Bills and bologna: Perhaps a change would help now

February 01, 1994|By Bill Tanton

Ho, boy, this Super Bowl thing is something, huh? Dallas over Buffalo. Again. Same old, same old.

President Clinton said last week, "Three strikes and you're out." I didn't accept that where the Bills were concerned. I was willing to give them a fourth shot at a Super Bowl victory.

But a fifth next year?

Spare me.

Long before the end of Sunday night's 30-13 Dallas win over Buffalo, I was convinced of one thing:

The Bills need to make changes.

They can't come back next season with the same people who have lost four straight Super Bowls, the only team ever to lose four straight championship games in any sport.

My sights were trained on Thurman Thomas, the goat of this Super Bowl.

We all like to pretend we're sitting in the general manager's chair. What would we do to improve a team if we were calling the shots?

If I were in that chair for Buffalo, Thurman would go.

That's not because he's a bad football player. He's a very good one, despite two fumbles and a mere 37 yards on 16 carries against the Cowboys. In the past three Super Bowls, Thomas has averaged 1.7 yards per carry.

By now his psyche must be so damaged that you have to wonder if he'll ever be able to perform well in a Super Bowl.

After enough losing, there comes a time when even a talented athlete needs a change -- and so does his team.

The Mets' Anthony Young, for instance, lost 27 straight decisions, a major-league record. The club insisted the guy had good stuff and was throwing well.

After all that losing, wouldn't you think a change would be beneficial for the player and the club? But that's a sportswriter's way of looking at it.

It's interesting to see what the pros did about Young: nothing. Anthony will go to spring training with the Mets in a couple weeks.

I'm not nearly as rough on Thomas as a friend is, a former All-America athlete who has played for a national championship team.

"Thurman Thomas is a loser," the ex-athlete said yesterday. "He can't come back and recover from a mistake. One bad mistake finishes him. Champions can bounce back. This guy should play in the CFL next year. For Baltimore."

A fan or a sportswriter normally will be more impulsive than someone who has sat in a GM's chair and had to make tough decisions.

Baltimore-based Ernie Accorsi sat in such a chair for the Cleveland Browns until he resigned a year and a half ago. He may sit in one for another club soon.

"I don't think the Bills can change Thurman Thomas," Accorsi said yesterday. "Buffalo's offense is built around Thomas' running with the ball and catching it. It's built around Thomas and Jim Kelly.

"It takes a long time to build a championship football team and the Bills are the best in the AFC. They're likely to win the AFC again next year unless Dan Marino comes back healthy for Miami. I don't know how much more Kansas City is going to get out of Joe Montana and Marcus Allen."

Accorsi can relate to Buffalo's predicament. When he was running the Browns for Art Modell, Cleveland, thanks largely to Denver's John Elway, lost three AFC championship games.

"We didn't get blown out; we lost three heartbreakers," said Accorsi. "After we lost that third one, we were paralyzed by it just like Buffalo is now.

"Mike Gottfried [then Pitt's football coach] came to our training camp the following summer and saw how down we were. He told us, 'If you guys were in basketball, you'd be congratulating yourselves for making it to the Final Four. You're obviously doing a lot of things right.'

"Thurman Thomas is an outstanding back. A week before the Super Bowl he had a great game against Kansas City in the AFC championship game [rushing for 186 yards]. I don't think you give up on a player like that. If you do trade him, there's no guarantee you'll be better.

"This is a perilous time to make a move like that. Your judgment is clouded by the disappointment from the Super Bowl. Free agency now gives you a chance to pick up players who will help you, but you keep the heart and soul of your team."

Maybe so, but darned if Kenneth Davis, Thomas' backup, didn't look good to me.

I still have the feeling Buffalo will make important changes before another season rolls around. I don't think they'll include the coach, Marv Levy. There's even less chance QB Kelly will go.

But, after losing four Super Bowls, this bunch is stale.

It's like having a bologna sandwich for lunch every day for a month. It's a nice sandwich, but after a while you need a change.

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