13 days. That’s how long veteran wideout Anquan Boldin was a Buffalo Bill, before abruptly choosing to retire late Sunday.
In a sentimental statement released through good friend, ESPN’s Jim Trotter, Boldin explained the decision:
Football in its purest form is what we all strive for as a nation. People from different races, religions and backgrounds working together for one shared goal. The core values taught in football are some of the most important you can learn in life. To always be there for the guy next to you and not let your fellow man down. You do whatever it takes to make sure your brother is OK.
Football has afforded me a platform throughout my career to have a greater impact on my humanitarian work. At this time, I feel drawn to make the larger fight for human rights a priority. My life’s purpose is bigger than football.
Classy remarks from a stand-up guy, and a future Hall of Famer. But what the statement fails to clarify is: what changed?
On August 7, Boldin stood before the media ready to begin his 15th NFL season by saying he “still has a passion to play football,” adding that Buffalo felt “comfortable” and that he “loved the culture around here.” Now, less than two weeks later retirement is the play. Why sign up for two measly weeks if retirement and philanthropy were your endgame? Boldin will have the rest of his post-NFL career to focus on charity work, he has only a few years left to play football.
It wasn’t as if Boldin showed up to training camp out of shape, struggling to get his feet underneath him. Physically, he was in peak football condition and primed to make this team as one of the Bills top two receiving threats.
So what made Boldin renege on joining the Bills? Simply put, he looked around.
The “direction” Boldin raved about when he first signed on has changed dramatically. A mere days after signing, Buffalo traded away their top receiving option, Sammy Watkins, leaving quarterback Tyrod Taylor with an unfamiliar group of weapons to throw to. Building that chemistry can take time and after watching Taylor fail to establish any kind of rhythm during Thursday night’s preseason meeting with the Eagles – in fairness his pass protection was putrid at times – it’s easy to see why Boldin had second thoughts.
In their current construct, the Bills are what they are: an average team at best. And Boldin, a Super Bowl champion in the limelight of his illustrious career, wasn’t going to waste what could be the last year of it meddling in mediocrity. It’s really not a far-fetched philosophy either. Former Lions great Calvin Johnson recently admitted that his early retirement at the age of 30 ahead of last season was influenced by Detroit’s continuous cycle of losing. So while Boldin’s passion for philanthropy and a purpose larger than football are undoubtably real, it’s also a convenient way to hide the underlying doubt that led him to this decision. And if reports that the 36-year-old backed out of an initial deal with Buffalo before finally signing days later are true, then that doubt was likely already there to begin with, only growing stronger in recent days.
The unexpected departure of Boldin leaves Buffalo with rookie Zay Jones, an unproven Andre Holmes and the injured Jordan Matthews as their primary receivers. Only two others wideouts on the roster – Brandon Tate and Walter Powell – have ever even caught a meaningful pass from Taylor. Not ideal. Then again just as the addition of Boldin didn’t change the outlook of this team much, neither does losing him. It should, however, make the Bills brass reconsider what they want out of this season.
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