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Bills, area are mirror images of each other

In response to a Feb. 3 article suggesting that public outcry against newly hired Buffalo Bills coach Dick Jauron is microcosmic of the region's economic and otherwise overall condition, I wish to state that the likely impetus behind public opposition to Jauron is that many of us are growing sick and tired of the region's (and the Bills') recent trend toward mediocrity and/or otherwise settling for less than the ideal.

With the last generation or so seeing the decline of jobs in Western New York, as well as the departure of people and business for business-friendly, lower-tax environs, it was generally thought that the region's civic representatives would choose to take steps to create a more business-friendly environment, thus giving people more of a reason to stay here.

However, what have we seen? Perennial "temporary" taxes. "Friends-and-family" over know-how. Proposals to reform government by making it live within its means, only to face opposition by "concerned" interests. Proposals to improve the local area by doing things such as relocating the Buffalo Zoo or other area attractions to the waterfront, only to face opposition by preservationists or other obstructionists. Business ventures offering the promise of a better tomorrow, only to encounter similar opposition, such as the NIMBY (not in my back yard) element. Business people wanting to expand their business, only to deal with similar status-quo adherents.

Now, the Buffalo Bills, after years of giving us competitive football and falling to an 8-8 mark in 2000, brought in Tom Donohoe as the general manager. It was thought that his coming from a winning organization (Pittsburgh Steelers) would help the Bills get back on a winning track.

What happened? He brought in unremarkable coaches (Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey), when better-qualified people (Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil) were available. He cut the more productive Doug Flutie in favor of the error-prone Rob Johnson. He brought in bargain prospects at offensive and defensive line, rather than shop for better talent.

After five years of uncompetitive football, Donohoe and Mularkey departed. Ralph Wilson, the Bills' CEO, said he was going to be more hands-on regarding decisions at One Bills Drive. Marv Levy, the Bills' best-ever coach, was named general manager. He said he was tuned in to today's NFL.

And what happened? Rather than pursue candidates who have worked in winning organizations and who have accomplished success, they decided on Dick Jauron, an Ivy-Leagurer like Levy, a guy Levy felt comfortable with while broadcasting Chicago Bears games a few years ago -- never mind he had only one winning season in that time. And they seek to justify this by raising ticket prices, too!

In the end, the Buffalo and Western New York political culture and the Buffalo Bills organization are mirror images of each other: Mediocrity over excellence. "Friends-and-family" over know-how. Justifying wrongheadedness by raising prices. Status quo over taking a new path. Get the hint?

Lloyd A. Marshall Jr. is a sports fan who lives in Lockport.

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