Auld lang syne. - Ronald Martinez
One of the most polarizing players in franchise history is set to return to Houston on Sunday in the midst of turmoil in his new city. How do you feel about Mario Williams these days?
When Mario Williams signed with Buffalo back in March, the general consensus among Texans fans seemed to be a somber acknowledgement of the financial reality of the situation (e.g., Super Mario's value on the open market far outpaced the resources the Texans had available to keep him) and a genuine desire to see him succeed in his new home (except to the extent said success would negatively impact the Texans, of course). While the Texans have managed to move on without the former first overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, the transition for Mario has been less than seamless.
The 2012 season in Buffalo has not been a smooth one for Mario Williams. He's hasn't exactly been magnanimous in dealing with the local media, and it would appear that he's doing an exceptionally poor job communicating with his employer. Those are the kinds of things one might overlook if Mario was setting the league on fire, but the Bills did not think they handed the richest contract to a defensive player in league history to a guy who has thus far inspired both veiled questions about his effort and blatant attacks on his attitude. To wit:
It’s obvious the Bills and Buddy Nix didn’t get too far into Mario Williams attitude before signing him. He has his own refrigerator in his locker, his own personal PR person and doesn’t go full speed every play. Who knows what other things he’s allowed to do that other players aren’t. That all combined spells not very popular with his teammates. It’ll be interesting to see if having a wrist procedure helps him out.
Buffalo fans are extraordinarily frustrated with the Bills' performance thus far, and with good reason. Their defensive line was supposed to be spurred to greatness by the acquisition of Mario Williams. Instead, heading into yesterday's games, Buffalo was ranked 31st overall in total defense by Football Outsiders. That's not exactly a solid return on investment.
Regardless of how Mario now feels about what he termed "Judgement Day" (sic), I hope Texans fans greet him with an ovation if he's introduced before the game on Sunday at Reliant. He did a lot of good things while he was here, and there's no reason to be angry with him for leaving. If anything, on some level, I have a measure of pity for Mario Williams.
A portion, if not all, of his time in Houston was marked by vitriol from a segment of the Texans' fan base. He wasn't Vince Young. He was prone to disappearing during stretches of games. He had a history of injuries (though, to be fair, he played through them far more than he gets credit for). He never seemed to be the kind of guy who lived and breathed football. Yet he was--is--a tremendous talent, an athletic freak of nature who is capable of dominating like few others are.
As much pressure as Super Mario was under in Houston, he's gone out of the frying pan and into the fire in Buffalo. Signing a contract potentially worth $100,000,000.00 naturally creates heightened expectations. Mario's decision to sign that deal and move there was wholly voluntary, and it's one for which we can hardly begrudge him. I wonder, however, whether there's some part of him that wishes he was still starting at OLB in Wade Phillips' defense. Some part of him that'll wish he was coming out of the home tunnel at Reliant Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
I bet there is. Know what would really have to sting Mario, were he to take an objective look at his situation and that of his former team? The cruel, indisputable truth that the Texans are doing just fine without him.