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BLAME FLUTIE

I've been a Bills fan since I was a young kid growing up in Rochester. Although I've been living in the Midwest for over 20 years, I've avoided the directives to devote myself to the Bears or the Colts, preferring instead to remain true to my Bills. I suffered through the 1980s, when our only thrill was the hope of a decent draft pick, and reveled in the 1990s, when our only disappointment came on Super Bowl Sunday. However, nothing in my 30 years of devotion prepared me for the appalling developments that have taken place recently.

No, I'm not talking about the installation of Rob Johnson at QB, a development that was two years overdue (and possibly two years too late). I'm talking about the deplorable behavior of alleged fans who'd now rather watch the San Diego Chargers than see their own team through this transition.

Rob Johnson has the physical ability, talent, brains, and heart to be a great quarterback and a capable leader. Doug Flutie was brought in to help facilitate that transition. He was asked to be a competent backup and nurturing mentor to an athlete rich in potential but lacking in experience.

For whatever you believe of Flutie's tenure with the Bills, it cannot be argued that he failed his role profoundly. He didn't have the class or decency to accept his job with grace. When it was required of him to be supportive, he undermined. When he needed to be a friend, he was a foe. When Johnson was struggling and in need of guidance, Flutie stood on the sidelines pouting but enjoying the failure of his teammate since it might benefit him in the long run.

Doug Flutie was never a Buffalo Bill any more than he was ever a Chicago Bear or a New England Patriot. Doug Flutie is never anything but Doug Flutie, a man more interested in his own mythic legend than in the betterment of his team. We must not exaggerate his abilities nor should we underestimate Rob Johnson's.

The simple truth, that many Bills fans intentionally overlook, is that Doug Flutie never won a playoff game for Buffalo. Hey, he's never won a playoff game for anyone south of the Canadian border. In his opportunities to do so, he's fumbled, both literally and metaphorically. Rob Johnson, on the other hand, put his team in the position to win in Tennessee and was not on the field when coverage was blown on that lateral pass. (And, yes, that "forward pass" is as much fantasy as the Flutie legacy in Buffalo.).

It may very well be that Rob Johnson will never realize his potential as a quarterback anywhere, much less in Buffalo. But if that's the case, it isn't because he doesn't have the ability -- he only lacks the confidence necessary to implement that ability. Considering the underhanded treatment he received from his predecessor and the brutal welcome he can now expect from Buffalo fans, it's little wonder why he lacks that confidence.

So if you're bemoaning the state of affairs at Ralph Wilson Stadium, keep in mind that it's not all Rob Johnson's fault or even the fault of the teammates that were fractured by the ongoing quarterback debate. To know who's really to blame for our downfall, look no further than San Diego's current QB -- and your own mirrors.
MICHELE DeVINNEY
Ft. Wayne, Ind.

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