Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If Bills have to blow things up again, they should ask Bill Polian to come to their rescue

                I had the opportunity to chat with Bill Polian last week for a column I was writing about him for Bills Digest, and during our conversation I asked the architect of those great Bills teams of the late 1980s, early ’90s if he would consider becoming an NFL general manager again. He said he would if the situation were right.

                “I know how to win in the National Football League,’’ said Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year who was inducted onto the Ralph Wilson Stadium Wall of Fame Sunday. “But it requires the kind of commitment Mr. Wilson made with the Bills and that Jim Irsay made with the Indianapolis Colts. Those situations don’t come along every day.”

                So, you know where I was going with my next question. Would Buffalo’s most famous Bill since Buffalo Bill be interested in leaving his ESPN analyst job and rebuilding the Bills as he did back in the mid-1980s?

                “Look, everybody knows how I feel about Buffalo,’’ Polian said, demonstrating some pretty nifty verbal dance steps. “That’s no secret. I’m a Buffalo guy. I loved my time there. I always love coming back. That’s not an issue. But that’s Mr. Wilson’s call, not mine. It’s very difficult for me to even talk about that. And I think the group that’s in there now is doing a nice job. I can now root for teams, and, so, I’m rooting for the Bills and I hope they do well.”

                I understand his diplomacy completely. During a week when his old employer was honoring the work he did in transforming a franchise that had lost 28 of 32 games before he became GM into perennial Super Bowl participants, the timing was not right to be campaigning for a job.

                So, I’ll do the campaigning for him – as I have done before.

                Unless the Bills make some unbelievable about-face in the second half of the season, there’s a good likelihood that things will have to be blown up again. And, if that’s the case, why not go back to the future? Why not hire the man with the Midas touch who engineered the golden era of Bills and Colts football? A guy whose teams have made 17 playoff trips in his 23 seasons as GM? A guy named Bill Polian?

                In my 28 seasons of covering the NFL, I’ve never seen a better judge of football talent. (Don’t forget, this also is a man who had the Carolina Panthers in the NFC championship game in just their second year of existence.) Polian is closing in on 70, but, as his astute comments on ESPN attest, he remains as sharp as ever, and he actually may have an even better handle on the entire league because he no longer is involved with one team.

                Hey, maybe Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey will surprise us all and turn this thing around. I hope they do. But I really don’t see that happening.

                A bold move will be required. A move that welcomes Bill Polian back to Buffalo.  

               You can read more of my musings about the Bills at WROC-TV's webpage - www.rochesterhomepage.net. Click on sports, then my column icon. Thanks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Musings on the Bills dramatically bizarre win and the Yankees inability to hit

               The Bills kept their season alive by overcoming their coach’s lame-brained decision to throw the ball out of the Wildcat formation instead of milking the clock near the end of regulation. And, yes, despite the ugliness of the game and the offensively challenged opponent, it was a good win on the road against an Arizona Cardinals team that had won eight-straight in Phoenix.
                But the Bills are going to have to show me a lot more to remove the stench of their recent losses and make me think they are the legitimate playoff contenders I anticipated heading into the season.
               Their 3-3 record may put them in a four-way tie for first in the muddled AFC East, but the lopsided nature of their three losses against good teams (Patriots, 49ers and Jets) and their three wins vs. average-to-mediocre teams (Chiefs, Browns and Cardinals) leaves me underwhelmed.
               Ryan Fitzpatrick’s weak and inaccurate arm worry me and I want to see Mario Williams and the “upgraded” defense shut down a quality offense.
               The Bills absolutely have to win Sunday’s home game vs. a Tennessee team that will be well-rested after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night.
                Buffalo’s reputation took a pounding in the three routs they suffered. It’s going to take a win this week and respectable showings the following two weeks on the road vs. Houston and New England before I’ll be mentioning the P-word again. (You can read more of my takes on the Bills at WROC-TV’s website – www.rochesterhomepage.net )
                Bronx Bombers? More like Hitless Wonders. Yes, A-Rod is the lightning rod, with his numerous swings-and-misses. But he’s had plenty of company in the whiff department. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano all have looked as helpless as pitchers at-bat. It’s almost as if some virus has spread through the lineup.
                Cano has been the worst of the bunch, setting a single post-season record for futility by going 0-for-26. If you are looking for a silver lining – and this is a major-league stretch - “Don’t-Ya-Know” Cano still has a long way to go to catch Dan Wilson, the former Seattle catcher who went hitless in 42 consecutive postseason at-bats from 1995-2000.
                The umps, as Yankee skipper Joe Girardi complained, did blow some calls in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series vs. Detroit. But even if there had been replay to reverse the errors, the Yankees still would have lost 1-0 because they’ve forgotten how to hit. New York has been shut out in 18 of the past 19 innings and things figure only to get worse with Tigers ace Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch in Game 3.
                It was sad to see Derek Jeter’s post-season come to a premature end the other night when he fractured his ankle diving for a ball. As a friend said, “This is my generation’s DiMaggio or Mantle being helped off the field.” As someone who witnessed numerous injuries to Mantle back in the day I understood completely.
                The bad break conjured memories of the last time Jeter suffered a serious injury. I was in Toronto for the 2003 season opener when he separated his shoulder in a collision with a Blue Jays catcher who was hustling to cover third. Then-Yankees manager Joe Torre told us afterward that Jeter informed him he would be back in the lineup the next night. But his body disagreed and the Captain wound up missing six weeks.

      I was all set to write a column that night about the large Japanese media entourage following new Yankee slugger Hideki Matsui’s every move, but I scrapped that column the instant Jeter was injured.
                Last night marked the first time since the 1981 World Series that neither Jeter nor reliever Mariano Rivera were a part of an active Yankees post-season roster. Another sign that time is beginning to catch up with the Yankees and that the end to a marvelous era is drawing nearer.
                If there’s anyone happy about Jeter’s injury it’s probably Pete Rose. Baseball’s Hit King predicted a few days ago that Jeter would never break his record. Considering Jeter is 38 and 900 hits shy, he would have been right even if the Yankees shortstop didn’t fracture his ankle.
                Regardless if the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants advance to the World Series, they’ll tie the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for most National League pennants with 18.