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PREMATURE CORONATION

The "Main Man" screamed the headline in Thursday's Buffalo News. Rob Johnson is now the Bills' starting quarterback while Doug Flutie becomes the team's backup. It's a good move by the Bills and it was a nice article by Mark Gaughan. But let's hold off on plans for next year's Super Bowl party, because to my eye, Rob Johnson is far from leading this team to the promised land.

Johnson's winning percentage as Buffalo's starting QB is below 50 percent, just like his completion percentage in the wild-card game against Tennessee.

I was excited two weeks ago when Wade Phillips named Johnson the starter, but I wasn't too thrilled with Rob's performance against a defense whose value is artificially inflated by the singular genius of Jevon Kearse.

The Titans were 23rd in total pass defense this year in the NFL, allowing more passing yards than teams like the Saints, Eagles and Browns. If Rob Johnson is the top-gun passer of the new century, he didn't show it against the vulnerable Tennessee secondary.

I realize Johnson worked behind a battered offensive line, but the six sacks the Bills allowed represents over 10 percent of the Titans' season total. And don't forget, the Bills' offensive line was a patchwork unit most of the year, but still allowed only 27 sacks.

Getting sacked too often is the same problem Johnson had at the beginning of 1998. In fact, against Tennessee, Johnson looked just like he did at the beginning of 1998: confused, clumsy and inexperienced.

He stumbled through 58 minutes of the wild-card game only to be blessed with good field position on the Bills' last possession, when he moved the team 38 yards to set up Steve Christie's field goal.

In roughly 1 1/2 minutes the masses concluded they had found their quarterback of the future.

I'm not part of this overly optimistic group.

To me, Rob Johnson looks like the quarterback of the moment, and nothing more.
SAL ALBERT
Buffalo

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