- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Now don't get me wrong about Jim Kelly, Bill Polian and Marv Levy. They're good people. They've brought the Buffalo Bills to near the top of the NFL. But that's where Buffalo is going to stay—near, not at, the top—unless some personality problems are ironed out.
Kelly is a tough, courageous quarterback who should have the fans eating out of his hands, but he says things that get people mad at him. Some of his teammates went public with their displeasure last year, and that got the fans stirred up. Polian, the general manager, got mad at the media in December for "their negative, self-fulfilling prophecies that the season was over." So he told them, " Jim Kelly's still the quarterback, and Ted Marchibroda's still the offensive coordinator, and Marv Levy's still the head coach. And if you don't like it, get out of town." Practices were closed. This season the locker room will be closed during the week. Right, fellas, if the news is bad, shoot the messengers. And give your quarterback a $20 million contract.
Levy is an extremely able coach and a nice guy, so nice that he doesn't want to hear about these kinds of distractions. The same thing happened to him in Kansas City. There were internal conflicts. He chose to stonewall them. They wouldn't go away, but he did. Levy was fired.
Despite all this, the Bills will be up there again. They can't help it. The AFC East is a steal. Buffalo has some neat offensive weapons: Andre Reed, who has emerged as one of the game's finest wideouts; Thurman Thomas, a tough little back who has played himself groggy every afternoon, and Kelly. The defense slipped in 1989, though, from fourth in the NFL in '88 to 11th. Left linebacker Cornelius Bennett, playing hurt and playing within the scheme, has never fulfilled the promise he showed as a wild, sack-happy rookie in 1987. Right end Bruce Smith, once the highest-paid defender in football, has amazing pass-rush techniques—and amazingly bad technique against the run. Shane Conlan, the Pro Bowl inside linebacker, can't seem to go through a season uninjured. The best defensive player last year was the most underrated, right linebacker Darryl Talley.
Buffalo drafted a wing-footed (4.29 in the 40) cornerback, J.D. Williams, in the first round, but it's questionable as to whether he will be an immediate starter. Still, the Bills should be the division's best, which is like being the best-hitting pitcher in baseball.
The wideouts were hurt, the defense collapsed, the offensive line couldn't knock anybody off the ball, quarterback Ken O'Brien became a basket case and the NEW YORK JETS slumped to their worst record, 4-12, in nine years. Heads hung low. The locker room was filled with mistrust. Coach Joe Walton was fired.
Bruce Coslet is the new coach, with a new staff, and the training camp was all smiles and handclapping: Let's go get 'em, gang! O'Brien taped an interview that was shown on TV at halftime of the Raiders-Saints preseason game. He was asked about Coslet.
"He's a hands-on type of guy," O'Brien said. "He gets on the field.... He shows you.... He's got a sense of humor, too."
Less than a minute later Houston quarterback Warren Moon was asked about his new coach, Jack Pardee, who replaced Jerry Glanville. "Jerry was more hands-on," Moon said. "Very boisterous...into every drill. Jack is more businesslike."
The message is, It isn't how you do it, it's what you do.