The Turning of the Tide

Brian Harnois
Brian Harnois

Editor’s note: Brian Harnois is a former cast member of the reality shows Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. A father of 2 beautiful daughters and a huge Buffalo Bills fan living in the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island, he is a proud member of Bills Mafia and the newest writer to join our staff.

The Buffalo Bills. The name of my favorite football team brings enjoyment, misery, and with other NFL fans… laughter. I have seen them go from one of the best teams in the 1990’s to one of the worst in the first decade of the new century. From four straight Super Bowl appearances and one of the winningest records, to not making the playoffs since 1999 and one of the worst records from 2000 to present. But not this year. 2012 will be the turning of the tide.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start from the beginning, and the beginning for me was the Jim Kelly era. The K-Gun, or like I call it, “The Machine.” I know there will be some controversy about this, but I would put that offense up against any other in the league EVER and say they would beat them. They were the epitome of offense. You had Thurman Thomas in the backfield, Kelly calling the plays, Kent Hull hiking the ball and Andre Reed, James Lofton, and Don Beebe running routes and burning defenders all day long. Those were the glory days for me. The days where I could sit back on any given Sunday and almost guarantee a Bills victory. And not just a victory, but a decimation of the other team.

And that wasn’t all because of the offense. We also had one of the meanest defenses in the league. And I mean MEAN!!! You had Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett, Darryl Talley, Mark Kelso, Shane Conlan, Nate Odomes… should I go on? Those were the years that the league feared the Bills. And they had EVERY reason to. And I know what people are going to say: “But the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls!” I know we did and this is what I say: “No one will EVER go to four straight Super Bowls ever again.” And I truly believe that. Oh, and did I mention “The Greatest Comeback In NFL History?” Nope, I didn’t and I don’t think I have to. It’s implied in the greatness that was the Buffalo Bills back then.

"Did we really think that Collins could come right in and take over for Kelly and win games? Of course not."
“Did we really think that Collins could come right in and take over for Kelly and win games? Of course not.”

But the glory days have to end sometime. And those days started to fade at the end of the 1996 season when #12 announced his retirement. That was a sad day for me as well as the rest of the fans. It was the end of an era. An era that saw us win 4 straight AFC Championships, as well as countless regular season and playoff games. But like they say, the show must go on. And on it did. The 1997 season was one of those seasons us Bills fans would love to forget. A 6-10 record was just the beginning of what I didn’t like about that season. The offense sputtered with Todd Collins at its helm, but that was expected. Did we really think that Mr. Collins could come right in and take over for Jim Kelly and win games? Of course not. And I am very glad that he didn’t really get the chance to try. One and done is the term I like to use with that season.

At the end of the 1997 season we lost another of our greats when Marv Levy retired from the Bills. As a fan, I didn’t know what was going to happen to our Bills. We went from a juggernaut to cannon fodder in a year. But that all turned around when I heard that the Bills signed Doug Flutie. I know the controversy that followed him over to the NFL from the Canadian Football League: “Oh, he’s too short.” “He’s too old.” “He can’t play in this league.” Well, we all know how those people feel now… dumb!

The 1998 season didn’t start too well because of the other QB that Wade Phillips got all excited about. Rob Johnson was picked up in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars only 3 weeks after they signed Flutie, and immediately Wade Phillips said he was starting. Well, we all know how that went the first 3 weeks: 0-3 with Rob getting hurt a couple of times and Flutie being put in to try and clean up the mess. Then the greatest game of the 1998 season for me came in the week 5 match up of the 2-3 Buffalo Bills and the 5-0 Jacksonville Jaguars. You all remember that game right? It was the coming out party for Doug. The man drove them down the field in the last minutes of the 4th quarter and naked bootlegged it into the end zone with 15 seconds remaining to win the game for us. Absolute brilliance!!

That was the beginning of a 3 year love affair with Doug Flutie. I was one of the Flutie-holics. Had his jerseys, his Starting Lineup figures, most of his football cards, and especially a bunch of boxes of Flutie Flakes cereal. Those were some great times in Buffalo Bills history. Doug Flutie was showing everyone that he could still play the game that he loved on the highest level possible. And he played it well. Bringing us to the playoffs for the first two years that he was with us… Even though we lost the first year to the Dolphins. And, don’t get me going on the 1999 Tennessee Titans playoff game. Or should I say the Forward Lateral game? Where Wade Phillips benched Flutie because Rob Johnson had a great meaningless game against the Colts on the last Sunday of the regular season. In my opinion, if Flutie was in that game we would have easily won and that whole Titans D would have been getting oxygen at halftime trying to figure out how to contain him. I think we would have won that game and easily made it to the Super Bowl that year against the Rams. But alas, we will never know now.

The 2000 season started with Flutie on the bench with an injury, and we only went 8-8 that year. That started the decade of mediocrity. Well, I should say twelve years of mediocrity. Now don’t get me wrong, we have had some amazing players in the last twelve years. Everyone from Drew Bledsoe, Travis Henry, and Sam Adams… to Willis McGahee, Takeo Spikes, and Marshawn Lynch. The problem was that we have had losing season after losing season with no hopes of making the playoffs. I am not going to get into a year-by-year breakdown because I don’t want to bring up too many bad memories in this article. It has been a dark time for us Bills fans over these last dozen years, but every year we always rooted for them and had hope that maybe this year was the year. Then the disappointment would come and we would start it over again the next year. Twelve long years of the same thing was starting to get old.

But all that is about to change. And I mean change this year. From what I can see this early in the season, the Bills are really onto something. It is almost reminiscent of the days of The Thurminator, The K-Gun Offense, Bruce “Bad Things” Smith, The Comeback, and many more. Those were the days. And those days are here again. We have a team now, that under the tutelage of Chan Gailey, could seriously make an impact in the NFL. And I am talking a Super Bowl impact. Probably not this year, but in the next couple of years we could be celebrating our first ever Super Bowl victory.

Spiller's running and receiving abilities remind Brian of another RB who once played for the Bills... #34. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Spiller’s running and receiving abilities remind Brian of another RB who once played for the Bills… #34. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Now I know that most people will think I am crazy, but just hear me out for a minute. We have one of the top 5 running games in the league with C.J. Spiller sprinting up and down the field. Not to mention that he can catch and run like a wide receiver. Can you say Thurman? I know you can. The Offensive line is absolutely fantastic. They are opening up holes big enough that even I could run through them. And they are also protecting our main man Fitz very well. Speaking of Ryan Fitzpatrick, everyone knows he is not an elite QB. But, he doesn’t have to be. He just has to control the clock, protect the ball, not throw interceptions, and be a leader. His 200-250 yards a game is perfect in Chan Gailey’s new run-first offense. I know that it will hurt Stevie Johnson’s numbers a little, but in the long run he won’t care if he is raising the Lombardi trophy in a couple of years. It reminds me of the first few years of our original Super Bowl offense. They are going to put up big numbers, and put on a show for us Bills fans.

As for our defense, I think we are going to have one of the best — if not the best — defenses in all of football in the next few years. With Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus teeing off on quarterbacks and fronting the line, there are may similarities to a defensive line headed up by Bruce Smith and Phil Hansen. Our corner backs and safeties are young, athletic, and hungry. And as long as they can stop the deep ball, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. And let us not forget about our talented group of linebackers headed up by Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard. As with the cornerbacks and safeties, they are up and coming and can put a hurting on wide receivers and quarterbacks alike. This whole defense is getting it together and should be a great asset to the success of this team.

The 2012 Buffalo Bills are the beginning of something great. It is time for all you Bills Backers, Bills Fans, and Bills Mafia members to Circle The Wagons once more. So jump on board and let’s enjoy the ride, because there are some “Bad Things Man” in store for the rest of the NFL.

The turning of the tide is here. So let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy some Buffalo Bills FOOTBALL!!!