McCoy saga with Bills ends with his release

September 4, 2019

As you know by now, the Buffalo Bills released running back LeSean McCoy this past Saturday.

McCoy started 56 games in four seasons for the Bills, plus one playoff game. His 3,814 regular season rushing yards place him sixth in Bills history, and his 25 rushing touchdowns place him eighth (tied with Jack Kemp, interestingly).

It struck me Tuesday how despite McCoy being the central figure in the Bills' offense over the last four years -- if not in the entire organization -- I don't have an easy time remembering him for certain games, or plays. When I made this point on Tuesday's show, Bulldog mentioned McCoy's 2017 overtime touchdown run in the snow to beat the Indianapolis Colts. That seems as good a choice as any for McCoy's premier highlight in a Bills uniform.

I watched every one of those 57 games and don't quite remember any of them for McCoy's performance. Whether that's because the Bills haven't played many important games in those four years, or because I'm too distracted by my fantasy teams to pay close enough attention, I guess I can't say. But certain games are remembered for certain players; heck, Tim Tindale, who carried the ball exactly 24 times in his NFL career, has a game. As it happens, that game, a 1995 AFC Wild Card game between the Bills and Miami Dolphins, is Buffalo's last postseason win.

It's not that the Bills' relative lack of success the last four years was McCoy's fault. I don't think that way at all. On Tuesday's show, two callers came at me with a combination of scorn for me and confusion to reveal their frustration over the McCoy release, and their displeasure (I guess) with things I've said about the player. These callers tried to some extent or another to rebut what they think they've heard Bulldog or me say.

Here's how I feel, in case anyone really wants to know:

I never cared for the Bills' trade for McCoy. We'd already seen this team throw season after season into volcanoes building around presumptively elite running backs. Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, all good players in their own rights, none of them able to take the Bills anywhere meaningful. When the Bills traded Kiko Alonso for McCoy -- and then signed him to a big contract, presumably in part to prevent him from complaining about being traded to Buffalo -- my thought was, "Here we go again".

You were never supposed to think this because McCoy is a "good" player and Alonso, I guess, isn't. But whenever the Bills would substitute for McCoy, with the likes of Karlos Williams or Mike Gillislee in Year 1, both players younger than McCoy but out of the league, those guys would produce too. The question deserved to be asked -- especially after years of a super-efficient Fred Jackson, who, of course, had gone undrafted -- what exactly is the value here?

That thought always was near the front of my mind when talking about McCoy. Beyond that, there was more than the occasional embarrassing and disturbing news about McCoy from his life outside of football, news events that need not be restated here.

McCoy's status on the team often was more the topic than his play. Will he be suspended? Will he be traded? Then, this year, will he be released? There were two-plus years of this, and, as someone that fought against his importance the whole time, I'd grown tired of it and eager for him to be let go.

It's funny to get push back on a lot of that now (Tuesday), given the growing awareness and understanding about running backs and value. James Conner's season in the wake of Le'Veon Bell's holdout last year for the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't get your attention? C.J. Anderson's performance in Todd Gurley's absence for the Los Angeles Rams, that didn't either? The Los Angeles Chargers' willingness to let Melvin Gordon sit out all season, does that mean anything to you? No, you say? Because those guys have been elite producers, the top running backs in the NFL. For the last two years, McCoy has been more the opposite, bottoming out in 2018 to the tune of 514 rushing yards on 3.2 yards per-carry in 13 starts.

Maybe McCoy will do well in Kansas City. If he has anything left at all, he probably will. That's what the Steelers' and Rams' points are all about, that the position is easily replaceable, and if your offense is good your running back will look good too.

I don't know if McCoy's release indicates whether the Bills have *finally* moved on from their stupefying obsession with star backs. In case one of you is getting ready to call in and might want to use my opinion against me in your argument, like Tuesday's callers made some attempt to do, I'll try to be clearer this time: I hope it does.