AFC East: Marv Levy

When former Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, he'll be joining several of his teammates, including quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas.

But it won't be a teammate who will present Reed at the ceremony. Instead, introducing Reed will be Marv Levy, who coached the Bills in each of their four Super Bowl appearances.

Levy, who was inducted into Canton in 2001, appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, along with Reed.

"Marv, I love you, man," Reed told Levy. "We were like family, and we know we wouldn’t be where we are without each other."

Reed's induction ceremony will be held Aug. 2.
The Buffalo Bills have struggled for so long that it's getting increasingly difficult to remember this was once the most dominant franchise in the AFC. At the head of Buffalo’s dominance was former Bills coach Marv Levy, who became the only coach to win four consecutive AFC Championship Games from 1990-93.

Many criticize Levy for never winning the big one. But Levy probably doesn't get enough credit for leading Buffalo to four straight AFC titles. As former Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly points out to ESPN.com, that feat hasn't happened since and probably will never happen again.

Levy remains one of the NFL's all-time great coaches despite his 0-4 record in Super Bowls. Levy came in at No. 17 Sunday on ESPN.com’s all-time coaching list, which is a fair placement.

A missed kick by Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV against the New York Giants may have put Levy higher on this list. Most of the coaches ranked above him have at least one championship. But that shouldn't completely overshadow Levy's consistency and immense playoff success. He led Buffalo to the playoffs in eight of his 11 seasons. For perspective, the Bills haven't made the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons, which is the longest drought in the NFL.

Many head coaches have come and gone with the Bills since Levy. But no one has come close to matching his accomplishments in Buffalo.
Buffalo Bills center Kent Hull died Tuesday at his home in Mississippi. He was a key figure on Buffalo's offensive line during the Bills multiple postseason runs in the 1990s.

Here are statements on Hull from Bills owner Ralph Wilson, former Buffalo coach Marv Levy and former teammate Jim Kelly:

Ralph Wilson
"I am so very saddened to hear of the passing of Kent Hull. Kent was a terrific player for us, who was often overshadowed by some of the bigger names we had in our Super Bowl years. But Kent was one of the key components of our team and of our high-powered offenses in the 90’s that enjoyed so much success. But he was so much more than just a good player on a good team. He was a great leader on and off the field and respected by everyone who knew him. He was a true gentleman who was as nice as anyone you’d ever want to meet and as tough as any player I’ve ever known. If you were lucky enough to have Kent as a friend, you had a cherished friend for life. This is a sad day for me and all of us in the Bills organization as well as all of our fans. I will miss Kent very much, but will always remember fondly the great man and great player that he was. I want to offer my deepest sympathies to his wife Kay and his entire family in this most difficult time."
Marv Levy
"Kent Hull was one of the most memorable players that I coached during my long 47-year career. He was one of the most outstanding young men I’ve ever known. Kent was a fantastic teammate and a great leader. He had outstanding ability and was a wonderful family man. Kent was revered by his teammates, coaches, all of the great Buffalo Bills fans and certainly by me."
Jim Kelly
"Words fall short when the pain runs so deep. I’m finding it hard to describe what this loss means to me and my family. Kent Hull was my best friend. A man of great courage, faith and character. He will be missed and never forgotten. My family and I will continue to pray for Kent’s wife Kay and his two children, Drew and Ellen as they grieve the loss of this great man."

Bills wrap reorganization with two hires

May, 11, 2011
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills haven't been to the playoffs in 11 years. They've had one winning season in that span.

"If you keep doing the same thing the same way and keep getting the same results every time," general manager Buddy Nix said Wednesday afternoon, "sometimes you need to make a change."

The Bills held a news conference to address changes to their front office, announcing they've hired Chuck Cook director of college scouting and Tom Gibbons director of pro personnel. Last week, the Bills fired vice president of college scouting Tom Modrak and gave assistant general manager Doug Whaley director of player personnel duties.

Cook comes to the Bills from the Miami Dolphins, where he was a regional scout since general manager Jeff Ireland took over in 2008. Cook was the Kansas City Chiefs' college scouting director from 1997 through 2007.

Nix knew Cook's father, long-time New Orleans Saints scout Hamp Cook, and tried to recruit the lad at Auburn. Cook went on to star at Southern Miss instead.

Gibbons, a native of suburban Dunkirk, N.Y., spent the past seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where he worked with Nix. Prior to that, Gibbons was with the Bills for 12 years as an administrative assistant and a college and pro scout under former general manager John Butler.

Nix said the moves will complete any offseason reorganization of the scouting department. Regional scout Rashaan Curry and college scouting administrator Michael LaFlamme recently departed, but the rest of the department will remain in place.

Many wondered about the timing of Modrak's dismissal, a week after what was widely considered a successful draft.

When asked why a switch wasn't made when Nix became GM after the 2009 season, Nix replied "I didn't know what to change."

Nix declined to get into specifics about the organization's decision to fire Modrak.

Modrak had become a pariah among Bills fans because he was the only football executive left from the Tom Donahoe era and spanned Marv Levy's brief stint as GM and a few head coaches.

"Tom's a great guy, did a lot better job than he got credit for," Nix said. "He made the statement one time, 'I'm an easy target. I'm the only one left standing.' "

Bills draft record not as bad as you think

April, 21, 2011
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Kyle Williams and Steve JohnsonUS PresswirePro Bowler Kyle Williams (left) and receiver Steve Johnson were both drafted in the later rounds.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills fans have pondered some persistent questions over the years.

How would life have changed if Scott Norwood made that kick?

What will happen to the team when Ralph Wilson passes away?

Was the Music City Miracle really a forward lateral?

How on earth does Tom Modrak still have a job?

Modrak is Buffalo's vice president of college scouting. Modrak, formerly a Pittsburgh Steelers scout during their Steel Curtain years and director of football operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, has held the Bills' top scouting job since May 2001 and worked his first draft for them in 2002.

In that time, the Bills' streak of seasons without a playoff appearance has extended to 11 and counting. Despite holding prime draft-order slots, they have repeatedly squandered them with maddening first-round decisions.

The list is enough to make the most optimistic Bills fan groan: pass-rusher Aaron Maybin (zero sacks) 11th overall instead of Brian Orakpo (19.5 sacks) two years ago; small-school cornerback Leodis McKelvin 11th overall instead of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady in 2008; safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in 2006 and then trading up for defensive tackle John McCargo; trading up for quarterback J.P. Losman in 2004; useless tackle Mike Williams fifth in 2002.

"Certainly we've had our misses up at the top," Modrak said Tuesday at a news conference to preview next week's draft. "We've done pretty well in the middle and at the end, the non-glamour kind of picks. But we've missed some. That is regrettable."

There are additional selections one can criticize: wide receiver James Hardy in the second round; running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though the Bills had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers already ...

[+] EnlargeTom Modrak
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDespite some high-profile misses, Tom Modrak's draftees have performed well on the whole.
OK. I'll stop now. That's enough to illustrate why there's frustration over Modrak and his scouting department's evaluation skills.

The fact Modrak joined the Bills to serve under former president Tom Donahoe -- an executive Wilson and Bills fans came to despise -- only adds to fascination of Modrak's continued employment.

Now that I've set the table, let's yank the tablecloth out from underneath the plasticware.

Data suggest the Bills haven't drafted much worse than the average NFL team since 2002.

ESPN researcher John Fisher -- he claims no relation to St. John Fisher, the namesake of the college where the Bills hold their training camp -- shuffled some spreadsheets and came up with some information that's not particularly damning when compared to the rest of the NFL.

  • The Bills have drafted five Pro Bowlers with Modrak in charge of scouting. That's tied for 14th in the league. One of those Pro Bowlers was Willis McGahee for the Baltimore Ravens, but Modrak was the chief scout who drafted him. What the Bills did with McGahee afterward that isn't his fault. Same goes for Marshawn Lynch.
  • Although a game started for the Bills isn't as impressive as a game started for the New England Patriots the past nine years, Bills draftees from the first through third rounds have started 804 games, 15th in the league.
  • Bills draftees from the fourth round or later have started 417 games, eighth in the league.
  • When it comes to individual statistics accumulated with the teams that drafted them, Bills taken from 2002 onward have ranked third in 1,000-yard rushing seasons, tied for seventh in 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 20th in total sacks and 19th in total interceptions.

While the Bills have missed badly on several of their prominent selections, they have done quite well in the latter part of the draft with gems such as cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round in 2003), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round in 2006), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round in 2008) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (seventh round in 2008).

Top running back Fred Jackson and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters -- traded to Philly two years ago -- weren't drafted at all.

"If you look at other teams, they do it. They miss at the top," Modrak said. "When you don't win, it's magnified. It looks bad.

"But I think from a strictly homer point-of-view [late-round success] is the work and the labor that goes into it and the detail that's paid to those kinds of things. That does not say that other teams don't do the same thing, but we have a good group, and we fortunately have done that."

The Bills have had some obvious blind spots in the draft.

A refusal to pick a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002 has hurt them. Peters' success as a converted tight end is a factor in that trend, but the Bills were having contract problems with him while he still was on the roster. Foresight would've been helpful. But that's an organizational philosophy more than Modrak's domain.

The Bills' track record at tight end is miserable, too. They've drafted five: Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Everett was the lone selection sooner than the fourth round. A broken neck while covering a kickoff on opening day in 2007 ended his career.

That tight end quintet has combined to score five NFL touchdowns. Of the 143 tight ends drafted since Modrak joined the Bills, 43 of them have scored more than five touchdowns individually.

Some might also say finding a quarterback has been a failure. Starting quarterbacks, however, aren't easy for any team to locate.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have been drafted within the first three rounds since 2002. The only three teams not included in this pursuit have been the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The Bills took two within the first three rounds, Losman 22nd overall in 2004 and Trent Edwards 92nd in 2007.

That league-wide group yielded nine Pro Bowlers, but just two of them -- 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers and third-rounder Matt Schaub -- weren't selected in the top 11. Rodgers and Schaub served as backups for three seasons before they became starters.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix explained that scouting is only one of three critical phases that determine whether a draft pick explodes or fizzles.

"You've got to pick the right guy," Nix said Tuesday. "He's got to have enough athletic ability and enough intelligence, production to do the job, which is what you spend the year doing. We're scouts and personnel guys.

"The second phase, now -- and don't make light of it because it's just as important -- is coaching, strength coaches, trainers. That's the second phase, and both of those things have to be in place. If not, the development of the guy is retarded.

"I'm not going to name teams, but you can name teams every year that get top guys and they don't get any better. They actually may go the other way, and it's the developmental part."

Chan Gailey is Buffalo's fourth head coach -- fifth if you count interim coach Perry Fewell -- since Modrak came aboard. Coordinators have passed through a revolving door. The Bills also have overhauled their strength and conditioning program a couple times.

Nix then stressed that even if the precisely correct draft choice is made and the proper infrastructure is in place, a third phase still can torpedo development. The player can ruin his future if he's "not willing to be a professional and do everything it takes."

"You can go back and look at the so-called busts, and it's one of these three phases," Nix said. "You've got to have it all for them to be really good.

"So even though we put it all on one thing -- 'That was a terrible draft. That was a bust. Those idiots don't know.' -- that's just about a third of it."

Another element that must be considered when discussing Buffalo drafts is the question of who makes the final pick.

Nix and Gailey have been clear Nix makes the final call, although Wilson still can exercise his ownership privilege.

Before Nix became GM last year, trying to decipher who was to credit or blame for a Bills draft choice was like a "Three Stooges" scene. The irate boss hears a commotion, storms into the room and asks "Say! What's the wise idea? Who did this?" Moe pointed at Larry. Curly pointed at Moe. Larry pointed at Curly.

Modrak has been a constant since 2002, but there have been many voices in the Bills' draft room in that period, from Donahoe to GM Marv Levy to chief operating officer Russ Brandon to the various opinionated head coaches who lobbied for prospects they hotly desired.

The Bills' scouting department clearly needs to step its game up to help turn around the franchise. They'll never be the kind of team that lures top free agents because of their market conditions. Buffalo simply isn't as sexy as Miami or San Diego or New York and doesn't offer a perennial chance to win like New England or Pittsburgh does.

But, believe it or not, the Bills' drafts could have been substantially worse since Modrak arrived.

Canton must wait for Reed and Martin

February, 5, 2011
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Andre Reed and Curtis Martin received bad news about their Pro Football Hall of Fame bids.

Reed and Martin were among the 15 finalists for induction, but neither AFC East star made the cut Saturday when the next induction class was determined.

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
US PresswireAndre Reed has been a finalist five times but the former Buffalo receiver will have to wait to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The 2011 class includes running back Marshall Faulk, tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive end Richard Dent cornerback Deion Sanders and NFL Films patriarch Ed Sabol. Senior nominees headed to Canton are linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.

Reed has been a finalist five times. For the second year in a row, the Buffalo Bills legend finished ahead of Cris Carter and Tim Brown in the selection process, which pares down the group of finalists from 15 to 10. Reed made the top 10, while Carter and Brown did not.

But Reed didn't make the next cut to five. That's the group the selection committee makes a final yea or nay vote on, with 80 percent agreement required for induction. The committee approved all five.

Reed will have to wait to join his former teammates already honored in Canton: quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, receiver James Lofton, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy.

Reed made 951 catches for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns and played in four consecutive Super Bowls. He's known as one of the best yards-after-catch receivers in NFL history, perhaps second to only Jerry Rice, and among the grittiest over-the-middle threats.

Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler. He posted 13 seasons with at least 50 receptions, tied for second all-time. He's tied for third in postseason history with five 100-yard games. His 85 postseason receptions rank third.

Martin, a star running back with the New England Patriots and New York Jets, was on the ballot for the first time. His former coach, Bill Parcells, advocated Martin be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Martin ranks fourth in all-time rushing yardage behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, a pretty good crew -- if you're into that kind of thing.

Martin rushed for 14,101 yards and scored an even 100 touchdowns, 90 on the ground and 10 more off catches. He ran for 1,000 yards in 10 straight seasons, the second-longest streak in league history. Martin was the 1995 offensive rookie of the year and made five Pro Bowl rosters.

Carter was another Hall of Fame finalist with an AFC East connection, albeit barely. Carter finished his career with the Miami Dolphins, catching eight passes over five games in 2002. His 130th and final touchdown was with Miami.

That gave every AFC East club a link to Saturday's selection process.

Polian bangs drum for more Bills in Canton

February, 4, 2011
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Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre ReedGetty ImagesJim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed were key cogs in four Bills Super Bowl teams put together by former Bills GM Bill Polian.
Can a team put too many players into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Bill Polian doesn't think so.

Polian assembled the Buffalo Bills teams that went to four straight Super Bowls. Five members of those teams already have bronze busts in Canton: quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, receiver James Lofton, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy. Bills owner Ralph Wilson has been enshrined, too.

"It seems like every second or third year somebody gets inducted into the Hall of Fame and we have a reunion and get to reflect on it," Polian told me Thursday night. "It's a big family that has stuck together and still stays in touch.

"It's a blessing. To be associated with guys like that? It's a special, special group."

Polian insisted more Bills belong in the Hall of Fame and is bothered that wide receiver Andre Reed hasn't gotten in yet. Reed could get the Canton call Saturday. He is among the 15 finalists who will be evaluated by the selection committee for five openings on the 2011 class.

"It's shocking to me that he's not viewed as a shoo-in Hall of Famer," Polian said. "Andre Reed was our biggest big-play player on a team that went to four Super Bowls. How he could not be included in the Hall of Fame when he's one of two guys who dominated is beyond me.

"Go with the facts. Don't go with perception. Go with reality because if you go with reality, you have to say Andre Reed belongs, without question. To me, it's just baffling."

That would give the Bills five Hall of Famers who played or coached all four Super Bowl teams. Lofton played on only three of them. Bills owner Ralph Wilson also has been inducted.

Put that group up against the New England Patriots, who won three Super Bowls in four years.

"The teams are comparable," Polian said.

There aren't that many slam-dunks from all three of New England's championship rosters.

Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are surefire Hall of Famers. Beyond that, Adam Vinatieri has a strong case for his heroics, but there are no guarantees for kickers. Jan Stenerud is the only Hall of Fame kicker or punter. Maybe defensive end Richard Seymour or cornerback Ty Law will be considered.

Beyond that, much of the Patriots' roster was comprised of semi-stars such as linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, who went to one Pro Bowl apiece, and transients.

That the 1990s Bills will send more players to Canton than the 2000s Patriots is fascinating to me. It shows how incredible the Patriots have been at navigating free agency and the draft to maintain a consistent winner with a fluctuating roster -- and how truly magnificent that collection of talent was for Buffalo.

"That'll never happen again," Reed told me last week. "You won't see an assemblage of players like that -- at least not in Buffalo. I know that."

Bill Polian
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesFormer Bills GM Bill Polian thinks seven players from Buffalo's 1990s Super Bowl teams should be Hall-of-Famers.
Those Bills teams also featured offensive linemen Kent Hull and Jim Ritcher, linebackers Cornelius Bennett, Shane Conlan and Darryl Talley and special-teams star Steve Tasker.

Polian is an advocate of Tasker's induction into Canton, too.

"Steve Tasker was, pound-for-pound, the greatest special-teams player ever to play," Polian said. "If you value special teams, then Steve Tasker belongs in the Hall of Fame. I am also an unabashed Ray Guy fan.

"I've seen every player that's played in this game since 1977, and I can tell you Ray Guy literally changed the game -- as did Steve Tasker."

So that would make at least seven Hall of Famers from the 1990s Bills if Polian had his way.

When you consider how much talent Polian gathered with the Bills -- and his success with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts since then -- there's no way you can't consider Polian himself.

But for now, Andre Reed is on deck.

"Andre is clearly, clearly, clearly deserving to be inducted," Polian said. "By any measure in the era he played, Andre Reed is a Hall of Famer."

Andre Reed has strong Hall of Fame case

February, 2, 2011
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Andre ReedUS PRESSWIREFormer Bills receiver Andre Reed finished his career with 951 catches for 13,198 yards and 87 TDs.
Receptions come a lot cheaper these days.

The game has changed, and all you need for proof is a glance at Paul Warfield's career stats. He caught more than 50 passes once. He gained more than 1,000 yards once. In some of his Pro Bowl seasons, his numbers wouldn't have justified a roster spot in your 10-team fantasy league.

Yet Warfield is considered one the most dangerous receivers NFL history, a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"Our game is beginning to resemble baseball in which everyone is looking at numbers," Warfield said this week from his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "Numbers tell the story to a degree, but I like to look at one's full body of work.

"I'm from the old-school generation. You might be termed a wide receiver, but you should be a football player first."

Steve Largent is another example of how stats don't quantify a receiver's worth like they used to. Largent retired after the 1989 season as the NFL's all-time leading receiver with 819 catches. He, too, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Twenty-one years later, Largent ranks 20th in receptions behind such names as Derrick Mason, Torry Holt, Keenan McCardell, Muhsin Muhammad and fullback Larry Centers.

In 1985, only four players had caught 600 passes. The list is 55 players long now.

"It doesn't necessarily undermine a player's ability to get into the Hall of Fame because he had great stats or doesn't have great stats," Largent said Monday from his office in Washington D.C. "You're looking for a guy who was the total package."

With that in mind, you might consider Andre Reed's stats if you choose when deciding if he belongs in the Hall of Fame. They're sterling -- if a little outdated and discounted by time.

To both Largent and Warfield and other legendary receivers, Reed qualifies for Canton without even looking at the numbers.

"I saw the value Reed had to that team not only as a receiver, but also as a leader," Largent said. "There are some attributes you don't keep statistics of, but you become aware of as one player watching another play the game."

Reed is Largent's "total package" and Warfield's unequivocal embodiment of "football player."

"It's long overdue for Andre," Warfield said.

Reed is among the 15 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists who will learn Saturday whether they will be included in this year's induction class.

The star Buffalo Bills receiver has been a finalist five times. There's a belief this year offers his best chance yet. In previous years, he has shared the ballot with at least one receiver who took precedence because they were icons (Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin) or had been waiting longer (Art Monk).

Reed could become the sixth Hall of Famer from a team that went to four straight Super Bowls but failed to win one.

Already enshrined are Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy. Wide receiver James Lofton also is in Canton, but he didn't play on all four Super Bowl teams, and is more closely associated with the Green Bay Packers.

"I was a part of something special, and I'll take that to my grave," said Reed, 47. "We were a family. But the Hall of Fame, I don't know how I would react. It would be a validation of your work and what you did.

"Hopefully on Saturday I can be in that fraternity with them, but every year it's a tough ballot."

The other finalists include running backs Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, receivers Tim Brown and Cris Carter, tight end Shannon Sharpe, center Dermontti Dawson, tackle Willie Roaf, defensive ends Richard Dent, Charles Haley and Chris Doleman, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, cornerback Deion Sanders and NFL Films patriarch Ed Sabol.

The Hall of Fame's 44-member selection committee will decide Saturday. The group includes NFL writers, one representative per franchise, 11 at-large voters and one from the Pro Football Writers Association. The committee will pare the group of 15 finalists down to 10 and then to five. At that point, a vote will be held, with 80 percent agreement needed for induction.

Up to five modern-era candidates may be elected each year. First-time nominees Faulk and Sanders are virtual locks to get inducted. That leaves three spots available for Reed and the other finalists to get in.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan will make the case for Reed's induction. It's a compelling one.

"He certainly had a great career, one of the great clutch receivers," Warfield said. "He was consistent, one Jim Kelly could always go to and always find open in a situation where they're trying to make a big play. He's an all-encompassing receiver."

Reed was third on the NFL's all-time receptions list when he retired after the 2000 season with 951 catches, behind only Rice and Carter. Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a superstar on a team that won four conference championships in a row.

"He was as dangerous a receiver as there is," former Bills quarterback Frank Reich said. "Versus press coverage, he was almost impossible to stop, coming off the ball. We always felt if they tried to play tight man on Andre it didn't matter who was guarding him. Any shutdown corner in the league in press coverage, Andre was going to beat him."

Reed was a force on the big stage. In 19 postseason games he had 85 receptions for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns. He didn't score any Super Bowl touchdowns, but he did have 27 receptions for 323 yards.

In the Bills' epic comeback against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 postseason, he made eight catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns.

Reed is known as tremendously durable. He played 253 games, counting playoffs. He often darted into traffic to make plays in a crowd of defenders.

"No fear," Reich said.

Reed was one the greatest ever when it came to yards after the catch, second perhaps only to Rice.

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
US PresswireAndre Reed, on playing for the Bills: "I was a part of something special, and I'll take that to my grave,"
"Most people that were on that team or played against us will remember how explosive he was in run-after-the-catch," said Reich, now Peyton Manning's position coach with the Indianapolis Colts. "He rivaled Jerry Rice in that category. Like Jerry Rice, his 40 time was good and probably not great. But there was nobody faster with the ball in his hands."

What put Reed's production in even greater context is a closer look at Buffalo's offense in the 1990s.

Many fans, even those who closely followed the Bills then, recall a prolific aerial attack. They remember Kelly running the no-huddle, K-Gun offense and slinging the ball all over the field to Reed and Lofton.

As Gaughan will point out again Saturday, the Bills ranked 17th in passing offense throughout Reed's career. In Reed's six prime seasons from 1988 through 1993, the Bills passed 51 percent of the time. By comparison, the Washington Redskins' famed "Hogs" offense passed 50 percent of the time when Monk was there.

Reed didn't have much receiving help either. He played with Lofton for four seasons, but Lofton was 33 years old when he joined Buffalo. In 1988, for instance, Reed's second and third receivers were Trumaine Johnson and Chris Burkett.

So far, the chief impediment for Reed's induction hasn't been his resume, but the other names on the ballot.

A wide receiver has been inducted each of the past four years, and in seven classes out of the past decade.

Gaughan noted there is room in Canton for at least two more receivers from the 1990s. A breakdown of membership shows seven receivers who predominantly played in the 1960s, four from 1970s, four from the 1980s and two from the 1990s.

Reed, Carter and Brown are the worthiest receiver candidates to join Rice and Irvin from that decade.

There's a velvet rope. This is Reed's fifth year as a finalist. Carter has been a finalist four times, Brown twice.

Reed apparently jockeyed to the head of the receiver line last year. In the selection process, Carter and Brown didn't make the top-10 stage, but Reed did.

That development has raised Reed's hopes for 2011.

"I'll be more nervous because of the way the voting went last year," Reed said. "I feel I'm more deserving of it. It was pretty close. The anticipation is enhanced this year."

But there are no guarantees. Several legendary receivers have waited longer than five years to get the Canton call. Don Maynard, John Stallworth and Monk got in on their eighth time as finalists. Lynn Swann was a finalist 14 times. The Seniors Committee was necessary to induct Bob Hayes 34 years after his last NFL game.

Reed admitted he has fantasized about the phone call too many times to count. He's even tried to research the moment.

"I've talked to a bunch of Hall of Famers who say when they get the call they're at a loss for words," said Reed, who plays a lot of golf and sells his own line of barbeque sauce in the San Diego area. "They don't know how to react.

"I'll just have to wait and see."

And hopefully not have to wait some more.

Titans eyeballing former Bills head coaches

February, 2, 2011
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Should Dick Jauron be sitting next to his phone?

He might want to be on the lookout for a 615 area code on his caller ID.

The Tennessee Titans apparently are gathering former Buffalo Bills head coaches for a job fair.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter report the Titans plan to interview ex-Bills head coaches Mike Mularkey and Gregg Williams for their head vacancy.

The Titans have received permission from the Atlanta Falcons to interview Mularkey, their offensive coordinator. The Titans already have scheduled a Thursday interview with Williams, the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator.

Multiple sources also report the Titans plan to meet with New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who served as Buffalo's interim head coach in 2009.

Jauron is the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator now, but why not interview him for a promotion, too?

Mularkey and Williams haven't been head coaches since they left the Bills.

They also are Buffalo's last two head coaches to post non-losing records.

Williams went 17-31 in three seasons. His best year was 8-8 in 2003. He was fired and replaced with Mularkey in 2004.

Mularkey then guided Buffalo to its only winning season in the past 11 years, a 9-7 record and one game out of the playoffs.

Mularkey went 5-11 in his second season and resigned in a bizarre sequence of events. The Bills fired president Tom Donahoe and brought in former coach Marv Levy as general manager. The Bills held a news conference to announce Mularkey would be retained as head coach, but later that day he announced his resignation.

Canton awaits Andre Reed eventually

August, 6, 2010
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Andre Reed knew this wasn't going to be the year he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were eligible for the first time, and both were no-brainers. Space is limited in each class, and the voters weren't going to induct two receivers.

But Reed views 2010 as a step in the right direction. The legendary Buffalo Bills receiver won't get into the Hall of Fame this weekend, but he's walking up the front steps.

[+] EnlargeAndre Reed
US PresswireAndre Reed finished his playing career with 951 receptions.
Reed this year finished among the 17 semifinalists a fourth time. Although the board of selectors didn't vote to enshrine him this year, he finished in the top 10, something he'd never done before.

"My phone was blowing up when we got to the final 10," Reed recalled of the selection process, which concludes Super Bowl weekend. "I hadn't gotten to the final 10 yet. You're only a stone's throw away then."

He also received more votes than Cris Carter for the first time, indicating Reed's candidacy is on the rise.

Reed's case is an interesting one that has been explored on this blog before. When the seven-time Pro Bowler retired in 2000, he ranked third all-time with 951 receptions. He has slid to eighth and probably will drop out of the top 10 this year. Randy Moss, Torry Holt and Hines Ward are closing in.

"That's just how it is," Reed said. "A lot of guys are going to have a lot of catches. The game has changed. Now it's pass to set up the run. Before it was run to set up the pass. But maybe catches won't be as much of a factor. It'll be how many championships, how many times did you go to the Super Bowl? It'll be more team-oriented because anybody can catch 800 balls nowadays.

"In 1989, I caught 88 balls. That was a career year. These guys are catching 100 balls left and right now. Wes Welker had 100 balls three years in a row. Is Wes Welker going to be a Hall of Famer? I don't know. It's an accomplishment to catch 100 balls a year, but ...

"Keyshawn Johnson caught 800 balls, but nobody really talks about him. Great receiver, but do you put him in? Steve Smith? Keenan McCardell? Those guys are on the wayside."

Reed was the best receiver on a team that won an unprecedented four consecutive conference titles. The Bills couldn't manage to win one Super Bowl, but that hasn't barred Reed's teammates from the Hall of Fame.

Twenty years from now there likely will be more inductees from the Bills of the 1990s than the New England Patriots of the 2000s. Already in are quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy. So is James Lofton, who spent four seasons with Buffalo.

"I played in the best era of wide receivers ever, if you ask me," Reed said. "All the guys that are in my era are Hall of Famers. The next group of guys will be Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss.

"They'll be arguing about those guys, but it'll be a different argument because of how the game has evolved."

While folks are formulating those arguments, Reed is content to wait his turn.

"I'm humbled by it," he said. "I don't trip and say 'Aw, man!' If it's going to happen, it's not on my time. It's on somebody else's.

"My friends and family are more upset about it that I am. When it's my time, it's my time."

Bills better off if Aaron Schobel stays away

July, 30, 2010
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Aaron Schobel's status with the Buffalo Bills is a lot like "Passions," a soap opera nobody cares to follow.

But it's a storyline, and it's happening.

[+] EnlargeAaron Schobel
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesThe Bills would be better off if Aaron Schobel did not rejoin the team, even though the nine-year veteran has 78 sacks.
Schobel, a pass-rusher who has been selected for two Pro Bowls, can't seem to decide whether he wants to keep playing football. He said in June he was leaning toward retirement. Now signs point to his possible return a week or so into training camp.

Yay for Buffalo, right?

I don't see it that way. If I'm the Bills' front office, I'd rather Schobel stay away at this point. And maybe that's why Schobel is changing his mind. Perhaps it's a cute ploy to force the Bills into a trade.

Either way, the Bills would be better off without him.

Yes, Schobel would improve Buffalo's defense. Every team could use a pass-rusher. He has recorded 78 sacks in nine NFL seasons.

But the circumstances make him not worth it. Buffalo is in a rebuilding phase. Schobel would receive a base salary of roughly $6 million this year if he plays. His cap hit is about $8.3 million, highest on the team.

Schobel will be 33 years old in September and has earned a certain degree of respect, but do the Bills, who are trying to lay a new foundation, need a player who didn't commit himself to work alongside his teammates for several months?

He missed every offseason workout, including mandatory minicamp. He has been a 4-3 defensive end his entire career, but the Bills have switched to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chan Gailey and new coordinator George Edwards.

Jason Taylor, a player who has accomplished substantially more than Schobel, drew the ire of new Miami Dolphins boss Bill Parcells in 2008 for choosing not to participate in offseason workouts following a 1-15 season. Parcells wanted to establish a new culture and eventually catapulted Taylor off the roster, trading him to the Washington Redskins for a second-round draft pick.

Edwards was Miami's inside linebackers coach at the time.

If Schobel isn't bluffing about a return to Buffalo, there's no telling what kind of shape he would report in. He hasn't been working out under the watch of Buffalo's new strength-and-conditioning crew.

Buffalo's legendary coach, Marv Levy, once noted that when a player starts thinking about retirement he already has retired. I have a hard time imagining that a man leaning toward retirement pushed himself to stay in top shape.

Plus, there's no guarantee Schobel will return next year either. The Bills could bring back Schobel for a season in which they finish fourth and then watch him walk away in 2011 with $6 million of their money and nothing to show for it.

Save the cash and give the snaps to younger players who want to be around for a while.

Big Question: Parcells or Belichick?

June, 8, 2010
6/08/10
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» NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Who will be remembered as the greater coach, Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells?

The passing of basketball legend John Wooden got me thinking about the great coaches in AFC East history. Don Shula is at the top. Weeb Ewbank and Marv Levy also are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargeBelichick/Parcells
Al Bello/Getty Images Bill Belichick has a better winning percentage, but does that make him a better coach than Bill Parcells?
But there are two legends not yet eligible for enshrinement because they're still working in the AFC East.

And that led me to wonder, 15 years from now, whether Parcells or Belichick will be known as the finer football mind.

Their résumés are difficult to compare. Parcells has been a restless vagabond who seemingly can overhaul any abomination, while Belichick has been an exemplar of stability.

Parcells won two Super Bowls as head coach of the New York Giants and took the New England Patriots to the big game. He had a successful stay with the Dallas Cowboys and has been an influential personnel man with the New York Jets and now with the Miami Dolphins.

As Miami's football operations boss, he took over a 1-15 team and turned it into a division champion within a year. While his previous turnarounds weren't as dramatic as that, what he did with the Jets, Patriots and Cowboys was admirable.

Parcells' career head-coaching record is 172-130-1 for a .570 winning percentage.

Belichick deserves partial credit for Parcells' success. Every time Parcells went to a Super Bowl, Belichick was his defensive coordinator or assistant head coach.

On his own, Belichick won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and nearly closed out the NFL's most dominant season in 2007 with a fourth ring. He has overseen New England's football operations since he took over the job in 2001.

Belichick's career head-coaching record is 148-92-0 for a .617 winning percentage.

Of course, Belichick's legacy will be marked by the video-taping scandal that ensnared the team three years ago. The Patriots still almost ran the table after that. And Jets fans might hold it against Belichick that he rebuffed them to become head coach of the Patriots.

My selection is Belichick based on the number of Lombardi Trophies and the fact that without his work as defensive coordinator, nobody can say for sure Parcells still would have won his pair.

True, you can argue it's easy to run a defense with a revolutionary defender like Lawrence Taylor running amok, but that's how Parcells won his Super Bowls, too.

Some also might argue Belichick has been carried by Tom Brady, while Parcells has won with a variety of quarterbacks. Belichick did win 11 games with Matt Cassel two seasons ago, and Belichick shouldn't be punished in this debate for managing to remain in one place longer than four seasons, something Parcells has done just once.

But this question is open for debate, and I fully expect some animated comments below.

AFC East wire: Pats don't need Dez Bryant

May, 4, 2010
5/04/10
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New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Video: Jags not paying Patriots respect

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
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"SportsCenter" checks in with Associated Press reporter Mark Long and the Boston Globe's Albert Breer to preview Sunday's significant AFC showdown between the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. You Bills fans might want to click on the video for no other reason than to see the Marv Levy Coors Light commercial. Sorry. Makes me laugh.

Take your pick: Belichick or Polian?

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
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Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire; Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
Who would you rather have running your team: Bill Polian or Bill Belichick?


The running debate every time the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts centers on the two great quarterbacks of this generation and which one you'd rather have to run your offense.

But what about the bigger picture?

Sunday's game in Lucas Oil Stadium also will be a rematch of organizational masterminds bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Colts president Bill Polian are among the all-time best franchise managers.

If given a choice between the two, which would you rather have running your club?

Here are some notes to help you decide:

Bill Belichick
Bill Polian
  • 22 seasons as general manager or president (Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Colts)
  • Regular-season record: 222-137 (.618)
  • Regular-season record minus start-up seasons: 207-89 (.699)
  • Playoff record: 16-14 (.533)
  • Four Super Bowls
  • One championship
  • 11 division titles
  • Key moves: Hired head coaches Marv Levy in Buffalo and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. ... Drafted Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas in the second round. ... Traded for Cornelius Bennett. ... Drafted quarterback Peyton Manning first overall, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders.

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