Give peace a chance
Bills end QB soap opera by deciding on Johnson
Updated: Thursday March 01, 2001 7:39 AM
In announcing the decision Wednesday, Bills general manager and president Tom Donahoe was relieved the month-long selection process was over.
"We weighed everything we could weigh ... and when we put it all together, it wasn't just one factor that came up," said Donahoe. "We felt that Rob Johnson was the best quarterback, and we wanted to pick the best quarterback for our future."
Donahoe hoped the announcement would end the long-brewing controversy that divided the fans and the team over the past three seasons.
But he acknowledged that it might not end the second-guessing.
"We know that today's decision may not be a popular one with our fans. But our responsibility as an organization is not necessarily to make the popular decisions, but to make the right decisions," Donahoe said.
The move comes as the salary-cap-strapped Bills are in the process of having to cut almost $8 million off their payroll in time for Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline. Last week, the team lopped about $7 million from its payroll by releasing three players, including three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Ted Washington.
The Bills will save about $3 million in cap dollars by cutting Flutie, about $1.4 million more than they would have saved by cutting Johnson, who has two years left on his contract.
Donahoe added that he plans to make two more cuts, including releasing veteran long-snapper Ethan Albright.
Donahoe stressed that salary, age and size were not the critical criteria in the decision.
"It was not based on age. It was not based on size. It was not based on how much of a hit we will take on the salary cap. It was based solely on which quarterback was best suited to lead this football team," said Donahoe.
Flutie, 37, is 10 years older, six inches shorter and about 30 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Johnson.
Neither Flutie nor Johnson was immediately available for comment. The Bills said Johnson will talk about the decision during a conference call on Thursday.
Also involved in the selection process were new coach Gregg Williams, offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard, quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe and team owner Ralph Wilson. Along with interviewing both quarterbacks, the group consulted about 50 people within the organization and around the NFL.
Flutie went 21-9 as a starter with the Bills, and was one of the team's most popular players.
Johnson is considered to have the much stronger arm, and he is considered to have the prototypical build of a potential star quarterback.
Johnson, 8-10 in his 18 starts in Buffalo, has had his drawbacks.
Johnson's health has been an issue. He was knocked out of four of his 11 starts last season. And he had trouble getting rid of the ball quickly, getting sacked 49 times last season, once for every seven times he dropped back to pass.
Coach Williams, who took over following Wade Phillips' dismissal in January, said Johnson was ideally suited for the aggressive and timing-sensitive West Coast offense that he's introducing to the team.
"We've got the right guy for this offense. He can make all the throws. He's mobile," Williams said.
As for Johnson's deficiencies, Williams said he is confident they can be corrected through coaching.
Williams, hired Feb. 1, was especially pleased that he won't have to deal with the divisions that the two created. "There is no more controversy. The locker room is unified," he said.