Creating an all-time lineup is hard. Especially when you're somewhat young (yes I just turned 30, but I like to consider myself young), and when you're emotionally attached to the team.
Football took over when my generation grew up. It was the players we grew up on, the coaches we watched, the announcers, the owners, the personalities—these were the people who turned the NFL from a multi-million dollar industry into a billion dollar juggernaut. The Bills were part of that wave.
I was eight years old when Jim Kelly joined the Bills after the USFL folded and ten when Bills beat the Jets to win the division, the goal posts came down at the stadium, and the Bills became nationally relevant. I was twelve the first time the Bills played for the Super Bowl, and learned quickly how much the Bills meant to Buffalo.
I learned every player from Jim Kelly to the waterboy's name, and as the team's identity became Buffalo's identity, it became my own as well. I didn't ever know the Bills had another identity - a losing history, and could never see the franchise fall from the pedestal I had it on.
I was 18 when Jim Kelly retired. I was at his final game. I saw him get carted off the field as a new AFC power, the teal and gold (yes this was relevant), Jacksonville Jaguars, beat the heck out of an aged and cracked veteran Bills in that playoff game. I knew it was over, but those teams from that era have remained special. Winning teams and good times do that.
They were known as the bickering Bills, but like family or ex-girlfriends, after time, all we remember are the good times, and are only reminded of the bad by the jaded (fans who have had enough), the manipulative (opposing fans), or the sadistic (the media).
Yes, Thurman should have remembered his helmet. Maybe Jimbo should have laid off the sauce some nights. Maybe Marv should have had a better game plan, Talley should have made the tackle, or Andre should have made that catch, then we wouldn't be blaming Norwood, but I prefer the good memories.
I was at the comeback and it was electric. 52-3 made us all proud. Kelly and Reed connect 65 times in their career. 65! Thurman was the type of running back every team in the NFL is looking for now—he was ahead of his time, and the ultimate competitor.
Every kid in Buffalo who ever dreamed, perfected the Jim Kelly left hand flip before the throw, the classy handing of the ball to the referee when they reached the end-zone like Thurman, watched replay after replay of how Andre moved so smoothly to find open space in his routes then deked five defenders running after the catch before being forced out of bounds, loved going deep and making the over the shoulder grab look so effortless like James Lofton did, or tried bursting off the snap like Bruce did to get a sack on third down.
My sister went to church with Pete Metzelaars and Steve Tasker, my friend went to church with Frank Reich. My family belonged to the same swimming pool as Tim Vogler. We used to ride our bikes through the new development in my town trying to guess which house was Bruce Smith's because we knew he owned one of them. The players were real. They made mistakes, they had problems, too, but we saw them in the community as well. Even the top dogs.
As I have aged, my view on sports, money, society and many other thoughts have changed. I question sometimes whether it is for the better, or for the worse, or if it just is.
Everyone who loves sports has teams they love, players they love, and their own biases towards these teams. That is what makes making a list about those teams so hard. I can't tell you for certainty who was a better punter between Brian Moorman, John Kidd, Chris Mohr or Paul Maguire. I'm not sure I care, and I'm not sure how I'd feel if you did either.
I could easily make a list. It would be interesting and cause raucous debate-worthy topics about whether OJ or Cookie or Thurman deserved to be no. 1 on the RB list, and who really should be at WR after Andre, Evans and Moulds, and blah blah blah blah, but my all time Bills will remain in my heart, and in my memory, as should yours.
I hope that someday soon, another team and another few players can help me change point of view again.
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