Bickering BillsAnother controversy last thing NFL club needs
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
The Buffalo Bills didn't invent the term "quarterback controversy" but during the Doug Flutie/Rob Johnson era they developed it into a new and sophisticated art form.
That's ancient history but it's a dark shadow that comes to mind just now that there are rumblings emanating from Bills training camp that all is not hearts and flowers between running backs Travis Henry and Willis McGahee.
Now, unlike Flutie and Johnson, there is no evidence of personal enmity between McGahee and Henry. It's just that neither one of them wants to be No. 2 on the depth chart, which is, come to think of it, where the Flutie versus Johnson soap opera was firmly rooted.
About 10 days ago, a story in USA Today quoted Henry, the incumbent, to the effect that if he wasn't the No. 1 starter when the season begins on Sept. 12, he'd be asking for a trade.
Rumours surfaced in Buffalo that McGahee has issued a "right-back-at-ya" ultimatum. The club denies that McGahee or his agent have made such a demand but these things don't materialize out of thin air. Somewhere there is a germ of truth.
Now it's one thing for an established veteran like Henry, whose work ethic is strong and his performance more than acceptable to Bills management and staff, to flap his lips from time to time. It's quite another for a guy like McGahee, for whom the Bills went out on a long, skinny limb a year ago, and who has yet to establish anything remotely close to NFL credentials, to start making noise.
And for the Bills, a team trying to establish something on the offensive side of the ball to match its strong defensive profile, a running back controversy could be a totally unnecessary and unwanted distraction.
A year ago, the Bills were one of the worst offensive outfits in the 32-team league. Head coach Gregg Williams and offensive co-ordinator Kevin Gilbride weren't retained, which in itself has quarterback Drew Bledsoe and receiver Eric Moulds in a better frame of mind.
The addition of first-round draft pick Lee Evans, not to mention offensive co-ordinator Tom Clements, the old CFL star quarterback, working under head coach Mike Mularkey, has Bills' fans, if not talkin' proud, at least talkin' football again.
Times are not the best in Buffalo but somehow they've sold every one of their 164 luxury boxes and 97% of their 6,878 outdoor club seats. Saturday's home exhibition game against Tennessee was a sellout. More than that, four of the eight regular season home games have already been sold out. How's that for a club coming off a six-win season?
That public response may be gratifying to the team's tall thinkers but it also ensures that there is going to be huge pressure to produce a winning season.
Defensively, the Bills are solid. That was never one of their problems last year, but with an offence that couldn't sustain a drive, the Bills defenders were on the field way to much.
Which brings us back to the concept that the last thing the Bills offence needs is a running back controversy, manufactured or not. Truth is, to be competitive, they're going to need both Henry and McGahee to be productive.
The notion that they would hand the running game on a platter to McGahee, who ripped up his knee in the NCAA championship game 18 months ago, is absurd.
McGahee, or at least his advisers, are showing lousy judgment. This is the NFL, where a team can go through running backs faster than the ambulances can cart them away; where today's backup is tomorrow's starter. And given the bruised ribs Henry sustained on Saturday, it makes no sense to deal McGahee.
Of course, it never worked for Flutie and Johnson but you know what they say about history: Those who ignore it are doomed to repeat it.