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Jim Kelly could play Moses to Buffalo’s Israel

Posted on December 27, 2009 by John Wingspread Howell

Is Jim Kelly the person who can help bring a big name coach to Buffalo?

Is Jim Kelly the person who can help bring a big name coach to Buffalo?

Hall of Famer could win for Buffalo as an emissary what he could not achieve on the field

Remember when Head Coach Dick Jauron was fired and Bills owner Ralph Wilson pledged to spend $10 million per year to get a A-List coach and general manager. Remember when Mr. Wilson interviewed Mike Shanahan, contacted Bill Cowher, and it appeared he was determined to do whatever it takes to get good football minds in the top positions at the franchise?

Do you remember, barely? It was only a month ago, but it seems like an eternity. Since word of the snub from Bill Cowher, nothing else has happened, unless it has been so far under the radar that even the press’s rumor hounds haven’t gotten a scent.
Meanwhile, Mike Holmgren has signed with Cleveland, and all the rumors point to Shanahan going to Washington. Today ESPN’s pundits have Cowher playing Carolina and Tampa Bay against each other, with Ron Wolf, the brains behind the Favre era success at Green Bay, likely to reunite with Holmgren in Cleveland.

We have to wonder, did Wilson at least attempt to contact Holmgren, Wolf. Has he been doing anything to lure anyone of merit to Buffalo?

There was no mention whatsover of Buffalo in any of the head coach or general manager speculation on the NFL pre-game shows this morning. No mention whatsoever. Not even baseless rumors.

Does this mean there is no activity on the part of ownership to fill these vacancies? Has Ralph Wilson decided to play musical chairs with the available top tier candidates and make an offer to the last one standing when all the other slots have been filled, hoping at least one of the big boys is still out in the cold?

Or is it something more ominous, is it that all the talk about top money for top talent a bone to the fans, the overtures to Shanahan and Cowher, just bones to the fans, so that Wilson can say he made an effort but Buffalo just can’t command that kind of talent, even with competitive money on the table?

Whether that is what Ralph is saying, that seems to be what many if not most of the media universe is thinking if not saying, and what a majority of Bills fans seem to fear as well.

What will it take to get a Super Bowl winning coach like Brian Billick to Buffalo?

What will it take to get a Super Bowl winning coach like Brian Billick to Buffalo?

I reject that assumption. Cleveland is no garden spot. Buffalo is Cleveland on a slightly smaller scale. If Cleveland can catch Holmgren then Buffalo could have had him. With the right price and the right amount of control, Holmgren could be sitting in a corner office at One Bills Drive right now. As could Ron Wolf. And Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick or any number of other former head coaches who have not only seen the promised land from the mountain top but have been there and back could already be at work in Buffalo with the right combination of money, control, and compatible personnel.

In fact, most of the Super Bowl champions have come from less than A-list cities. Buffalo is no Boston, it’s true, but Boston is no New York or Miami either. And other than the Patriots and the Giants, most of the recent Superbowl winners have been the likes of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Indianapolis.

Call me naieve, but I highly doubt any NFL coach worth having consults a glamour meter before ruling a particular city in or out of his career search. What they do consider is tradition, fan support, compensation, control, and what resources they will inherit when they arrive. Some have more of a stomach for rebuilding than others, but in a league where last to first transformations are more norm than aberration, there are few teams that couldn’t potentially play for the Lombardi trophy in any given year with the right coaching and management.

So when the media ignores Buffalo as a potential destination for the big names, are they assuming that Ralph Wilson may be willing to part with the money but not with the reigns? Or are they simply dismissing Buffalo out of hand in the way that Buffalo is so often treated in the minds and healdines of all places beyond Buffalo? I suspect it is the latter.

But what is even more frustrating and angering to die-hard Buffalo fans is that many of our own people dismiss Buffalo in a similar way. There is the conscious or unconscous, spoken or unspoken assumption on the part of many that if Buffalo has a good run, it will be more by accident than design.

So how do we fight this perception? I call upon Jim Kelly to do for his former team what he was unable to do as a quarterback. Fill the leadership void, even if unofficially.

It was reported that only after Kelly and former teammate Thurman Thomas appealed to Wilson did Wilson proclaim his intention to seek top football talent for the front office and the sidelines. Whether or not that is the truth, it seems that Kelly could offer himself to Wilson as an emissary to potential general manager and head coach candidates.

We know Kelly is committed both to Buffalo and the Bills. He has made his home in Buffalo since reitring, and has been active in civic and community life, as well as being a recent fixture on the Bills sidelines. He writes a column for the Bills website. He is considered a potential future owner (heading up a cartel of pooled resources). He has the respect and the ear of Ralph Wilson, and as a Hall of Famer, he has the respect of all in the football world.

Jim Kelly could approach a Bill Cowher, Brian Billick, Ron Wolf and sell them on Buffalo. Kelly could sell Wilson on the terms needed to enlist one or more of these proven champions. If successful, Buffalo could finally, next year or the year after, win its first Superbowl. I have no doubt Jim Kelly feels the weight of unfinished business of his efforts in uniform. I have no doubt he would jump at the opportunity to heal that wound for himself and a million plus Buffalo fans in or from Buffalo who still hope more than they believe, that anything is still possible.


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