To say Eric Moulds is eminently qualified to discuss the Buffalo Bills is an understatement. He’s second by a wide margin in franchise history to only Andre Reed in every significant receiving category; 675 receptions, 9,026 yards and 48 touchdowns. It’s numbers like that over a 10-year Bills career that earned him the distinction of being named to the Bills 50th year All-Anniversary team in 2009.
Like most Bills fans, Moulds finds himself today perturbed with the team’s ongoing ineptitude.
I got the chance to interview Moulds and among other things, we discussed the team’s struggles, his opinion on Buffalo playing in Toronto as well as past uproars when he played here, including Wade Phillips, the Rob Johnson/Doug Flutie controversy and Moulds’ unceremonious divorce from the organization.
As I suspected going in, Moulds never minced words when he was the central part of the locker room, and he didn’t in this case either. While still showing respect to the organization that afforded him the opportunity to become a star and a rich man, Eric told it like it is— or at least how he sees things.
Buffalo Sports Daily: You spent the majority of your career in Buffalo still follow the team today. How tough is it for you to see the team continue to struggle like it has and spend nearly half the season looking for its first win?
Eric Moulds: It’s very hard to watch a team and city you care about struggle and have this type of year. I still live here for half the year. It’s frustrating.
BSD: From what you’ve seen thus far, why is the organization struggling so much?
EM: I think the Bills are struggling because they have no identity. I think for the life of me without trying to disrespect anyone, there is no leader on the team. There’s not a player that I can truly say with his play or voice, I would say to myself that this person is our leader like a Ray Lewis or Peyton Manning type. My Buffalo Bills just don’t have that right now.
BSD: As a former wide receiver, I’m sure you pay extra close attention to the position. What do you think of the job that Lee Evans, Steve Johnson and Roscoe Parrish are doing this year?
EM: I think they are doing great . I still often talk to Lee from week to week, and I think for the last couple games they have shown good promise to being a good core and are making plays and progressing nicely.
BSD: Your impressions on Ryan Fitzpatrick?
EM: I like Ryan. He is a solid quarterback, playing really well right now and has given them a spark, but in my opinion he is not our long term answer at that position.
BSD: Instead of Eric Moulds-former Bills WR great, put on your GM hat for a minute. You’re in charge of the Bills, how do you go about rebuilding this team into a winner?
EM: If I was the GM, I would build my team from the inside out. My draft would be all offensive and defensive linemen. The reason I say that is the better both lines are, the better your running backs, receivers, quarterbacks, linebackers and the secondary will be. In the NFL, the most successful teams are the ones who can protect the quarterback and apply pressure to him when on defense.
BSD: What do you think of the Bills playing regular season games in Toronto?
EM: I think it is the worst idea in the world. Whoever came up with this idea needs to be fired. You are taking away from the tradition and home field advantage of the team. The Bills say they are trying to appeal to international cities, but hell, Toronto is only a hour and a half away., I’m sure they can drive to Ralph Wilson Stadium, it’s not that far.
BSD: Does it scare you that it’s possible the Bills may someday not be in Buffalo anymore?
EM: People grew up in Buffalo and identify with the Bills. They recognize and love their teams more than any place. It would be like if you were given life in prison and didn’t do the crime. In fact, worst than that if they leave this city.
BSD: You’re one of the more popular Bills players to come along in a long time and you know the fans very well. How tough do you think this has been on the fans to still show their support for a struggling team? A lot of the younger players don’t know how electric the fans can make this town because frankly, they haven’t won at all.
EM: Yeah I know it’s very tough on them . The fans are the biggest reason when I was free agent I decided to stay in Buffalo . I used their energy to make plays and do a lot of the things you saw me do. Bottom line, the true Buffalo Bills fans deserve better than they’re getting right now .
BSD: Speaking of free agency, you were unrestricted in 2001. You drew a lot of interest around the league, but ultimately signed a six-year, $42-million dollar deal to stay in Buffalo. Most regard you as the last prominent Bills player to hit free agency and return to the team. What other teams did you consider?
EM: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tampa, Jacksonville and Washington. At the end of the day, and I’m not just saying this— the fans of Buffalo were the biggest reason I came back. I really loved playing for them, they were and are the best fans in the league.
BSD: You entered the NFL draft as a first round pick by Buffalo in 1996. What was your reaction at the time?
EM: I was so happy to get drafted by this organization. The late, great John butler and Marv Levy gave me an opportunity and I was excited because I knew I was going to a winning organization.
BSD: Your career got off to a modest start over the first two years. Then in your third season you exploded. What did you learn between years one and three, and who did you most learn from early in your career that propelled you to such good things?
EM: Well my first two years was different because I played behind Quinn Early and Andre Reed, so it was learning from them and they taught me a lot . Then in my third year, I got my start and just wanted to show the fans and the organization that I could play, and in my first year as full-time starter I made the Pro Bowl. I couldn’t tell you how I did it to this day . I was just playing and having fun out there.
BSD: In 2002 you had the best single-season wide receiver numbers in franchise history. 100 receptions for 1292 yards and 10 TDs. What was that season like playing for the first time with Drew Bledsoe, along with Peerless Price?
EM: It was great playing with Drew Bledsoe and Peerless Price . I still tall to Drew every week and we think what might of been if they didn’t break the three of us up. But those two guys made it fun to play the game every week and are still great friends of mine today.
BSD: Over your Buffalo career, you put up outstanding numbers despite having a circus of different quarterbacks throughout most of your tenure in Buffalo. Do you ever think about how much better it could’ve been had you been able to have a steady QB situation in Buffalo year after year?
EM: Yeah I get asked that a lot. One of my good friends, Ray Lewis said to me at a Pro Bowl one time that if I had Peyton Manning my entire career, it would be scary . But I enjoyed the guys I played with . It was hard with so many different quarterbacks… it took a lot away from my game in terms of having to adjust so much.
BSD: When Wade Phillips was fired, at the time it didn’t seem like that big a deal. yet, the Bills have failed to make the playoffs since. Do you think upon reflection it might’ve been a rash move to fire him, or do you think it’s just a combination of a lot of factors that have kept the Bills out of the playoffs?
EM: I think we were on to something good . I think that move set us back 10 years as an organization and the Bills are still trying to recover now. We had a playoff team, great coaches and a lot of Pro Bowl players and the powers that be just ripped it up like a piece of paper. Still till this day it bothers me.
BSD: You were undisputably one of the leaders in the locker room. Win or lose, you were the one always holding court with the media in your corner locker, not afraid to answer the tough questions. Did you always consider yourself a leader, or is it something that you feel you grew into as your career progressed?
EM: Well, I was one of the more vocal guys and the guys listened to me . But I think it was more of me being a leader by my play . I played hard and physical and my teammates fed off of that and would step their game up because they knew I was going to do anything it took to try and win.
BSD: Are you over the “Music City Miracle” or does that still eat away at you to this day?
EM: I will never will be over that play. It still hurts. What made it worse was that I later played for the Tennessee Titans and had to hear and see it all the time, which made me sick to my stomach pretty much every day.
BSD: It was years ago, but I have to ask you now. Be honest, how did you feel about the team’s decision to bench Doug Flutie and go with Rob Johnson in the 1999 playoffs?
EM: I thought it was the dumbest decision made in history of pro sports. It’s a story that I wish ended differently.
BSD: Do you the think the decision to start Johnson over Flutie was strictly a head coaching decision by Phillips, or do you think it was an organizational decision?
EM: From my knowledge, Wade Phillips didn’t make the decision. It was one I’m sure that came from top to bottom. Of course, I think it had to do with Rob making $5-million a year, not any other reason.
BSD: You played with Buffalo until the end of the 2005 season. Even that last year, you still had 81 receptions. Are you still a little disappointed on how your Bills career came to a close?
EM: Yes, very. At that point I should have been a Buffalo Bill for life, but what can you do when you’re forced to leave. I still had good football left, but they chose to say I wanted to leave when truly I never did . They forced me to leave with options they gave me.
BSD: Along with Keyshawn Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Amani Toomer and Terrell Owens, you were part of arguably the best WR draft class in NFL history. How special was that class to you?
EM: It was a special class and I don’t think you’ll see one like that again . Every receiver drafted in that class you mentioned and some you didn’t were an All-Pro receiver. And we had numbers to back it up.
BSD: Who’s the toughest player you ever went against?
EM: Ty Law
BSD: When you were coming up, what player did you idolize most?
EM: Jerry Rice. The best part is I got to work out with him every year in college and all the way through the pros. He was the best.
BSD: What’s your impression about the league cracking down so hard on hits to the head?
EM: I think the league is full of guys making decisions who have not played in NFL, but are tight suits with a couple of degrees who think they know the players and the game. They have no clue. It’s football It’s physical and hard and things will happen. Just a shame they are making the game so commercial now. They may as well make it flag football.
BSD: Congratulations on being named to the “SEC 2010 Legends Class”. What was the experience like for you honing your craft at Mississippi State?
EM: Thanks, it’s an honor being selected. Playing in the SEC is an experience in itself. I will tell u this about that conference , it was like playing on Sundays in NFL . Everyone I played with or against there I later faced in NFL. From top to bottom it’s the best college football.
BSD: It’s a lock that someday you’ll go up on the Bills Wall of Fame. What will that moment be like for you?
EM: If I ever go on the wall, I will accept only on one condition. If the Bills organization makes a plaque of all the season ticket holders names and gives it to me so I can put them on my wall to show thanks to them. Without them honestly, there is no me . And I’m sure every great Bills player feels same way. Hands down they are the best fans, not just in football but in all of sports.