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To: All Western New York Servicemen

From: Curran's Corner

Subject: What's Doing Back Home

Dear Neighbors: In my August letter to you I hedged on my Bills predictions and said that the locals would win 10 games only if quarterback Jim Kelly stayed healthy. And I had company.

Indeed, another writer -- the late Allan Malamud of the Los Angeles Times -- predicted that Kelly would be the National Football League's player of the year.

Well, a funny thing happened on Kelly's way to that trophy. He got injured in practice and was replaced by Todd Collins, the second-year man from the University of Michigan who had done poorly in his only major appearance. That had been in a meaningless late-season game against Houston last year.

Now there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was pointed out that the University of Michigan doesn't produce NFL quarterbacks. And few civilians cared to hear about the high regard the Bills' personnel department had for Collins.

That last lack of regard bothered some observers who recalled that the Bills' personnel department usually gets high marks. And well they should, because of the fact its members brought in the players who took the team into four straight Super Bowls. And most fans throughout the country appreciate what that feat was.

Anyway, Collins played well in the victories over Dallas and Indianapolis. Then Kelly got better and returned to the lineup. And he played very, very poorly in the loss to Miami.

Now we have a full-blown quarterback controversy that is tearing the area apart. Some old hands advise that we had the same kind of controversy in the days when Daryle Lamonica and Jack Kemp were competing for the starter's job. I wasn't here in those days, but I know of the struggle.

Here, more than at any other time, we will learn the validity of the saw that says, "In Western New York every employed male has two jobs -- his own, and coaching the Buffalo Bills."

Be assured that the controversy is here and will stay for a long time. And here I will break a tradition and talk about the upcoming game against the New York Jets.

Usually I slip my prediction into the last line of my Sunday feature. And I will stay with that practice this week. But when I do lick the score, I will note that the Jets will win.

Yes, I see this as the week the team will prove that "on any given day any team can beat the best team in the league." They are understandably tired of the jokes that have been tormenting them.

One number had it that the loser of the Jets-Giants game would have to admit it was from New Jersey. As you know, both teams play their games in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Another had Jay Leno saying: "Autumn is the shortest season of the year. The longest season is the one currently being played by the New York Jets."

Anyway, I know that the Bills are in for a rough time because of a story I heard at the Monday Quarterback Club.

Some joker was telling me about the fan who died and went to heaven. St. Peter agreed that the supplicant had led a good life, but needed to work on his patience.

He was sent to Rich Stadium, where he was given what St. Peter considered to be real test. He was told, "You will stay there until the Bills score 40 points in one game."

That story was told at a place where seldom is heard a discouraging word.

Keep writing and hang tough.

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