Niagara Gazette

December 17, 2008

LUCINSKI: What have the Bills got to lose?

<!--Dick Lucinski--><table width="234" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" background="" height="60"><tr><td><div align="center"><font size="3" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">By Dick Lucinski</font><font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br /></font><font size="1" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><a href=""></a></font></div></td></tr></table>

We at the Gazette have a fine sports department, one of the best. Sports Editor Tim Schmitt and his staff do a great job handling the local sports scene, ranging from youth activities to the area professional teams and everything in between.

So in no way is this meant to steal their thunder or to take away from their expert opinions. It’s simply the thought of one fan of the Buffalo Bills who, as has been stated before in this space, has followed the team since its first season in 1960.

Bills Head Coach Dick Jauron must go. He sealed his fate Sunday in calling a rollout pass play for fumble-fingered quarterback J. P. Losman. It was a point in the game where a couple of running plays and one first down would have sealed the Bills win. Instead, Losman played down to expectations and lost the ball. The New York Jets found it, picked it up and scored a touchdown. Defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s getting monotonous.

Time for full disclosure. When Jauron was hired, I was all for it. I thought we had the son of Marv Levy, another classy guy with a brain in his head. After a couple of the chuckleheads the team had for coaches earlier in the decade, Jauron seemed to be a big improvement.

But he appears to have lost the team. After this year’s great start, it’s been a tremendous crash. The end of his three-year contract looks like a good time to end his tenure in Buffalo.

But a wise organization, whether it be a professional football team or any other business, doesn’t throw out the old without having at least an idea of what the new should look like. Teams in the National Football League seem to have a penchant for that; simply tossing the coach then starting from scratch, blindly fumbling around to see who might be out there as a replacement.

So, in that spirit, I had a suggestion for a replacement for the not-yet-departed Dick Jauron. Hold on, you might be surprised at this one:

Turner Gill.

Yes, that Turner Gill, the current head coach at the State University of New York at Buffalo; UB. Sure he has next to no NFL experience, save a short stint as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers. Sure he’s a coach in the Mid American Conference, a league that is, at best, at the middle level of Division 1-A and a long, long way from the NFL. But Turner Gill has something that the Buffalo Bills have to go back to the previous decade to recall.

Turner Gill is a winner.

How else can you explain what is being called the UB Miracle? When Gill took over the program three years ago, it was a joke, arguably the worst Division 1-A program in the nation. Now, the State University of New York at Buffalo football team is the winner of this year’s MAC championship. Champions. The best. The club beat the No. 12 team in the nation, Ball State, to win the title.

This column was written Tuesday morning. Later in the day, the folks at UB beat me to the punch. Gill signed a contract extension that will keep him there at least one more year.

UB will be going to Toronto for the International Bowl in January, the school’s first bowl bid in a half century. It will undoubtedly be more entertaining than the recent debacle in the Rogers Centre against the Miami Dolphins.

As a star quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist at Nebraska as well as an assistant coach there, he has been affiliated with top 10 and national championship teams. As a quarterback in the Canadian Football League, his teams reached the playoffs in both years he was there.

Gill, for some strange reason, had been passed over for the head college coaching jobs at Syracuse and Auburn, both big-time programs. He had been under consideration for the top job with the Iowa State Cyclones, a major college team.

Gill as a Bill. Far-fetched? A long shot? Unconventional? Sure.

But when you have a miracle worker in your midst, why not try to keep him here? If next season tanks like this one did, what will the Bills have to lose?

Dick Lucinski is the managing editor of the Niagara Gazette and a Buffalo Bills fan for 48 years.