By Budd Bailey
All right, it’s early July. The football news is more or less recycled from minicamp interviews, unless you happen to be a fan of Baker Mayfield. Clearly we need some sort of silly distraction.
Just as clearly, I’m the man for the job.
Someone from the Pro Football Researchers Association posted a list of the players who lead the Minnesota Vikings in games played by position. Hall of Famers such as Fran Tarkenton, Cris Carter, Paul Krause and Carl Eller lead the way.
I decided to take it another step. I started a list of those who were drafted by the Bills, and then went on to play at least 100 games in a Buffalo uniform. In other words, I was looking for people who bled the Bills’ colors by the time they left town. With a 17-game schedule, it takes at least six years to reach 100; it was seven years with a 16-game schedule. While many on the current roster may get to the century mark someday, we’ll have to wait a bit for them to arrive.
Obviously, many all-time greats of the team were on the list. But could I put together an excellent starting lineup of 22 position players, plus a few specialists, from the group?
The answer is … almost.
Let’s go through the roster of a variation of a Bills’ “all-drafted team,” with some notes on my selections along the way; games played are in parentheses:
Quarterback: Jim Kelly (160)
He’s the only player on the list who actually started his career in another league. But the Bills did draft him, and he did play more than 100 games at the start of his NFL career. So I’m counting him. If Jim’s time disqualifies him from the list for you, feel free to use Joe Ferguson. He actually played in four more games in a Bills’ uniform than Kelly – which might be a good way to win a bar bet.
Running backs: Thurman Thomas (123) and O.J. Simpson (112)
These two are the only players on this list, which is exactly as it should be. An asterisk goes to Fred Jackson, who played in 106 games for Buffalo … but signed as a free agent.
Wide receiver: Andre Reed (221) and Eric Moulds (154)
Reed is the Bills’ all-time leader in games played. Moulds and Lee Evans (109) are a bit of a coin toss for me, but Eric gets the nod here for those 45 extra games. By the way, did you know that Josh Reed (115) qualified for this list?
Tight end: Reuben Gant (101)
This was an easy one, since no one else reached 100. Jay Riemersma was close at 90 games.
Offensive tackles: Joe Devlin (191) and Will Wolford (102)
This was a tough choice. You could pick Ken Jones (158) and John Fina (148) over Wolford without much of an argument from me. Stew Barber (125) and Glenn Parker (104) are also in the club.
Offensive guards: Billy Shaw (119) and Joe DeLamielleure (112)
This was much easier even though the position is relatively stacked. The two Hall of Famers are a cut above rest of the crowd. Jim Ritcher (203), Reggie McKenzie (147), and Ruben Brown (136) were very good too.
Center: Eric Wood (120)
Only injuries prevented Eric from catching Al Bemiller (126) in games played. Will Grant suited up 122 times – more than you’d think.
Defensive end: Bruce Smith (217) and Phil Hansen (156)
Smith was the easy one. Hansen is the argument with Aaron Schoebel (133) and Ben Williams (147). Any of them would work. Ryan Denney checks in at 111.
Defensive tackles: Kyle Williams (183) and Fred Smerlas (162)
Jim Dunaway (126) can’t keep up with this sort of company.
Linebackers: Darryl Talley (188), Mike Stratton (142), and Lucius Sanford (118)
Do you mind if we take three outside linebackers? There’s no middle linebacker who qualified. Sam Rogers just made it over the line with 101 games played.
Cornerbacks: Charles Romes (151) and Nate Odomes (108)
The Bills have gone through a number of good cornerbacks in the past 30 years, but they’ve usually left as free agents to go elsewhere. Thomas Smith (110) was one who made it over the threshold. Ken Irvin pops up with 108 games.
Safeties: Henry Jones (144) and Kurt Schulz (107)
Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde aren’t going to crack this list, since they weren’t drafted by the Bills. Jones and Schulz are left as the only qualifiers.
Special Teams: Mark Pike (173)
Can you guess how many games Mark started in his Bills career? One, in 1991. He was great at his job for 12 seasons, which gets more impressive by the year.
Returner: Terrence McGee
I decided not to list him at cornerback (where he played six seasons as a starter), since there were many other good candidates. McGee was someone who seemed like a threat to score a touchdown any time he caught a return. Terrence was the primary kick return for five seasons, and scored four touchdowns.
Punter and Kicker: None
This is the point where I get in trouble. No punter or kicker meets the qualifications of “The Hundred Club.” John Kidd comes the closest among punters, playing in 92 games over six seasons. What’s more, his NFL career lasted an amazing 215 games in all.
Few kickers are even drafted these days, and it’s easier to grab someone else’s established player than to find a new one. People like Scott Norwood and Steve Christie don’t make it here. The all-time leader among the Bills’ drafted kickers is … Tyler Bass, he of all of 33 games. It sure looks as if he has a chance to reach 100 games. Second is Pete Gogolak, who played in 28 games for the Bills in the Sixties before jumping to the NFL.
OK, I’m done. You’re on your own for entertainment until the start of training camp.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)