The Perfect Storm: How Stefon Diggs changed everything in Buffalo

He has proven to be exactly what the Bills needed: A leader. Now, anything is possible.

This was the rare sports trade that lights up your phone, wakes you up and makes time stand still.

The night of March 16 — at 10:33 p.m. — we all discovered that Stefon Diggs was heading to the Buffalo Bills.

At which point, you instantly fell into one of two camps: You either viewed this as the signature move that’d put the Bills, a playoff team, over the top. Or you viewed this as a recipe for disaster. You did the math in your head: Disgruntled wide receiver + Most Inaccurate QB in the NFL + Buffalo, NY = Utter disaster. A tale old as time.

Things turned ugly for Diggs in Minnesota, of course. Very ugly.

Clearly, this would be a fragile situation, one that’d have most position coaches texting and calling whoever they could to learn whatever they could about the alleged diva. Making Diggs happy was about to become a major part of Chad Hall’s job description as the Bills wide receivers coach. After all, the list of stars who’ve treated the news that they’re Buffalo-bound like a baseball bat to the face is long. And, hell, the country had just slipped into quarantine. For four months, Hall could only speak to Diggs by phone and Zoom.

The first time he’d meet him would be the first day of training camp.

Yet all along, Hall never reached out to one coach, one player, one scout.

He was dead-set on forming his own opinion of Stefon Diggs.

“All you mostly hear is the negative shit. All the bad things,” Hall says. “In the media, it’s all bad — ‘Oh, man, he’s a problem! No one could handle him up in Minnesota!’ Well, for me as a coach, good. There’s my challenge. My challenge is to get this guy in a comfortable situation where he’s loved and appreciated and it starts from there. You’ve got to build a relationship with these guys before anything else.”

Now, it’s mid-January. The Bills are still playing football. And Hall — an ’08 Air Force grad who served a two-year stint as a second lieutenant before his own NFL career — can confidently share his opinion of one, Stefon Diggs, with everyone.

There’s a ruggedness to his voice.

“He’s like a middle linebacker, man,” Hall says. “He’s your alpha, but he’s your damn dog. He’s tough as shit. He’s mean as shit. I’m a military guy and I’d want him in my foxhole. I’d want to be back-to-back with him. I know he’s going to take care of me. I know I’m going to take care of him. That’s the kind of guy he is. You want him in your foxhole.”

Because guess what? This was no disaster. This proved to be a perfect storm.

Diggs led the NFL in receptions (127) receiving yards (1,535) and it was not even close.

Diggs is calling Buffalo his “second home” and telling all, “I’m excited, I’m happy. In games, you can see it.”

Diggs’ relationship with Josh Allen has become a full-fledged bromance.

And, oh, the Buffalo Bills are two wins away from reaching the Super Bowl.

Because not only has Diggs been everything Buffalo could’ve dreamt of on the field — a sublime route runner, a big play itching to detonate — he has given this franchise something far more valuable. Leadership. Hall leaves no doubt: Diggs is the voice everyone follows on this team, Diggs injects belief. And that’s a remarkable feat for someone universally dismissed as a locker room cancer one year ago. Diggs went from forcing his way out of Minnesota one fake cough, one cryptic tweet at a time to being the veteran who morphs a team that hadn’t won a playoff game since 1995 into a band of fighters that truly believes it can kick any team’s ass.

The Bills are nobody’s underdog now. Those days are finished. They expect to win.

And what a new sensation that is for all Western New Yorkers, one nobody’s had since the early 1990s.

Another wide receiver — a Hall-of-Famer on those Super Bowl teams — remembers that feeling so, so well. As James Lofton explains, as a player, you stop looking at the schedule and thinking, Oh, we’ve got to play Baltimore.

“This year for the Bills, it’s they have to play us,” Lofton says. “That, to me, is the mark of a great team. When you’re thinking, ‘They have to play us. Whether we’re at home or we’re at their place, they have to play us.’ That’s the swagger Buffalo has finally gotten to.”

“You can say it. But you also have to believe it and you have to produce it.”

That’s the way the Bills processed games through four straight Super Bowl runs from 1990-1993 and that’s how the Bills are finally processing games again.

Because of Diggs.

“You just have no real fear,” Lofton says, “of playing somebody else.”

How did it get to this point? The storm’s been brewing for years.

A team in need

A blizzard of this magnitude requires juuuust the right amount of barometric pressure. So in truth, in Buffalo, it’s been three-plus years in the making. The search for a No. 1 wide receiver began almost immediately: Sean McDermott’s first draft in 2017.

That night, McDermott was smitten with Zay Jones.

The wide receivers coach he had just hired (Phil McGeoghan) coached Jones at East Carolina so the Bills gave serious consideration to drafting Jones at No. 27 overall after, gulp, trading out of the No. 10 pick that landed Patrick Mahomes. They were close — very close — to pulling the trigger. After further discussion, the Bills instead opted to wait and draft the cornerback who was higher on their board: Tre’Davious White. And they got their receiver in the second round.

Jones, obviously, did not pan out.

McDermott brought on Brandon Beane as his GM, the two shipped Sammy Watkins out of town amid a slew of ejections, proceeded to win anyways and — with playoff hopes surprisingly real at 5-2 — traded for Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Beane was ecstatic. Beane declared “this is a win for the Buffalo Bills” at the time.

Benjamin, also, did not pan out.

Once the franchise quarterback was secured, into March 2019, the Bills then went big-game hunting at wide receiver. A different trade at night, this one at 11:28 p.m., jolted WNY’ers out of bed this spring. Antonio Brown was heading to Buffalo… until he wasn’t. Until Brown killed it. Brown refused to play for the Bills like far too many stars before him and, for the Bills’ sake, thank God he did. There’s a good chance Brown would’ve nuked the culture Buffalo was building. Because it wasn’t long after this that Brown was traded to the Raiders and self-destructed just about as terribly as any athlete we’ve seen this century.

Forget the Bills’ 10-6 record last year. If the volcanic “AB” is playing for a quarterback who’s finishing dead-last in completion percentage, as Allen did, he is wreaking absolute havoc. And who knows what that does to Allen? Here, Beane dodged a bullet. Beane instead signed John Brown (three years, $27 million) and Cole Beasley (four years, $29 million) to two of the best bang-for-your-buck contracts in the NFL.

Both receivers proved capable of getting Buffalo to the playoffs but, into March of 2020, merely reaching the playoffs was no longer the goal.

The Bills still wanted a legit star for Josh Allen. The Bills were thinking Super Bowl.

And their calculated gamble was that they hit the bull’s eye on Allen himself. Belief can backfire. Belief can exasperate the problem beyond your wildest imagination. Buffalo learned this the hard way, six years prior, in selling the farm for Watkins… for EJ Manuel. Nothing was going to change the fact that EJ was EJ and, while Allen won more games, he certainly was no sure thing in the court of public opinion.

We’ve been told for ages that quarterbacks cannot improve accuracy. It’s science.

Yet, the Bills believed. The Bills projected a massive improvement in Year 3. The Bills believed all Allen needed was a No. 1 wide receiver.

Luck, for once, was on the Bills’ side.

Lo and behold, a No. 1 wide receiver was available.

A receiver in need

Nineteen wide receivers were drafted ahead of Stefon Diggs in 2015. Seven of which are not even in the NFL anymore.

Diggs fell all the way to the 146th overall pick in the fifth round.

Which all now sounds certifiably insane.

But back then? It was not a surprise at all. Scouts across the league basically all held the same opinion on this 6-foot, 190-pounder out of Maryland. Looking back, they recall Diggs as a soft player at Maryland. They say he turned down too many plays, dropped balls and was not consistent. At all. One scout recalls a “shut-off switch like no other,” saying that Diggs could go from “1000” to “Leave it the f--- alone”-mode in a hurry. Diggs was dismissed by some teams as the dreaded “JAG” — Just A Guy — because his final season at Maryland wasn’t that impressive, either: 62 catches, 792 yards, five touchdowns. And while there weren’t any major off-the-field issues, one scout says some on the Maryland staff were happy to see Diggs go.

Diggs himself was brutally honest in his meetings with NFL teams, too.

One scout says Diggs flat-out admitted he made business decisions across the middle of the field. (For what it’s worth, this scout appreciated his honesty.)

All in all, teams weren’t sure Diggs would keep his switch flipped to “1000.”

So, he fell. And fell. Right into the Vikings’ lap.

Little did teams know that this exact offseason Diggs was busting his ass like never before with trainer Pete Bommarito in Miami, Fla. Diggs embraced this high-octane program that occupies 10 to 12 hours of your time every day. He bought into Bommarito’s emphasis on “joint alignment” to maximize power and regeneration and deceleration and nutrition and neuromuscular therapy and other terms that’d make your brain freeze. Diggs loved the science of it all. And Bommarito insists he didn’t see one inkling of what those scouts are talking about.

Down in Florida, Diggs morphed himself into the perfect modern-day wide receiver.

“Everything that he does is about mental focus,” Bommarito says. “If you have a drill in front of you, everybody can execute with intensity but he’s just got a focus like everything he is doing is the last play of the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a warm-up drill, a speed drill, a weight room workout, running routes, everything. You’ll see some players who just go all in when they’re doing routes. They don’t have the same focus and intensity when it comes to the other stuff. … He’s got the mentality where he can legitimately focus on every conceivable aspect of what we’re doing.

“That’s how he trains. That’s what makes him great.”

Sure enough, Diggs delivered one of the greatest moments in NFL history: The Minneapolis Miracle.

He was on top of the world.

Until, Mike Zimmer had other plans. Until, Mike Zimmer became fed up with all this goshdarn passing and turned the clock back to 1964 on the Vikings’ offensive scheme as we wrote about at length. In sum: Diggs believed the Vikings were pissing away his prime. This brand of football was not going to maximize his gifts, there wasn’t any hope that things would change and the real kick in the groin was the utter lack of communication. So, Diggs acted out. Diggs voiced his displeasure by missing practice and, the next day, held a laughable press conference in which he faked a cough for a fake illness. All parties involved were trying to make this go away… but nobody bought this stunt. Everyone saw right through Diggs’ atrocious, 2-Percent-on-Rotten Tomatoes acting performance.

Soon enough, Diggs deleted all Vikings-related content off his social media and after the team extended Kirk Cousins he tweeted in pure Gen-Z emo fashion, “It’s time for a new beginning.”

Longtime Vikings cornerback Terence Newman was around for the start of this demise as an assistant coach and says Diggs was “more volatile” than anyone realized. He even compares him to Terrell Owens.

“I’m not saying he was crazy,” Newman says. “But I just saw enough myself. I’m not even on that side of the ball — where, ‘Yo, you need to chill the f--- out.’ … The thing with wideouts is, you’re ‘always open.’ You’re going to be selfish because you want yards and touchdowns and everything else. But once younger guys get older, they understand, ‘OK, you know what? This Super Bowl shit is pretty tough.’ What becomes more important is having an actual run at winning the Super Bowl. Some people are just more vocal as players of ‘Hey, I need this. I need the ball.’ And other guys are like, ‘Hey, let’s just go out and win this f------ thing. I don’t give a shit who catches the ball. Let’s just get it done.’”

So, no, Newman doesn’t believe any conversation Zimmer could’ve ever had with Diggs would’ve helped.

One source familiar with the Vikings’ inner-workings concedes that Diggs is a “me” guy in that he doesn’t just want to win — he needs to be the reason his team wins. He is nobody’s decoy. But this source describes that breakup as a “perfect storm” for all the wrong reasons and lists off the simmering factors: A head coach who doesn’t communicate. A quarterback “who’s not really a leader and isn’t relatable to Stefon Diggs.” The fact that Diggs would always be perceived as second fiddle to Adam Thielen. The burning desire to be The Man elsewhere.

He compares Diggs to Jimmy Butler, the perennial NBA All-Star who always wanted something more, who desired to be The Man from Chicago to Minnesota to Philadelphia to, finally, getting his wish in Miami.  

And even though teammates did not like how Diggs handled this all, many agreed with his intent.

“I’d disagree with Terence,” this source familiar with the Vikings’ thinking says. “It’s not as if Stefon Diggs speaking up is going to change the offense or change Zimmer or change how Kirk plays. Their answer is always ‘Shut the f--- up and play.’ That’s their answer for everything.

“It’s the organization’s fault because if you have intelligent people that can come down and communicate properly, then at least they’ll say, ‘Listen, you’re a great receiver. We do need to be more open-minded. We do need to get you more involved. We can’t be so centered on just running the football. You are just as good if not better than Adam Thielen. You’re a 1-2 punch. We need that.’ There’s no communication. They don’t communicate with anyone.”

Here's a crazy thought: Maybe the disgruntled player is often… right.

Diggs isn’t alone. This is now a trend in the NFL. We’re seeing more and more players try to take back control of their careers regardless of contract status — studs like Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams and Yannick Ngakoue all were not shy about how they felt. They were just as passive-aggressive on social media. And you might want to turn another star player’s Twitter notifications on. It sure sounds like Deshaun Watson could be next.

More teams are willing to cave, too.

More teams would rather get something for their unhappy employee than reconcile.

“I can’t really blame NFL players because you’re forced to be selfish at some point,” this source familiar with the Vikings’ thinking says. “You’re only going to get paid and compensated based on your performance and if you can’t go out there and perform — or you don’t get opportunities to perform when you’re a really good player — you don’t have the luxury of pissing away years in the NFL. Diggs did sign a contract. The team could’ve told him to go f--- himself. But the way the NFL works now is the guys that bitch get their way out. The good guys don’t. Which is kind of f----- up.”

More communication could’ve helped cooler heads prevail in Minnesota.

This breakup is a symptom of a larger problem in the NFL. Nobody wants to say the quiet parts out loud. Nobody wants to stand in front of a mic and say how they really feel. It’s a league muddled in secrecy, full of bureaucrats who take themselves far too seriously. Which is why there are sources around the Vikings who believe that if Diggs (instead of farting around on Instagram) just said at a presser, “I’m a top 10 receiver and I want to be a part of the gameplan” and GM Rick Spielman (instead of pretending like everything was fine) said that the Vikings have to find a way to get Diggs involved, everyone could’ve found a way to sing “Kumbaya.”

And another Miracle could’ve been waiting around the corner in Minnesota.

“But no one does that,” this source in Minnesota says. “Everybody just hides behind their f------ desk and is afraid to talk to the media.”

The Bills are thankful.

Because all of these forces collided to speed the storm up to 100 MPH en route to Bills Stadium. Beane and McDermott were more than willing to give Stefon Diggs everything Stefon Diggs could ever desire.

The trade was official.

And the storm hit.

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When Chad Hall was finally able to shake Stefon Diggs’ hand that first day of training camp and meet him face to face, what stood out first was his size. Diggs was taller than he expected. “Thicker,” too. Especially his legs.

The next thing that popped? His smile. Diggs appeared genuinely happy.

Camp began and Diggs didn’t say too much. He didn’t want to speak out of turn so, simply, he worked his ass off. And fairly quickly — two weeks in — Diggs could tell that the Bills lacked a vocal leader.

And Diggs knew he could be that vocal leader.

So, Hall challenged him. The young assistant coach told Diggs to go for it, to speak up more in the wide receiver room… and to the entire offense… and, even, the entire team.

“You have an effect,” Hall told him. “People listen to you when you’re talking.”

Production is one thing and his production has obviously been off the charts. But little did the Bills know along their quest for a No. 1 wide receiver — Jones to KB to AB to Diggs — that it was this leadership they needed most. They needed to permanently change the ethos of the team itself and, now, they’re seeing the Diggs Effect. A team that was very good is now great.

Diggs has embraced everything that being The Man entails.

“He is the leader of our offense,” Hall says. “Vocally and by example. I’ve never been around the alpha of the room or even of the whole offense who is the hardest worker on the whole team. I mean, he works harder at practice than anybody else.

“It’s not coming from a fake place. Everything he says is real. It’s motivating, it’s encouraging. He’ll hold you accountable if you’re not doing what’s right. He knows when to put his foot down. But most of it is very positive. That’s something we’ve talked about and I’ve pushed him to accept that role and stay positive and to keep speaking verbally — because we needed that after last year. We have a lot of guys who lead by example but we don’t have a lot of vocal leadership.”

Kyle Williams provided leadership once. So did Lorenzo Alexander.

Neither was ever this big of a star. Neither ever played on this talented of a team.

If there’s ever a lull on offense, Diggs speaks up. Once upon a time, three-and-outs were a real problem on this team. Not anymore. After having the fifth-worst three-and-out percentage last season (24.1 percent, 45 total), the Bills had the third-best this season (12.6 percent, 20 total). If the defense needs a jolt, Diggs is the one who beelines their direction on the sideline. And the last half of the season, Hall adds, Diggs has been the one speaking up to the entire team at halftime. It might only be 10 words, Hall says, but those 10 words pack a punch. Those 10 words are unbelievably valuable.

“It’s someone yelling something to the whole team,” Hall says. “Everyone respects him for it.”

If the intensity level in 2019 was, oh, say a seven than Diggs raised it to a 10. He’s always the most competitive player on the field and it’s not particularly close.

Adds Hall: “He wants to win every play.”

As a result — from May to January — Diggs’ swagger has become the Bills’ swagger. This franchise needed a shot in the ass. An unapologetic shot of… of… ego. Nobody ever accused Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed of lacking ego on those 90s teams that expected to win. A team full of nice guys who never rock the boat is never going to win the Super Bowl, so, this is where McDermott deserves some credit. Surely, there weren’t many people in the universe who ever, in a million years, expected McDermott to even consider trading for Diggs as the coach filibustered on and on about #Process early on as head coach.

Echoing others who’ve been handed a one-way ticket out of town, Sammy Watkins did not have kind things to say about McDermott. Several players found his culture downright suffocating. Like they couldn’t be themselves — at all.

And here’s a team now dancing to MC Hammer before a playoff game.

Here’s a star receiver most of the world deemed a loose cannon being his authetic self. Always. When he’s not flossing on the bench, he’s in the face of cornerbacks.

Take the most symbolic win of the season, at New England, on Monday Night Football.

Midway through the second quarter, the Bills held a 10-9 lead over the franchise that’s tormented them for two decades. Allen’s deep shot up the left sideline to Diggs sailed long and cornerback J.C. Jackson could not wait to signal an emphatic “incomplete” with both arms right in front of Diggs who, you know, wasn’t particularly pleased with such exuberance from the 25-year-old. Diggs said a few words and stuck an index finger right in Jackson’s face.

It’s true that index finger could’ve been perceived as the ultimate sign of disrespect. It’s also true that fans in Buffalo have been waiting two decades for a player to put a finger right in the face of this dynasty.

“I love it,” Hall says. “That’s what a competitor does. He hasn’t gone too far. That’s probably as close as he got with sticking his finger in his face. He’s channeled it. And, he backs it up.

“He probably told him, ‘I’m coming back.’ That’s what you want.”

And that’s what Diggs did. The next drive, he roasted Jackson for a 50-yard touchdown and was sure to look back at him as he crossed the goal line before then leaping into the arms of his quarterback. Another teammate bolted over to scream, “You’re swagged up!” and the rout was on. McDermott showed zero mercy in a 38-9 shellacking foreign to Bill Belichick.

Such is the theme of the 2020 Bills. The storm hit and the storm never let up.

From what should’ve gone down as an epic… diving… game-winning touchdown vs. the Cardinals with 34 seconds left.

To breaking ankles against the 49ers. Oh, Jason Verrett. That poor bastard.

To utterly dismantling the Pittsburgh Steelers. Man to man? Zone? The Steelers could’ve dusted off Rod Woodson in his prime and nothing would’ve worked through this 10-reception, 130-yard masterpiece.  

To sliding and scooping a 16-yarder from Allen at Denver. His cleats kicked up a cloud of dirt and, on to the sideline, there was an ecstatic Hall smacking him on the chest.

Is Diggs the best wide receiver in football? “Of course,” says Hall, who’s incredibly kind throughout this chat but — for a moment — sounds insulted that this is even a question.

“Have you seen what he’s done?” Hall says. “His durability. He plays every snap. He fights. He blocks. He does everything. You see him cut-block people. He can get open against anybody and makes the tough catches. He can run with the ball. He’s got everything you want.”

Lofton sees this all, too. He’s blown away by Diggs’ drive, calling him a “perfectionist” and a “bully” and he means that in the best possible way — Diggs gets to literally any spot on the field he wants. It doesn’t matter what your coverage is. It doesn’t matter that Diggs isn’t as big as Julio Jones or DK Metcalf or DeAndre Hopkins. He gets wherever he wants with far, far more foot quickness.

Imagine being a cornerback lining up to cover Diggs.

“He’s worried, No. 1, that he’s going to go deep. Right away,” Lofton says. “The second thing is, he’s going to make him look foolish. So, there’s that nervousness about trying to cover a guy as elusive and as complete a route runner as he is. We just say, ‘That’s why he’s an All Pro,’ but the other team is trying to stop him. You forget about that — their No. 1 goal when the week starts — is ‘We’re going to shut down Stefon Diggs’ or ‘We’re going to hold him to six catches for 60 yards.’ And that just doesn’t happen.”

Corners live in fear of Diggs going downtown and get eaten alive on routes underneath.

That’s why Lofton uses a different NBA analogy.

“The way that the game has evolved,” Lofton says, “it’s like Steph Curry with the Golden State Warriors — ‘This guy is going to put up 30 on me, I know that. I just hope he doesn’t go for 60.’”

No, this isn’t even the same NFL of five years ago. You hear the exasperation in the voices of defensive players all the time. Ex-safety Donte Whitner even brought up Diggs’ name unsolicited in his conversation with Go Long, saying he hears announcers declare that Diggs can “Run any route!” when he knows damn well a guy like Diggs wouldn’t have even considered wading into the middle of the field in his era. To him, there’s no danger in the back of receivers’ minds today.

He’s right, of course. But don’t blame Diggs. He’s just maximizing this all through a maniacal training regiment. He stuck with Bommarito and specifically sharpened his deceleration to twist corners into pretzels. It’s one thing to be fast and quite another to know how to come to a screeching halt and change direction. As Bommarito points out, when Diggs shows up on his highlight video, he’s mostly doing this deceleration work.

“When you decelerate, you eccentric load,” Bommarito says. “You have to bend. So the mobility of the toes, the foot, the rear foot, the forefoot, the ankle, the knee and just how strong the hamstrings are on the eccentric load dictate your ability to decelerate. I just get the muscles prepped and the threshold up so when they run a route, the muscle action takes place in the route.”

Which is how Diggs has only gotten more explosive and more elusive season to season.

And as the world knows by now, it was right there at Bommarito’s complex where all of this Bills magic began. When the pandemic wiped out OTAs and minicamps, Bommarito got a call from Matt Barkley who said that Diggs had raved about him and that the team wanted to run some player-led practices at his spot in May. And that, Bommarito notes, is Diggs in a nutshell. Diggs wanted to create a quasi-camp of sorts to find chemistry with Allen and, by God, did they ever. Bommarito couldn’t help but notice something special between Allen and Diggs. He remembers telling one NFL vet during a water break, “These guys are on f------ point, man!’ My God. They just met!”

Adds Bommarito today: “That’s Stefon. He’s a badass receiver. If you’ve got a guy who can throw the ball, he’s going to get open and he’s going to catch it.”

The rapport between Allen and Diggs was born.

And, honestly, they already knew each other. Before meeting up in Miami, they had already spent endless hours playing Call of Duty: Warzone. Headsets on, they spent hours upon hours talking to each other. And they weren’t exactly killing each other in the video game, no, as ESPN detailed Allen always ditched whatever battle he was in to save Diggs.

Fast forward to January and there the two are — vs. the Indianapolis Colts — celebrating a touchdown with a freakishly choreographed celebration we’d all need four beers in our system to pull off.

They now treat NFL defenses like a video game.

Suffice to say, this is a much… much… much better relationship than Diggs ever had with Cousins. It’s not that their relationship was malignant in Minnesota — this was nothing like McNabb-T.O. back in the day — but Diggs’ personality just did not mesh with Cousins’ personality like it does Allen. Sources around the Vikings describe Cousins as more uptight, sensitive, robotic.

Adds Lofton, “No knock on Kirk Cousins but they give off a different vibe. His vibe matches Stefon Diggs’ vibe beat for beat.”

His relationship with Allen is straight out of a Disney movie and so is his relationship with his coaches. Communication, here, is constant. Hall still pushes Diggs to be vocal and, hey, there’s the entire receiving corps surprising Hall with a new truck. Hall used to drive to the office as fast as he could. Now? He’s taking an extra lap (or two) around the stadium before sliding into the parking lot. Nobody else has even been allowed to sit inside yet, too.

Hall sincerely doesn’t care what happened in Minnesota but this sure sounds like the exact opposite of an atmosphere.

“We have a really good relationship,” Hall says, “and I love him to death.”

Life is good for Stefon Diggs.

Life is good for everyone around Stefon Diggs.

The Baltimore Ravens land in Buffalo, NY soon.

The window

This franchise no longer expects the worst. Nobody in Western New York is bracing for a kick to sail wide or a lateral to spark a kick return. No longer are imposters sweeping into town and making promises they never keep.

Like Lofton says, it’s one thing for you to “say” they have to play us. It’s quite another to mean it.

And when left tackle Dion Dawkins declares that the Bills’ Super Bowl is the Super Bowl, he’s not pandering to his base for likes and retweets. He means it. This may all seem too good to be true — Hall even has a baby due right when this year’s Super Bowl will be played. But this is no dream. This is reality. The Bills, finally, are damn good and fully expect to beat any team they play.

Nobody in Buffalo feels cursed anymore.

And arguably the No. 1 reason for that seismic shift is Diggs.

Of course, the other reality is that you never know how long your Super Bowl window will stay open. The Bills are nestled in that sweet spot every organization craves — they’ve got a star quarterback on a rookie deal and have had the luxury of spending handsomely on just about whatever else they want. Their gamble on Diggs paid off, true, but listen closely and you’ll also hear echoes of “…just wait…” in Minnesota. His stats are through the roof. This team went a good two months without playing a close game. And Brian Daboll has been a magician of a playcaller who feeds Diggs the ball more than any OC feeds any receiver in the NFL.

Frankly, the Bills (and Diggs) have not faced much adversity this season.

What happens when Diggs has a reason to be upset? As one Vikings source puts, if Diggs is willing to put himself out there in Minnesota, why wouldn’t he in Buffalo? He sees a gigantic “Buyer Beware” sign flashing above Diggs’ head.

“If things go bad, is he going to be a good soldier?” the source says. “Or is he going to go out there and vocalize and be cryptic and send some shockwaves here and there and instigate things? He’s proven to be an instigator.”

This source does believe Diggs is self-aware enough to not ask for a new contract this coming offseason when he’ll still have three years to go on the five-year, $72 million pact he had signed with the Vikings. Buffalo also rewired that contract to get Diggs more money up front. Another source in Minnesota, however, guarantees Diggs will see that he’s the 15th-highest paid wide receiver (via Spotrac) and ask for a raise. Right now, this Bills roster is loaded with hungry players similar to the “Legion of Boom” Seahawks. Right now, that message of “We’re Buffalo. We’re f------ gonna win” is powerful, this source notes. Yet even as someone who agreed with Diggs’ intent, he believes Diggs’ temperamental side is still hibernating in there somewhere.

Thus, he believes there is a “zero percent chance” Diggs does not ask for a new deal.

You’d think Beane wouldn’t want to set the precedent that it’s OK for players to demand a new contract with three years left on their deal. Maybe he is able to convince Diggs to be a good Samaritan for one more year before revisiting his contract because, well, there’s also the matter of paying Josh Allen north of $35 million per season soon.

Not that anyone at One Bills Drive really gives a damn about any of this right now.

Right now, Daboll is the OC.

Right now, Allen and Diggs have something special.

Right now, Diggs loves Buffalo. There are no fake coughs during his press conferences here, no, he has praised the team and the city nonstop.

And Saturday night, the Ravens pose the toughest test yet for Diggs. No cornerbacks in the NFL have found a way to excel in this pass-happy league better than Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey. They’re mean. They’re nasty. Peters just might spit in your direction. Humphrey undoubtedly will talk trash directly in your earhole. Neither, ever, back down from a challenge.

They will not be scared of Stefon Diggs.

And if Diggs tries sticking a finger in Peters’ face, there’s a good chance Peters will tear the finger off.

So, I ask Lofton, how is this matchup going down on Saturday night.

He pauses for a moment.

“Who are they playing?” Lofton asks.

At which point, I’m a bit confused. Not only is Lofton a Bills legend. He also broadcasts NFL games nationally every week. Shouldn’t he… uh… know who’s playing who at this point?

Baltimore, I say.

“No,” Lofton says. “Baltimore is playing them. They’ve got to contend with Buffalo.”

Stefon Diggs is the reason why, too.