Levy, Modrak need to strike it rich this weekend

By Connor Byrne  |   Tuesday, April 25, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Buffalo Bills
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Finally, following a painfully long three month wait, the NFL Draft is closing in on new Buffalo Bills GM Marv Levy. After being hired in January to replace the fired Tom Donahoe, the 80-year-old Hall of Famer's fans have been waiting for him to be tested, but it hasn't necessarily taken place yet. He's signed some safe free agents this offseason to conserve cap space for the Bills' future and fill holes, but he hasn't gone for broke. This weekend, it will certainly be interesting to see how Levy approaches his first draft as a GM; he's had plenty as a head coach, but none were this pressure-packed.

Luckily, Levy won't be alone this Saturday and Sunday as he ventures into this new, uncharted territory.

Instead, he'll have player personnel genius Tom Modrak by his side. The Bills' assistant GM, Modrak has built a reputation as one of the best college talent evaluators in the league. He's been scouting in the NFL since 1973, so he has the experience and intelligence that it takes to select the right players. He spent four years as the Philadelphia Eagles' Director of Football Operations between 1998 and 2001, where he's most remembered for drafting quarterback Donovan McNabb No. 5 overall in 1999. Although Modrak faced immediate scrutiny from Eagles fans for the pick, McNabb has proven him right by leading Philly to four straight NFC Championship Game bids, while making five Pro Bowl trips.

With Modrak by his side, Levy should have a much easier time coming up with the best picks possible for the Bills' franchise in this weekend's NFL draft. The Bills have been sitting in the gutter of the AFC East since the commencement of the new millennium, so they need someone who can come in and make a major impact immediately. They've missed the playoffs in six straight seasons, which means significant improvement is a must. Otherwise the Buffalo fans will continue to get more unnerved as the days pass. The only teams with equal or longer playoff droughts in the league are the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions--two perpetual cellar-dwellers.

The Bills will have a grand total of 10 picks this year, with four on day one. Thus, they will have plenty of chances to find future starters, and maybe even some stars. One of Donahoe's biggest problems was the fact that his drafts were relatively weak, but Levy isn't afforded the same kind of luxury.

He must be a success immediately or face the wrath of the Bills' fans, and maybe even the NFL. The Bills aren't exactly the Donald Trump of the league, which could signal a move to Los Angeles in a few years. That's probably not likely, since Commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently put the kibosh on the Bills going anywhere.

Still, that doesn't make it any less important for Levy and Modrak to get the job done this weekend. It's undoubtedly the Buffalo Bills' most crucial draft in recent memory; the organization has faced a lot of insult and scrutiny of late, and the best balm to silence the critics is success.

When's the last time success was a word to describe the Buffalo Bills? It's been a while.

--Connor Byrne can be reached at cbyrne@realfootball365.com
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