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Former Buffalo Bills offensive line coach Carl Mauck stops short of offering advice to Tom Donahoe about the Bills' quarterback decision.

But there's no doubt who Mauck thinks was the best man for the offense in 2000.

"Doug got sacked one out of 23 pass attempts, Rob got sacked one out of six," Mauck said from his office in Detroit, where he is the Lions' offensive line coach. "I think you can figure it out for yourself."

Mauck doesn't absolve his linemen from fault for some of the pass protection problems the Bills had in 2000.

"We didn't play as well up front this season, and I take responsibility for that. That's my job," he said.

But it's clear he thinks Flutie's statistics are indicative of a decent performance by his unit. He chuckled when asked about the contention that Flutie's lack of sacks was mostly due to Flutie and not so much due to his line.

"Let's just say I think it's obvious they were doing something right," he said of the line.

Regarding Johnson, Mauck said, "I'm not going to run anybody into the ground. . . . Is he capable of playing football physically? Hell, yes. That's what he's got to get to."

Regarding Johnson's sacks in comparison to other younger quarterbacks, Mauck said, "There's a clock that goes off inside a quarterback's head. That's what has to happen. That's something that (Peyton) Manning has."

The 53-year-old Mauck became well-known to Bills fans the past three years due to his boisterousness on the sidelines. But he rarely shared his viewpoints outside the team. Mauck gave almost no interviews during his tenure as Wade Phillips' line coach. He's not a fan of the media.

But in the wake of being fired and landing on his feet in Detroit, he felt compelled to defend Phillips and the performance of the offense.

"Some people said that was a poor stay for me, and I don't feel that way at all," Mauck said. "I thought we accomplished a lot considering they were 6-10 before we got there."

Mauck ticks off the statistics of the offense: "In '98 we were sixth in the league in total offense and third in rushing, and we allowed 12 sacks in 354 attempts by Flutie and 30 sacks in 107 attempts by Johnson. . . . In '99 we were 11th in total offense, eighth rushing and fifth in protecting the passer. And Doug played all the games except the last one. . . . Last year we were ninth in total offense and 13th in rushing."

"I wasn't happy with this season," Mauck said. "We gave up too many sacks when Rob was in there. . . . We weren't good enough in the red zone. We had too many mental errors in the red zone on the offensive line. I'm responsible for those guys."

Asked about the veteran left side of his line, Mauck said, "I think Ruben (Brown) made some strides this year. I don't think John (Fina) played as well this year as in '98 and '99. That's all I want to say about that. They've got to start fresh with a new staff."

Regarding the disappointing season of tackle prospect Robert Hicks, Mauck agrees that the big lineman did not move as well this year as he had in '99. Hicks suffered an ankle injury late in '99 that concerned Mauck.

"In the back of my mind I thought that ankle bothered him," Mauck said. "He told me it didn't. But I'm not sure. He wasn't the same guy. He had a good year the year before. He was getting better every game."

Mauck said he also worried about Hicks' conditioning in 2000 as the year went on.

"He's a young kid. I hope for his sake he'll come back and get involved and turn it back around."

Mauck said he was sorry to leave Buffalo. He thinks Phillips' firing is indicative of the decrease in coaching security league-wide.

"I said when they started free agency that it was going to increase the pressure on coaches," he said. "All you've got to do is look at the number of coaches getting fired. There's seven, eight, nine coaching changes every year these days. Before free agency, there were two or three changes some years or maybe four or five at the most."

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