Buffalo Bills: Should ownership get involved on fans behalf?

Reed, Thurman, and Bruce on other teams. - Photo's via www.nfl.com,www.ginandtacos.com, www.ibtimes.com

Reed, Thurman, and Bruce on other teams. – Photo’s via http://www.nfl.com,www.ginandtacos.com, http://www.ibtimes.com

 

Miracle? - Photo via James P. McCoy

Miracle? – Photo via James P. McCoy

As I was writing the piece on Fred Jackson’s possible release yesterday (check it out here), I was reminded of the darkest days in Buffalo sports history. The year was 2000, and we were fresh off the heartbreaking “Music City Miracle” game. The Bills were in cap trouble and began swinging the axe. The casualties were the last three remaining members of the glory years: Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. This move always bothered me because of the way these players were treated. They were discarded like old toys a child no longer wants to play with. I know the NFL is a business, and it’s all about the money, but these guys were local heroes. These guys saved football in Buffalo as we know it. We hang our hat on the seven years the Bills were one of the most dominant teams in the NFL. I know guys get older, and a football career doesn’t last forever but let our heroes ride off into the sunset.

Why Bruce why??? - Photo via www.ibtimes.com

Why Bruce why??? – Photo via http://www.ibtimes.com

Bruce Smith was 36 years old and ended up playing four more years after signing a five-year, $23 million contract with the Redskins. He went on to set the all-time career sack total with 200 sacks. His production did drop off from his 100 tackles, 20 sack years, but he was still productive, getting 50 tackles and 10 sacks his first year with Washington. Andre Reed was also 36 years old when he was released. He signed a two-year deal with Denver but was buried on the depth chart and scratched week 1. He asked for his release and ended up in Washington with Smith. He only played one season and hung up his cleats. Thurman Thomas, the engine behind the sports car driven by Jim Kelly, signed with the rival Miami Dolphins to add insult to injury. Thomas later said he signed with Miami out of spite for the Bills. He found out he was released while watching sports center. Thomas didn’t make it a whole year as he suffered a season-ending knee injury in November 2000 and retired.

Retirement is inevitable in the NFL. Some guys hang on too long and perhaps that was the case with Reed, Smith and Thomas. Maybe they didn’t want to take a pay cut in order to stay. These guys didn’t make the money players make today and every little bit helps. The release came in February which would imply no attempt was made to re-work deals. Put yourself in Thurman’s shoes when he found out he was released watching it on TV. What kind of punch in the gut is that? You’ve given up your blood, sweat and tears to an organization only to be discarded like a piece of trash? For the first time in Bills history we have new ownership, and they are pushing this #OneBuffalo mantra. Ralph Wilson did a great job managing a small market team while making a nice profit, but the Pegula’s aren’t dependent on the Bills as their only source of income. The money side of the business doesn’t weigh as heavily on decisions now. The new Buffalo Bills are not “just a business”; The Bills are for all of us. The Pegula’s proved that when they stepped in to save Fred Jackson from the chopping block.

Fred needed a little help from the Pegula's  - Photo via Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Fred needed a little help from the Pegula’s – Photo via Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Unlike those past years, this ownership seemed to listen to the fans. Once news broke of Fred’s possible release, social media exploded with support to keep Jackson. Thousands of tweets, comments and even a guy in a pair of zubaz, standing in front of the stadium and holding a wooden sign asking to keep Jackson appeared. If reports are true, the Pegula’s heard us loud and clear and told the Coach and GM that Jackson isn’t going anywhere. Another report surfaced later that said Fred was staying but was asked to take a by cut by re-structuring his deal. Yet again the Pegula’s debunked that report and by the end of the day Fred was still a Buffalo Bill playing out the last year of his contract at his contracted salary. In the end, paying $2.5 million to a fan favorite on a team that has gone nowhere in 15 years is a good investment. I believe #onebuffalo applies not only to the fans, community and sports teams but the players as well. We voiced what we wanted, and the Pegula’s listened. In return we need to hold up our end of the deal as fans and help support this team to Fred’s first playoff appearance in 2015. Jackson isn’t just a player, Jackson is Buffalo. A blue collar guy who took the long hard road to success. Even when things looked bleak he persisted and his persistence paid off.

Fred’s career is coming to an end; there’s no doubt about it. Perhaps 2015 will be his last as a Buffalo Bill. Let him lead the charge one more time. Let’s make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Let’s do it for Jackson, for fans and everyone who’s bled red, white and blue over the last 15 gut wrenching years! This is a new time; it’s a new team, and our time IS NOW! Go BILLS!

By: Jason Sins

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