Stephon Gilmore may miss Rex Ryan more than the average Buffalo Bill, even among those who prefer easy practices. The theoretically aggressive ex-coach may or may not be enjoying retirement. I’m not interested in learning if it’s true.
Regardless, cornerbacks up for a challenge admire how the erstwhile Pizza Hut spokesman left them alone to do their jobs and thus prove their importance. The only tricky part is actually performing.
The opinion on the player’s success depends on who you ask or which play you saw. Gilmore serves as a Rorschach test where some fans see a player who can’t be lost as others think his departure would be no loss. This is a good time to note we’re all watching the same games.
A new defense will mean more even more turnover than usual. The Cover 2 is replacing Ryan’s aggressive scheming. The number refers to how many safeties are in a zone in case anyone was afraid to ask. Let’s just say that’s more than remained deep last season.
This is a reserved era, especially by comparison. Buffalo gets a conservative defense that creates less pressure in the name of limiting big plays. It’s quieter than the previous alignment both in approach and promises. In Gilmore’s case, secondary assistance means a reduction in importance of cornerbacks, which makes it tough to pay what he’s asking even if the team agrees on his value.
Take a couple million dollars as compensation for everyone shrieking how awful you are. Cornerbacks train relentlessly to smother wideouts only to have fans remember every error. We know which touchdowns each conceded as familiarly as our Social Security numbers.
Blame how it’s easier to see mistakes thanks to the attention drawn by spiked footballs. A defender is going to be bested on just about every receiving touchdown. Conversely, a receiver who can’t get open gets ignored along with the man responsible. Nobody thanks the cop who stops a crime from even being attempted. Every incorrect step and late head turn is glaring. The one time the delivery guy forgets your chopsticks is the order you remember.
Gilmore brought much of the criticism brought on himself. The infamous moment where he turned after blowing coverage instead of trying to stop a Patriots touchdown embodies what infuriates us about sports. Frustrated fans couldn’t create a more perfect symbol of miscommunication exacerbated by indifference. I personally ran out of swear words. It’s hard enough to maintain passion about following something out of our control. Literally looking to blame someone else sums up this exhausting team too perfectly.
Even Gilmore’s detractors have to concede his better moments. He did snag five interceptions last season, although that’s merely the most obvious way of judging a cornerback. Doing one’s job right means not being noticed at all. A position with prominent highlights and lapses is going best when the director ignores the camera dedicated to exposing defensive mistakes.
A cornerback hopes we notice what doesn’t happen. He asks you to please track how many times he’s invisible after taking away an offense’s option. Fans usually only spot him when he’s standing out like the Thing. Like a left tackle, he can succeed 95 percent of the time and end up failing. We don’t have to feel bad for them. But glamour always comes with a downside.
Judgment on Gilmore’s proficiency aside, the question remains if this defense needs virtuoso performances from cornerbacks. Why pay a premium for a player who receives assistance from the system? That’s a tough question for a team that could use investments at other positions.
Knowing a safety should be there to help means a cornerback doesn’t have to be spectacular on his own. New coach Sean McDermott provides help to the position as a matter of principle. If Gilmore is worth top-five money, is that then something worth spending on a cover man who has a safety running toward him and the player he’s guarding every time? This may have factored in the Bills decision to not use the franchise tag on Gilmore, although that doesn’t mean the end of bargaining.
It’s silly to say a player is too good. But a Ferrari that never leaves Kenmore is a waste of horsepower. Franchises have to spend finite resources wisely. There’s only so much cash to pay so much talent.
It would be nice to have him back despite reflexive condemnations from fans who seek perfection. But the franchise would be better off throwing their biggest fortunes elsewhere. As with the Nintendo Classic, roster members must be at the right price for the value provided. Instead of rashly paying a premium, they can wait for a good deal. The Bills are in good position to negotiate if they know when to flip their hips.