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LOSMAN'S TENURE WILL LEAVE STAMP ON DONAHOE'S LEGACY

Question: My take on Tom Donahoe's plan for this franchise is this: His blueprint is to try to win in the short term by "renting" veterans like Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy while planning for the future by acquiring offensive "triplets" like the Colts' Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. So he has drafted J.P. Losman, Willis McGahee and Lee Evans. The short-term plan has failed. What do you think about the long-term scenario? -- Brian Stack, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Answer: This is an interesting way to frame the question of Donahoe's performance. Donahoe did not build last year's team or this year's team with the idea that it was a stop-gap, short-term, patchwork, "rental" process, and the "real" team-building was taking place for the future. He didn't make the Bledsoe trade with the idea Drew simply would be a bridge to the quarterback of the future. Donahoe was out to win in 2003 and 2004, within the constraints of fiscal responsibility.

That's one positive in looking to the future. Donahoe has kept his promise of managing the cap and the Bills are well-positioned -- from a salary cap standpoint -- to succeed down the road.

Since a comprehensive review of Donahoe's tenure would not fit in this column, I'll make one main point.

Donahoe's legacy and the Bills' fortunes for the next four years depend greatly on Losman. If he's very good, it will overshadow whatever mistakes Donahoe has made (whether Donahoe survives beyond his five-year contract or not), because the Bills will be competitive for eight years or so. Keep in mind every quarterback taken in the first round has only a 50-50 chance of succeeding, regardless of what part of the first round they're taken. It's probably going to take to the end of the 2006 season, at least, to get a good handle on whether Losman is The Man or not. If Losman flops, then the Bills could be starting over at QB in 2007 or 2008 -- and waiting until 2009 or 2010 before they know if the next QB of the future has what it takes.

Q: I want to make the recommendation to let Drew Bledsoe call his own plays. It would take some coordination to make sure that the right players are in the huddle in order to execute the play. That could be done by hand signals to the sidelines asking for the right mix of wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. -- Ralph Cruise, East Aurora.

A: There are football people -- Marv Levy, included -- who think quarterbacks with a knack for improvisation should be given more authority on the field and could make greater use of a no-huddle style. (I realize you're not advocating a no-huddle.) Peyton Manning does it brilliantly for the Colts. There are two problems. If you're going to let the quarterback call the plays, or audible extensively at the line, you need to be running a small package of plays. That was the beauty of the K-Gun.

Manning's package of plays that he can audible to is relatively small. But it works because he's so smart and the Colts' offense is so talented. The Colts' offensive line has played together for years. The Bills' offense is not as talented as that of the Colts. Bledsoe has enough to worry about without calling his own plays. I don't see play-calling as a big problem for the Bills. If three people miss their block, or two people blow their assignment, it doesn't matter what play you've called, it's going nowhere.

Q: At the end of the first half of the Monday night game, Wayne Chrebet caught a pass and fell to the ground with two seconds left. Couldn't the Miami defender have stood there, not touched Chrebet, and let the clock run out? -- Erik Winter, Buffalo

A: No. The defender's actions did not matter. Rule 7, Section 4, Article 1, Paragraph a states: "An official shall declare dead ball and the down ended when a runner is out of bounds or declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance." Jets coach Herman Edwards told the officials before the play Chrebet was going to do that so they would be ready for it.
Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@buffnews.com
or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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