The set-up: The Bills had entered the 2005 season with a lot of expectations. They had come within just one game of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and they had a new QB starting. The backbone of the team consisted of a defense that was ranked in the top 5 for two straight seasons. The best player on that defense was Takeo Spikes. I remember when the Bills signed Spikes to a lucrative deal in 2003, everyone was totally excited and when we saw him play for the first time, fans were like “Woah!!!” The dude was a freak. Spikes made the pro bowl for two straight seasons as a Bill and even gained 1st team all-pro honors in 2004. He was a LB who had a great all-around game. Speed, strength, and leadership. You name it, the guy had it.
What happened: It was week 3 and the Bills were playing the Falcons at home. I remember watching this game from McFaddens in NYC and the crowd was, as usual, rowdy and wasted. I don’t remember what happened on this specific play, but all I know was there was a HUGE hush that came over the crowd. On our TV screen, it had looked like Takeo Spikes was shot with a rifle. #51 was lying face first on the ground and the next thing you know, he rips his helmet off in disgust and slams it into the ground. We all knew something was wrong. Next thing you know, Spikes gets carted off the field with tears in his eyes and a towel draped over his head, ala how the human suplex machine, Taz, use to wear in ECW. At that moment, the Bills season pretty much ended. Here is a look at the article for his injury on ESPN.com. When you hear players mention the words “Devastation” and “a big blow,” you know that we are fu#$ed and the players knew it, too. The Bills finished the season 5-11 and the defense plummeted to 29th in the NFL. I know a lot of fans placed the blame for the defense falling apart on the departure of Pat Williams, but when you consider that Williams was on a defense that ranked near the bottom in 2001 and 2002, it can be a little misleading. Spikes was the man for that defense, and the man was down & out.
What if Spikes didn’t get hurt? Look, a team that is being lead by JP Losman and Kelly Holcomb, more than likely won’t be playing football in January. However, don’t tell me that a healthy Spikes wouldn’t have made a difference during that season. Maybe the Bills win 8 games. You might ask, “So what? We still miss the playoffs.” True, but does winning 8 games trigger the firing of Tom Donahoe? And if Donahoe stays, you gotta think Mularkey doesn’t leave. Plus, when Spikes returned next season, you can tell he wasn’t the same. He only started 12 games and really didn’t do all that much. The Bills traded him the following season to the Eagles. After one season in Philly, Spikes went to San Fran, where he has been kind of a mentor towards Patrick Willis. But other than being Obi Wan to Anakin, Spikes hasn’t done a whole lot. He hasn’t made it back to the pro bowl. He also has the dubious distinction of not playing one playoff game for his career.
Back to his time with the Bills, what if Spikes was still in his prime during the 2006 season? This was the start of the Bills 7-9 era. You think Spikes playing at a 2004 level would have helped the team goto 9-7 or 10-6? Remember, from 2006-2008, the Bills only had one defensive pro bowler (Aaron Schobel). Their best linebacker was Poz, and he never could hold a candle to Spikes in his prime. Also, if Spikes didn’t go down hill, I don’t think the Bills deal him and Kelly Holcomb for a 5th round pick and Darwin Walker in 2007. Lets not forget, Walker ended up not coming here because we didn’t want to give him a new contract, and thank goodness we didn’t, because he kind of sucked. What a strange trade that was, right? A bunch of guys who did nothing for their teams after the fact.
Anyways, Spikes was that good for the Bills. At his prime, Spikes was the best defensive player the Bills had during the 2000’s.