Tag Archives: Ralph Wilson

Finally!!! We Are Ready For Some Football!!!

We are a few days away from the start of the greatest six months of the year. We tolerated a Stanley Cup Final, managed to get through the NBA Finals and are just about through with the marathon that baseball season is, and our ultimate reward is the beauty of NFL football. It all gets underway this Thursday at 8:30 PM when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle for a bout with the defending World Champs. One of the premiere defenses in football takes on The Discount Double Check and one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. It’s like football porn.

If we learned one thing from me and my group of NFL prediction makers (more endearingly known as The Thread), it’s that we aren’t very good at predictions. So, instead of trying to predict what the future holds five months from now, Wayniac Nation is going with a simpler approach… or at least one that makes us look less like a group of monkeys making uneducated guesses, which would, in fact, be one hell of a blog in itself, but that’s for another time. But I digress. Without further ado:

THE TOP THREE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN WEEK ONE OF THE NFL SEASON:

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3. The Post Ralph Wilson Era of Buffalo Bills football begins in Chicago. 

When the NFL opens its season Thursday, it will be the first time since the AFL/NFL merger that Ralph Wilson won’t be a part of it. Since 1959, Wilson and the Bills were synonymous with AFC football and now the new era begins. The team is in flux as there is a battle over who the new ownership will be. Will the Bills move to Canada? Will feather-haired, denim-wearing, 80s pop icon, Jon Bon Jovi by the team and give it a shot (WHOOOOOAAAA he’s halfway there)? No one knows for sure, but here’s what we do know. The Bills, on paper, look like a terrible team. EJ Manuel may be the worst starting quarterback in football. The majority of this team, like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, are much like their coaching staff: young and inexperienced in the NFL. Teams have rallied around disasters before (see the Boston Red Sox) and with the passing of the man who bares the name of their own home field, the Bills may be poised to make some noise this season. Starting things off right against a highly touted Chicago Bears team would be a great start.

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2. Jay Gruden takes over the Washington Politically Incorrects.

Mike Shanahan’s tenure in the Capitol City ends with a whimper on the heels of a 3-13 season. Shanahan, who’s four year reign in DC ended with a 24-40 overall record, did nothing to change my mind that he is one of the most over rated coaches in the history of the NFL. Shanahan was heralded as the architect who finally brought Denver their long awaited Lombardi Trophy, but the reality was is he was surrounded by Hall of Fame talent. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe were two of the best ever at their positions and Terrell Davis was the best running back in the game at the time. Shanahan and his power happy, run heavy offensive schemes didn’t seem like the right fight for a player as dynamic as Robert Griffin III. Maybe that’s why he kept playing him on a torn ACL? Anyway, now the one time Arena Football League MVP (no lie) Jay Gruden is at the helms. Considering this is the guy that just made Andy Dalton a multi-gazillionaire, I think what he can pull off with RGIII and his bevy of talented receivers that are all finally healthy or on new contracts will be exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they kick things off against my beloved Texans, and while I think they will win, I sure hope they don’t.

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1. Peyton gets some Luck on the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the year.

Andrew Luck is fourteen years younger than Peyton Manning, but they will be forever linked. Manning, arguably the greatest Colt to ever suit up (sorry Johnny U), and his heir apparent go head to head for the second time this coming Sunday. Last season, Peyton Manning got his Denver Broncos out to a 6-0 start by amassing 265 points over their first six games. This guy threw SEVEN touchdowns in a game and heading into Week 7 of the season, Manning had 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Right when everyone was saying this team was unstoppable, right when the undefeated talks really started to pick up steam, the Colts “next Peyton”  Andrew Luck wanted nothing to do with it. Luck went out and amassed four total touchdowns and the Colts defense did just enough to hold off Denver’s fourth quarter run for the victory. With the bitter taste from his Super Bowl loss last season, and revenge on the mind against his one-time Colts, we can only imagine what Peyton has in store. Last year, he had seven touchdowns on opening night. What can he and Luck give us from the Mile High City this year?

Game of the Week: Thursday’s matchup between Aaron Rodgers and his Packers and Russell Wilson and his Seahawks will certainly be exciting. As I just mentioned, any time that Luck and Manning face off will always be highly anticipated and full of action. The Wayniac Nation Game of the Week for week one has bigger implications than those two games, however. Fresh off their acting debuts on Hard Knocks, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones are armed and ready to prove last season was a fluke and that they are in fact way less boring of a team than they portrayed on Hard Knocks. Drew Brees has some new toys to play with, but he has his biggest and best one (Jimmy Grahamready to go and earn even more money than he just got paid. This isn’t simply a marquee matchup of two good teams. This game can lay the foundation of how the NFC South will be won.

Survivor Pool Pick of the Week: Every year I enter the infamous Beat The Pooch survivor pool and every year I seem to go home empty handed by week three. That being said, there are two ways to approach a survivor pool. One way is to just take the best matchup and not care about saving the good teams for later on in the season. The other approach is to gamble and take a team that no one else will pick, leaving you all of the good teams for an end run. So, if you want to play it safe, the San Francisco 49ers against that horrid Dallas defense should be a lock for week one, even giving up the five points. But if you got a little gamble in you, I really like the Vikings covering on the road against the Rams. If Bradford was there it would be another story, but I don’t see Shaun Hill keeping this team on the field long enough to keep Adrian Peterson off of it.

Alrighty, folks. That’s week one in a nutshell. So, rest up and get ready. Kickoff is just days away!

Sending Love to Buffalo

Sometimes you need to break the mold. Not everything is going to be fun and games. The events of the last few days for Bills Nation deserve a more serious approach, and it would not be right if I addressed it differently. Buffalo has lost the heart of its franchise. Its soul is fighting to survive.

Photo courtesy of Joe Traver NYT
Photo courtesy of Joe Traver NYT

Ralph Wilson wasn’t just big for Buffalo but was instrumental in evolving the NFL into what it is today. Born in October of 1918 in Michigan, Wilson grew up a Detroit Lions fan. His father owned an insurance company that he would one day take over. After he studied at the University of Virginia and Michigan Law, Wilson enlisted in the Navy and served in WWII. Upon his return, he ran the family insurance company until 1959 when he decided to buy a football franchise.

Originally, Wilson wanted the team to be in Miami, however he couldn’t reach an agreement with The Orange Bowl to play their home games in the stadium. He settled for War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo and chose to name the franchise the Bills in honor of the All-America Conference team that played there in the ’40s. His initial investment in the franchise was $25,000. Today, the team’s worth stands at over $870 million, which surprisingly ranks them 30th of the 32 teams.

It wasn’t just the Bills that was born, however. He was a founder and driving force of the American Football League that would eventually rival the NFL. Wilson, along with the legendary Lamar Hunt, Bud Adams, and five other founding members struggled mightily the first few seasons, so much so that Wilson had to lend $400,000 to his AFL foe Oakland Raiders in 1962 to keep them afloat. (Ok, maybe this isn’t so much a credit to Wilson’s legacy. After all, if he didn’t give them the money, we would never have been exposed to Al Davis, but it still shows that Wilson was a hell of a guy. Could you see the Yankees giving money to the Royals to keep them alive? Puh-lease). He also lent money to the New England Patriots to keep their franchise from going extinct as well, so you’re welcome Brady fans. Wilson’s generosity made the AFL the only sports league to never have a team fold while it existed. By the mid-1960s, they were posing a legitimate threat to the popularity of the NFL. While the Buffalo Bills were winning back-to-back AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965, Wilson was acting as the AFL representative in early merger talks with the NFL. Though these early talks fell through, Wilson’s next move was one of the biggest in NFL history. He served an active role on the committee that brought us this little game that would pit the best team in the AFL versus the best team in the NFL. They thought this game would be so extraordinary, so epic in its magnitude that they named it the Super Bowl. By 1967, the two leagues were officially going at each other for football supremacy.

The AFL would come to an end in 1969. The NFL had seen enough, and with Wilson at the helm, the AFL and NFL came to an agreement to merge both leagues together. It’s been nothing but success since then as the NFL is tightening its grasp on being the most popular sport worldwide. If it weren’t for Wilson and his revolutionaries, where would the NFL be? Would there be 32 teams spanning the entire nation?

He was outspoken, but it was because he was a visionary. He turned heads when he voted against the Cleveland Browns abandoning their city and moving to Baltimore. He also made enemies when he and Cincinnati Bengals’ owner Mike Brown were the only two owners who spoke up against the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement that eventually led to the 2011 lockout. (The two were later heralded for their foresight on the issue.) He also was in charge of the negotiations and ensuing agreement to have the Bills play multiple games in Canada. Since then the NFL has been aggressively discussing international expansion with London and Mexico City on the radar. Coincidence?

After the OJ  Simpson years, the Bills fell into obscurity. That led to change and in the mid-1980’s Wilson brought on Bill Polian as GM and Marv Levy as Head Coach and drafted Jim Kelly to be their franchise quarterback. The four together would change the face of the franchise forever.

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Jim Kelly was part of the infamous quarterback class of 1983, drafted with the likes of John Elway, Tony Eason, Dan Marino, Ken O’Brien, and Todd Blackledge. After an illustrious career at The U, Kelly did not want to go to play in the cold weather of Buffalo and elected to join the Houston Gamblers of the USFL (I was a huge USFL and New Jersey Generals fan. I remember watching Kelly set records and win the MVP for Houston and then signing with my Generals right before they folded). The USFL folded in 1986 and Kelly returned to the team that drafted him. He would turn around a perennial loser and do something no other QB has ever done or most likely will never do again. Kelly, with their patented no huddle offense, shredded the AFC for 4 consecutive years and represented the AFC in the Super Bowl from 1990-1993. Today, the hard-nosed quarterback who fought to turn the Bills into a powerhouse is fighting for his life.

This picture went viral on Twitter taken by Kelly's daughter over the weekend.
This picture taken by Kelly’s daughter went viral on Twitter and the Internet over the weekend.

Kelly was originally diagnosed with oral cancer in June of last year. He had surgery that would cost him part of his jaw and some of his teeth. Much like the warrior he was on the field for the Bills in the mid-80s to the mid-90s, Kelly beat the cancer and seemed to be fine. Ten days ago, however, the cancer returned and is much more aggressive. Today, the New York Daily News reports that it is highly likely that the cancer is curable, however surgery is not an option. The process will be long.  He is weak and “in bad shape” according to reports, and the cancer is quickly spreading.

Personally, I was never a huge Jim Kelly fan, but I never disliked him. I think he had two factors against him when I was a young kid that made me under appreciate his greatness. First and foremost, he played against Joe Montana, John Elway, and Dan Marino.  Those three were in bigger markets and had more notoriety, but they also had bigger stats. As a kid, what determines greatness are the numbers on the back of a player’s football card, not their worth on the field. Secondly, despite those four consecutive Super Bowls, he lost them all. Now that I am almost 40, I realize what Kelly did at the helm of the high-powered Bills’ offense was remarkable. Simply put, with the parity in the NFL (which is unmatched by any other sport), it is astounding to go to four straight championships. The reason that people have loved the NFL for the past several decades is summed up by the old phrase any given Sunday. Did anyone give the Giants a chance against the undefeated Patriots? No, but we all know who won. From 1990-1993, Kelly and Wilson’s Buffalo Bills eliminated that concept and totally dominated the NFL… except for one Sunday each season.

The city of Buffalo is a little emptier this week. They will play with heavy hearts but lifted spirits this coming season. The 2013 Red Sox put Boston on their shoulders and went from last place to World Champions. It will be interesting to see how Buffalo responds when they walk into Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time without its namesake up in the box watching. There is no predicting the future, but until then we can all #PrayForJimKelly.