In an offseaon full of big news, the Bills jammed two monster stories into the same morning.
First the team released longtime vet and community icon Fred Jackson. Just over an hour later, Tyrod Taylor was named the quarterback competition winner and starting quarterback.
Bills management did not offer any explanation why they released Fred Jackson. Doug Whaley said they would keep that discussion “in house.”
The players reacted much like the fans with shock and surprise. “We feel their pain,” center Eric Wood said. “That’s heartbreaking, there. That’s a guy, he’s been here every second I’ve been here. I’ve always been good buddies with him and close with him.”
“Bigger than the game of football,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “A friend. Somebody that you’ve shared life with, shared family with.”
“It was definitely a shocker,” Bills running back Boobie Dixon said. “I don’t think nobody saw that coming.”
Bills coach Rex Ryan noted that being released two weeks before the season begins was the best case scenario for Jackson. He’ll now have a much better chance of joining another team.
“This is probably the toughest day I’ve had since I’ve been here as a coach,” Ryan said. “The decisions that go into things… it’s not always apples to apples.”
“It’s very cutthroat,” safety Aaron Williams said. “Nobody’s guaranteed a spot. If you think, in this business, you have a guaranteed spot, well today just proved to you that you don’t.”
Aaron Williams was the first to find out about the Jackson release when Jackson told him this morning.
The two were very close. Williams wore Jackson’s jersey to practice on Monday in his honor.
“Just like having your brother be gone,” Williams said. “He picked me up since day one. That’s all I’ve known since I’ve been here is 22.”
“It’s a deep blow for us in the locker room and the community, but at the same time, we cant dwell on it. I can’t dwell on it. Nobody else can dwell on it. We still got a season to get ready for.”
The Jackson hoopla was maybe the only news that could have bumped the reveal on the winner of the three-headed quarterback derby to story two.
Taylor’s play of late had made his ascension to number one on the depth chart semi expected.
The only surprise was that Ryan changed his mind on trying to keep it a secret to avoid making the QB mystery a distraction.
“It came down to that explosiveness that Tyrod brings to us,” Ryan said. “Think he’s got a good grasp of our system and it certainly wasn’t an easy decision.”
The understated Taylor said he was “happy” when he got the news.
“What I’ve been through, to sit four years in Baltimore behind Joe (Flacco) praying for this opportunity,” Taylor said. “God allowing this opportunity to come my way and coach presenting this opportunity to come get a chance to be a starting quarterback is a tremendous opportunity and that’s how I looked at it going into free agency.”
“He’s impressed me since day one with his poise and his demeanor and his quarterback intelligence is just off the charts,” Wood said. “This has been a pretty tough offense for all of us to grasp. We’ve had countless missed assignments and I feel like it’s never because of Tyrod.”
As Taylor’s underdog story in Buffalo begins, Jackson’s comes to a jarring conclusion.
“Lets not take away from Tyrod’s spotlight. He definitely deserved the spot,” Aaron Williams said. “Like I said, it’s unfortunate that 22’s not here with us anymore, but he’d tell you the same thing like I’m about to tell you now. When somebody leaves, somebody’s got to step up. So we’ll see who’s the guy to replace.”
Jackson has reportedly drawn interest around the league. If he ended up on a Bills division rival?
“I wouldn’t care, I’d smack him,” Williams said. “Inside the lines, it’s all business, but outside, we’d be brothers like we’ve always been.”