel a few weeks into the season. Its been a long time since we had an offencive weapon of this calbier he makes the whole offence better (righy now) He can change that quick if he opens his mouth. Righy now im really excited and happy I reupped my tickets
Iain in Boston writes: I was conflicted at first on the T.O. signing, but after a day to mull it over, I am actually very pleased. Owens is the kind of player that instantly makes this team better, not only with his production, but with the way he will open things up for Lee Evans and the two-headed monster of Lynch/Jackson. As far as his locker room problems, I am not all that worried. His history shows that during his first season with a new franchise, he is on his best behavior. His age also helps with this. At the end of the one-year deal, he will be 36 years old, and if he wants to continue to play in the NFL, he knows he has to be a model citizen in Buffalo. He should be more than aware of the fact that no team in the league will sign him at 36 if he doesn't at least seem to have his head on straight. I say nice job One Bills Drive, let's make something big happen this year.
Cablelady (it says that on her driver's license) in Corning, N.Y., writes: The signing of TO has turned my rose-colored glasses to fuschia-colored glasses! Words can't describe the excitement I feel...not only about the Bills, but life in general. I "BILLIEVE" again!
Gerry in Montclair, N.J., writes: I have no problem with what TO is going to do to the offense. My issue is that the biggest hole on defense hasn't even been looked at. That's why I look at the signing as a gimmick to spur interest - it worked. But I don't see how this single move just made the overall team better, because to me a No. 2 WR was far from a priority this offseason. If you look at the history of Dick Jauron's defenses in Buffalo, they've rarely been able to hold the lead when needed. The reason the games were all close was the style of play advocated by DJ. But going back to countless times this team had a lead in 4Q, the opponent had no problem driving right back and putting up points. So now, I see Bills losing 29-27, instead of 13-12. I see how the games would be a bit more exciting, but don't see how they've improved the odds of winning.
Jason in Santa Monica, Calif., writes: I think its great. He will be on his best behavior being its his first year here and its only a 1 year deal. Add into the mix he now has a chip on his shoulder, and I see the makings of a big year...
K. Weil in Wantagh, N.Y., writes: T.O. will be well received in Buffalo as long as he contributes without disruption. By that I mean adding value and production to a moribund offense without adding drama to the picture. He has never been known to be a slacker. His work ethic will be scrutinized by the fans. The bonus is, he is a one year rental, he can teach the younger players some the value of hard work.
Alex in Amherst, N.Y., writes: Unless you are a diehard Bills fan, you will not understand the magnitude of the T.O. signing. To any other team, T.O. is a cancer, a problem, a nuisance.
However, the Bills have gone through a number of moments over the course of the last decade that has left fans hanging onto one last thread from the teeth of the Bills owner and organization. This past season seemed to be the culmination of the last straw for many fans. With the way the Bills tanked the last ten games of the season, combined with re-hiring Dick Jauron after never having a winning season in Buffalo, fans are not renewing season tickets and have a sickening feeling in the pits of our stomachs.
We are the epitome of diehard, the Bills are all we have. The feeling that our owner and organization isn't as committed to us as we are to them has crept into our minds and left us in a depression. Yes, a depression. However, all of that doubt has been erased by the signing of T.O.
Reasons why this is a great deal for the Bills:
1.) Bills fans have given up on the team, many losing interest, canceling season tickets, and hating the owner, coach and franchise. This signing proves to Bills fans that our owner and our franchise actually wants to win. They are actually trying. This rejuvenates fans and is making everyone excited again. The Bills have their fan base back. This is a huge PR move.
2.) The national media attention. The Bills have become an irrelevant franchise for the last 15 years. We haven't made the playoffs in the last 10. The national media will bring the attention back to Buffalo, following Owens and the Bills every week for the next year. The Bills will be on the front page of every sports newspaper and website for the next 8 months. We are now relevant again in the NFL.
3.) It is only a 1 year deal. Nobody wanted T.O. this off-season because he proves only to run his mouth and destroy franchises. This one year deal means two very important things.
A.) This is his last chance to prove his worth in the NFL. That means, if he doesn't keep his mouth closed this year, and does what he always does, he knows he will have zero chance of getting signed again next year, and his career is done. He wants to prove he can be quiet and play, so that he can make money and cause a possible bidding war in what could potentially be an uncapped NFL off-season. It is by FAR in Owens' best interest to play out the season keeping quiet and turning around a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in almost ten years.
B.) Lets say he doesn't keep quiet, and ends up being the enormous distraction that he's always been. He is out of here in a year, or the Bills can simply just cut him at any point during the season. He's not here long term like he was in Philly and Dallas where we can't afford to eat his large contract. It's a 1 year deal where $4 million was already paid up front.
4.) What's the worst that can happen, he proves to be a distraction and ruins our season? Who cares, we haven't made the playoffs in over 10 years anyway, and we have nothing to lose. We are not the Dallas Cowboys or Eagles, just on the brink of an NFL championship. There is nothing left for T.O. to destroy here in Buffalo.
5.) He ENORMOUSLY helps our offense. Much has been made of his age and declining production, but just simply being on the field takes the defense's attention off Lee Evans (something we've been longing for). This brings two deep safeties, and our running game will also see the benefits. As a defense, who are you going to guard, T.O. or Lee? How about Marshawn and Fred Jackson? Scary if you ask me.
To any other team, this would be a bad move, but a 1 year deal in Buffalo is perfect. We have nothing to lose. This deal has already seen the fans in Buffalo explode in excitement. Our owner isn't just a cheap man whose football mind is fading with the economy. He is intact. He cares. And that, American, is all Bills fans want to hear right now.