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Short career keeps All-AFL Sestak out of pro Hall

Question: How can AFL great Tom Sestak get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? -- Mark Hibschweiler, Lockport

Answer: Sestak was a Hall-of-Fame talent. In his four best years, 1963 to '66, he was about as great as any defensive tackle in the Hall of Fame. The problem is he did not play long enough. He played only seven seasons, from '62 to '68, and he barely practiced his last two years due to a bad knee. He was first-team all-AFL three times. He came into the league as a 26-year-old rookie. He had been recruited by Bear Bryant at Texas A&M but started out at Baylor. Then he went in the Army for two years. Then he wound up at McNeese State, where Bills scout Harvey Johnson discovered him. He was a 235-pound tight end in college but when he showed up in Buffalo he was 270 with a 38-inch waist.

Ron Wolf, the great former general manager, thinks Sestak is a Hall of Famer. But it's not going to happen due to his short career. Bills Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw, by comparison, played nine years and was first-team all-AFL five times.
Sestak was best of the four defensive lineman on the AFL all-decade team, selected in 1970. The others were Jerry Mays, Houston Antwine and Gerry Philbin.

Of the 24 men on the all-time AFL team, 10 are in the Hall. Four others who played at least four AFL seasons are in (Len Dawson, Fred Biletnikoff, Buck Buchanan and Emmitt Thomas). Eight others who played three or two seasons in the AFL are in. Of the all-time AFLers who aren't in, I think Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson is the best candidate. Robinson was a finalist six times but fell just short. That's an injustice. I'm pushing for him. Another AFL guy in Sestak's category is Denver DE Rich "Tombstone" Jackson. He could have been a Hall of Famer if he played longer.

Q: How come the Patriots can get the ball to Randy Moss 12 times but the Bills can only get the ball to T.O. twice? -- Doug Pagano, Tonawanda

A: I don't have a great answer for you. The Bills could have and should have gotten it to T.O. at least a couple of more times. One factor is the Bills' cornerbacks played less press coverage than the Pats', so there were more pitch-and-catch opportunities for Moss. The Pats were more willing to let longer routes develop than the Bills, with their young offensive line.

Against a Cover 2 defense, a corner route can work. But it takes longer to run. When the Bills took deeper dropbacks at the end of the game, they got sacked. When the Pats did come out of the Cover 2, they disguised it well, and the Bills didn't take advantage. I think the Bills could have worked the middle of the field better with the tight end. All that being said, the Bills had a good offensive plan, which shoulda, coulda, woulda worked.

Q: Is Trent Edwards making the decision to change the play at the line of scrimmage, or is there still time for Van Pelt to communicate a play change based on the defensive formation he sees from the booth? -- George Whittier, East Amherst

A: Edwards is in charge of changing plays. The communication to the earpiece in Edwards' helmet cuts off with 15 seconds left on the play clock, not enough time for coaches to call the audible.

Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday in the paper and on the web at 11 a.m. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@buffnews.com. Please include name and hometown. Join Mark today for an online chat at the BillBoard blog at Buffalonews.com.

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