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We Want Marangi Flashback: Garbage Time In New Orleans And Bud’s Birds

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The last time the Bills visited New Orleans, they were headed for the playoffs. And their hosts were trying to prove they were not a joke, despite years of evidence to the contrary.

Doug Flutie’s first and best season in Buffalo had already yielded a postseason berth, so he sat out the 1998 finale in the Superdome in order to rest a sore knee for the following weekend’s Wildcard Game. In his place, Rob Johnson threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth, adding fuel the quarterback controversy that would last through the rest of Wade Phillips’ coaching tenure.
 
Mike Ditka’s second season with the Saints had not gone any better than the first. So he had spent the previous couple months giving Kerry Collins, who had been released by Carolina less than two years after taking the Panthers to the NFC title game, an audition at quarterback.
 
It did not last much longer.
 
 
 
The Bills sacked Collins a couple times, one ending with a near-touchdown by Bruce Smith (the first highlight in the clip above) and threw an interception. So Ditka pulled him before the first quarter ended with Buffalo up 21-0, having scored the football equivalent of a first-round knockout.
 
It remains the quickest hook I have ever seen in an NFL game. From the press box, I kept an eye on Ditka and Collins, wondering if the volcanic coach might slug the already-battered quarterback, or at least make him turn in his uniform right on the sideline.
 
Collins had clearly bombed the audition, ending his time with the Saints and, I figured, the NFL. At the time, they had managed four winning seasons out of 32 since joining the league as an expansion team and New Orleans had never celebrated a playoff win. If you couldn’t make it there, you couldn’t make it anywhere.
 
Shows what I know. Two years later, Collins started for the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. By 2008, the guy with a reputation as a drunken racist quitter was the calm, grizzled veteran who took over for the talented-but-troubled Vince Young and led Tennessee to a 13-3 record.
 
As for the Bills-Saints game, Johnson’s 1-yard flip to Sam Gash put Buffalo ahead 28-0 early in the second quarter, leading to almost three full quarters of garbage time. Collins’ replacement, Billy Joe Tolliver, threw on just about every down and Buffalo’s defense, primarily concerned with remaining healthy, let him, resulting in a wildly deceptive 45-33 final.
 
A week later, Flutie started in Miami and the Bills lost 24-17, a defeat sealed when Flutie was sacked and fumbled at the 5-yard line in the closing moments.
 
But that’s another flashback entirely.
 
*****
 
 
A few days after former Houston and New Orleans coach Bum Phillips died last week, the man who fired him after guiding the Oilers to three straight playoff berths also left this world.
 
Adams’ death leaves Ralph Wilson as the only remaining owner from “The Foolish Club,” the group of eight wealthy men who founded the American Football League in 1960. Adams moved the Oilers to Tennessee in 1997, where they became the Titans a couple years later.
 
Adams’ Oilers and Wilson’s Bills combined to win four of the first six AFL titles. Neither franchise has celebrated a league championship since.
 
Like Wilson, Adams paid $25,000 for a franchise now valued at near $1 billion. Such financial success did not mellow the man, last seen by most Bills fans celebrating Tennessee’s 41-17 win over Buffalo in 2009 thusly:
 
 
 
At the time, I figured he was still bitter about The Comeback. But judging from the Google results for “Bud Adams double bird,” expressing himself with his middle fingers was something of a hobby.
 
At least that’s how We Want Marangi, and more than a few people in Houston, will choose to remember him.