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Saturday, August 8, 2009
Patriot champs won't catch '90s Bills in Canton


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills of the 1990s, those woebegone losers of four straight Super Bowls, are forming a squadron of Pro Football Hall of Famers.

 
  Ron Vesely/Getty Images
  Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas are two of five Bills from the 1990s who are Hall of Famers.

Defensive end Bruce Smith will be inducted Saturday night, giving those Super Bowl teams five representatives so far. Previously minted were quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, receiver James Lofton and head coach Marv Levy.

Wide receiver Andre Reed likely will join them (after a long wait). With enough support, special-teams stalwart Steve Tasker eventually could get in, too.

"It really shows you that people understand what we did, what we accomplished," Kelly said Friday at the McKinley Hotel. "What we accomplished is amazing."

Compare that haul with other clubs that won multiple Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four in the 1970s and have sent 10, and some critics say that's too many.

In January, I noted how relatively few players from the New England Patriots' three championship squads will get in. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are locks. Who's a shoo-in after that?

Rodney Harrison's candidacy will be debated. He was a great player, but only six-full time safeties ever have made it into Canton. Maybe Corey Dillon, Richard Seymour or Ty Law has an outside shot. Adam Vinatieri's heroics might not be enough. Only one kicker, Jan Stenerud, has been inducted.

No matter how much Patriot Nation loves Tedy Bruschi, he's not getting in.

Randy Moss and Junior Seau will get inducted, but they didn't play on any of New England's title teams.

"There's so much emphasis on winning Super Bowls, but it's what it takes to get there, too," Kelly said. "Sure, it's easy for me to say that because I didn't win one, but we didn't take the easy road. We took the long road many times, including the Comeback Game when Frank [Reich] was quarterback.

"There's no doubt more people are admiring what we accomplished during those days. They start really saying 'Wow' that we were able to get back there, especially since we lost. It would have been easy for us to not quite work as hard next time, to say 'Maybe it wasn't meant to be' after the second year and then the third year and then being able to do it four years in a row. Sometimes it amazes myself that we were able to keep together and pull together.

"For us, just getting over that one hump ... People talk about the dynasty of the Patriots," Kelly said. "Remember, they won two Super Bowls by a last-second kick. If we had one go through, who knows what would have happened?"