Friday, January 28, 2011

Opining on Bills draft, Scott Norwood's helmet, sports tweets and Syracuse hoops

This kind of puts Jeff Fisher's longevity as Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans coach in perspective: Since Fisher became coach during the 1994 season, the Bills have had six different head coaches. (Marv Levy, Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey) How's that for stability and instability?


I’ve been perusing a lot of different mock drafts lately and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus about whom the Bills will take with the third pick this April, if there is a draft.

Given their pathetic run defense, I would like to see Buffalo choose space-eating Auburn tackle Nick Fairley to clog up the middle. But some have Fairley going No. 1 overall to Carolina. However, if the Panthers decide to pick Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Fairley could drop into the Bills laps.

Interestingly, some mocks also have the Bills taking Gabbert, who gets the nod in most scouts’ eyes over Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. Gabbert is 6-foot-5, 235 pounds with a howitzer arm and good mobility. But it will take time for him to make the transition from Missouri’s spread offense to the pro-style attack. The nice thing, of course, is that the Bills already have a stop-gap QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gabbert won’t have to be rushed.

My only concern is that Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have to be dead certain Gilbert is going to be a franchise quarterback. The Bills can ill afford another wasted first-round pick as was the case with rob Johnson and J.P. Losman. If they aren’t absolutely certain about Gabbert, they need to take a defensive stud like Fairley or Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers or trade down a few spots and add picks.


Yesterday, of course, was the 20th anniversary of one of the most compelling events I’ve ever covered – Super Bowl XXV between the Bills and Giants in Tampa. I wrote a detailed remembrance of it for the Messenger-Post newspapers (Check out this Sunday’s Canandaigua Messenger sports section.)

The game got me to thinking about Greg Tranter, the Jim Kelly of Bills memorabilia collectors. Among his prized possessions is the helmet worn by Scott Norwood when he missed the potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XXV. The red helmet includes the kicker’s autograph, career statistics and the two most painful words in Bills history – “Wide Right.” Tranter says it is the only time Norwood has inscribed that phrase on anything.

The Massachusetts resident paid $5,000 in an auction for the helmet. Most Bills fans would like to take a sledge hammer to it because they see it as a symbol of the most difficult moment in Buffalo sports history. Tranter understands those emotions, but the self-proclaimed history buff also realizes that the helmet is one of the most important artifacts in team annals.

His dream is to open a Buffalo sports history museum – a dream he’s actively pursuing with Michael Weekes. And that is why when Tranter learned that Norwood’s helmet was up for grabs this spring, he was compelled to aggressively pursue it.
“Yes, it represents a painful moment, but if you are to tell the true history of Buffalo sports, you just have to have it,’’ he says. “It represents not just one of the most significant moments in Bills history, but in the history of the NFL. (Adam) Vinatieri’s kicks were to win or tie – if he missed, the game goes into overtime. If Jim O’Brien misses his kick in Super Bowl V, the game goes into overtime. But Norwood’s kick was a win-or-lose situation. Unfortunately for us, it was a lose-situation.”


I can appreciate why Jim Boeheim would be upset with people saying his Orange men “quit” in their 22-point blowout loss to a mediocre Seton Hall club in the Dome the other night.

“Quit” like “choke” is one of those fighting words no competitor wants to hear. But regardless the description you choose, Syracuse certainly didn’t look very inspired and that was very disappointing considering it was coming off consecutive losses to Pitt and Nova and needed to get off the schneid.

Jimmy B’s going to need to do some serious coaching to get his team out of this mid-season funk or an NCAA tournament bid might wind up going down the drain after an 18-0 start. (For more on SU, check out my weekly column on


It’s going to be interesting to see how professional sports leagues handle the perils of Twitter down the road. Freedom of speech could be severely tested.

Two separate incidents this week showed how crazy the social networking device can be. First, there were the flurry of tweets from NFL players past and present questioning the manhood of Jay Cutler when the Chicago Bears quarterback didn’t play on in the NFC Championship Game after spraining the MCL of his left knee. Then, a few days later, Seattle Seahawks quarterback and union alternate Matt Hasselbeck wondered in a tweet if Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie even knew what CBA (collective bargaining agreement) stood for. An angered Cromartie fired back with a tweet informing Hasselbeck he “will smash ur face in.”

Many college programs prohibit their athletes from tweeting about anything relating to their team or sport. I’m sure as more of these bizarre incidents occur in the pros, you are going to see teams or the leagues respond with fines or suspensions.

Although I have a Twitter account, I only use it to plug things like newly posted columns or booksignings. I’ve never understood how people can waste so much time on Twitter. What’s really silly is when people spend an entire game tweeting. Whatever happened to just watching the freaking game?

I could care less that Joe Schmoe thinks John Doe is a jerk because he just threw an interception. Watch the game and then try something old school – you know, like having a conversation with somebody face-to-face. Sheesh!


While we’re on the topic of Twitter and tweets, can you imagine the implosion that would have occurred with the Bickering Bills of 1989 or the Bronx Zoo Yankees of the late-1970s had this stuff existed? Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner would have had serious Twitter battles.

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