The Buffalo Bills may no longer be able to call themselves the “Goon Squad.”
In a recent press conference (transcript via BuffaloBills.com), wide receiver Steve Johnson was asked whether or not the 2012 Bills can still take the no-name mentality after gaining some popularity around the league. Free-agent acquisitions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were notable signings, and another strong draft has the roster looking deeper than it’s been in a long, long time.
Johnson’s response to the question was this:
We might have to switch it up. We were the goon squad and everybody went down so we might have to switch things up and have another name. We’ll have something probably by training camp.
Certainly, the Bills and their fans want recognition. But having been overshadowed in the AFC East for the last decade, that’s been difficult to earn.
The result has been an underdog mentality that players have embraced under Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey. It’s a palpable attitude change that says, “We understand that everybody else has written us off, but we’re no longer writing off ourselves.”
As the Goon Squad, the Bills were a group of collective no-names surprising “better” teams on Sundays—even if that surprise meant being more competitive in a loss. They’ve used this as motivation to not only become a more confident team but also to gain that recognition they’ve been seeking around the league.
We love the concept behind the Goon Squad. It’s a zero-to-hero story tracking a long, difficult journey from relative obscurity in the league to sweet, glorious redemption marked by a Super Bowl victory. But that victorious peak has eluded the Bills forever.
Are they close to reaching it?
The Bills are now at least on everybody’s radar. It’s safe to say they won’t really “surprise” teams next year with a good showing. Chan Gailey has wanted his players and the Bills’ fanbase to expect to win consistently rather than hope to win. Now they do. And the rest of the league expects Buffalo to be on the rise, as well.
So without the Goon Squad label, what new name do the Bills take? Johnson suggests they’ll have something in place by training camp.
But whatever name they settle on (if any), one thing is imperative: The Bills may have to shed the Goon Squad name, but they must keep the mentality. It’s what has gotten them to this point—a competitive group full of talented, motivated players ready to make their mark on Buffalo Bills history.
And without that mentality, they’re just another football team.
Bills fans know better than anybody that the Bills aren’t just another football team. They also know that by gaining recognition, expectations are higher than ever. It’s something Buffalo has wanted, and now they have it.
In a sense, the Buffalo Bills will always be the Goon Squad. They’ll always be the underdog. The team that nobody will expect to win until they actually win.
And when they win, then they can change their name.
Maybe to “champion” or something.
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