PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

November 3, 2012

West column: Buffalo Bills have been losers since firing Wade Phillips

PORT ARTHUR — Buffalo Bills have

been losers since

firing Wade Phillps

    It’s always interesting to see how time puts things into perspective. In Houston, today’s game against Buffalo is being billed as the return of former Texans No. 1 draft choice Mario Williams. In Buffalo, they are serving up reminders of how successful the team was when Wade Phillips was head coach from 1998-2000. During that period, at a time when two other head coaches in the AFC East were named Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson, the Bills went 29-19, were in the playoffs twice and were a “Music City Miracle” away from going to the Super Bowl. Since then, Buffalo hasn’t had a winning season. The best record of any coach since Wade is Mike Mularkey’s 14-18. “Many were happy to show Wade the door,” penned one Buffalo scribe. “But in hindsight, it seems to have been a costly mistake. The Bills have never been the same team.” . . . Mario Williams’ return, by the way, is a major concern for the Texans. Although he was never consistently great in six Houston seasons, and only twice — 14 in 2007, 12 in 2008 — managed double digit sacks, he’ll come into this particular game with over-the-top incentive. Don’t think for a second he isn’t aware of strong feelings that the Texans replaced him with a better, much cheaper player in J.J. Watt. With a favorable matchup against Derek Newton, a second-year offensive tackle who is going to be in over his head, Williams poses a serious threat to QB Matt Schaub’s health. The Texans need to run the ball and give Newton plenty of help on obvious passing downs.

    The NFL Films piece on Jimmy Johnson, mentioned in this space a few weeks ago, is set to air Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the NFL Channel. The hour-long documentary is part of the “It’s a Football Life” series airing weekly, and is expected to contain material on Jimmy’s life and times growing up in Port Arthur, and his heroic returns as coach of a collegiate national champion and Super Bowl champion. JJ, incidentally, continues to get embarrassed by picking the Cowboys to win when he, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Michael Strahan make selections on FOX NFL Sunday. After last week’s mistake-filled loss to the Giants, his message to his old team was, “It’s not how many great plays you make that win games, it’s how few bad ones.” . . . The latest Sports Illustrated has a strong Texas pro football theme in its NFL Mid-Season Report. The Texans’ amazing J.J. Watt is the issue’s coverboy, with an inside feature that portrays him as the NFL’s dominant defensive player, and builds a case for the Texans as the league’s best team. Adjacent to the piece on Watt and the Texans is one on the Cowboys that attempts to explain why they remain so popular both in the Lone Star State and nationally. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t mention the fact that owner Jethro Jones got soundly booed when his likeness appeared in a public service announcement last Sunday on the massive video screen at JerryWorld. . . For those who find betting trends fascinating, there’s one at work with both the Cowboys and the Texans. In Dallas’ last 28 games, the favorite has covered only five times. As for Houston, it has covered the point spread in 15 of the last 18 games Matt Schaub has started at quarterback. The Texans are favored by 10 over Buffalo, while Dallas is getting four at Atlanta.

    Don’t think I’ve read many sports stories sadder than the one in Thursday’s Port Arthur News about what Alzheimer’s has done to Darrell Royal, and that his deteriorating condition has  led to wife Edith deciding to put much of his personal memorabilia up for auction. Actually, the latter is not a bad thing, because you have think the items that are up for bid will generate several hundred thousand dollars from his many admireres for the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. The auction, for those who may have missed the story, will take place in Austin next Sunday . . . Put the name of Donald Reed alongside so many others who have used athletic success in Port Arthur as a springboard to making their presence felt in a positive way. A TJ basketball star under Willie Williams from 1980-82, who went on to play for North Texas and earn a Masters of Science in Kinesiology/Education and Sports Administration, Reed is now the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academic and Athletic Performance at the University of Buffalo. Prior to moving to Buffalo, he served in athletic academic roles at New Mexico State, Arizona State and Iowa State. In addition to his masters degree, Reed received his Doctor of Philosophy in Education Management and Development at New Mexico State. Pretty impressive stuff . . . Early odds from RJ Bell of Pregame.com will do little to relieve pessimism surrounding another 100-loss season for the  Houston Astros in their move to the American League West. Two division foes — the Angels at 12-to-1 and the Rangers at 13-to-1 — have the best odds of winning the 2013 World Series. The Oakland A’s, at 25-to-1, are in the top half of the pack. Houston, meanwhile, has the longest odds of 150-to-1.

    By the time you read this, ESPN’s sharpest college football analyst Kirk Hebstreit will either have a chance to look awfully smart, or the limb he crawled out on will have broken off. On Randy Galloway’s Wednesday radio show, Herbstreit said Texas A&M will be much more of a threat on the road next week at No. 1 Alabama than No. 5 LSU was going to be against the Crimson Tide Saturday in Baton Rouge. Herbstreit’s reasoning was that the Aggies have an offense that’s going to be much more of a problem than LSU’s. He even said he figured LSU would average about 0.3 yards per carry against Alabama . . . It probably won’t happen this way, but think of the fallout if it does. Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame all finish the regular season unbeaten. Alabama and either Kansas State or Oregon get matched by the BCS computers for the national championship. An unbeaten Notre Dame gets left out. What an unthinkable human tragedy. Vegas oddsmakers, by the way, believe Oregon would have the best shot at beating Alabama. As of Friday, they had the Crimson Tide a 6-point favorite over the Ducks, 10 over Kansas State and 13 over Notre Dame, assuming the teams played on a neutral field . . . The good news on Memorial ex Jamaal Charles, following a scary helmet-to-helmet hit Thursday night in San Diego that left him down on the field for several minutes, is that he’s fine and is expected to be ready to play for Kansas City next Sunday in Pittsburgh. The bad news, as so many saw Thursday night, is that a great talent is stuck in a hopeless situation on a bad, poorly coached team which may have already thrown in the towel on the 2012 season. Because opponents don’t respect KC’s quarterbacks, Charles is often dead in his tracks when he gets the ball. There will be a housecleaning at the end of the season, followed by a rebuilding period. Jamaal’s best hope for the future is to get traded.  

    Here’s something I didn’t know until reading a release that the Southland Conference will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013. Although I was aware that Lamar Tech, along with Abilene Christian, Arkansas State, Arlington State and Trinity University of San Antonio were the original members, I didn’t know that the Cardinals played in the first ever SLC event. Jack Martin’s basketball team routed Trinity 80-50 in San Antonio on Nov. 30, 1963. That, of course, was eight days after President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas . . . As part of that 50th anniversary celebration, the SLC will be picking all-time and all-decade teams in all sports. The most fascinating of those to me will be in basketball, because the Southland in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was home to some terrific talent. Lamar fans are aware of Cardinal greats like Don Bryson, Mike Olliver, Clarence Kea, B.B. Davis and James Gulley,  but if the all-time team consists of five players I’m not sure any of them will make it. Karl Malone of Louisiana Tech, Joe Dumars of McNeese State and Andrew Toney and Bo Lamar of Southwestern Louisiana are virtual locks. Trinity had an amazing  star named Larry Jeffries, with a four-year career scoring average of 25.0, who is certain to be in the mix. So will Louisiana Tech’s Mike Green, who posted career averages of 22.9 points and an SLC best  15.4 rebounds from 1969-73 . . . Next time the New England Patriots appear on the St. Louis Rams schedule will be too soon for Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Last year, in his final season as Tennessee’s head coach, the Patriots administered a 59-0 beatdown to the Titans. Last week in London, Fisher’s Rams took it on the chin, 45-7. That’s 104-7 in eight quarters.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.

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