I've been saving this one for a few days, because this story hasn't gotten a ton of attention, and because I wanted to take a day or two to sink my teeth into the idea and formulate an opinion in that fashion.
This past Monday - the day after the Buffalo Bills' 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots - Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas did his "Extra Point" show on WGR 550, just as he's done every week this season. This past week's edition, however, was quite easily his most interesting version yet. Why? Because Thurman mentioned his desire to play a part in Buffalo's upcoming re-building process, and his having already talked to COO Russ Brandon about it. WGR has the full details here (as well as the audio), but these Thomas quotes are particularly noteworthy:
"I'm into it. I'm not like Jim (Kelly) and want to be an owner but, I want to be a part of the turn-around. They know that. I've had some conversations with Russ Brandon. They're well aware of my situation and what I want to do over there. I want to be a part of this big splash that they're going to make."
"I think it's pretty likely that I'll be a part of it, yeah. I think I'm at a point right now where I can throw my two cents in and they'll listen to me. I think it's going to fine. I think it's all going to work out."
Thomas and fellow former teammates Jim Kelly and Darryl Talley have been proactive over the past year or two in voicing their opinions on the team, as well as making it very well known that they'd love nothing more than for people at One Bills Drive to listen to their suggestions on how to fix the team. Kelly wants to own the team, Talley and Thomas have been quite outspoken on their respective Twitter accounts, and now Thomas has had conversations with Brandon about assisting in what he calls "making a big splash."
From a pure marketing standpoint, bringing in Thomas - or anyone that was a major part of Buffalo's glory years - does make some sense. Buffalo went down that road just four years ago, when, after firing Tom Donahoe, Ralph Wilson brought in former head coach Marv Levy to run his team's football department. That move indirectly led to the hiring of Dick Jauron, and since that day, the Bills are 26-36 - and about to do the re-building thing again. But undeniably, bringing back Levy created a lot of buzz, even if it was short-lived.
The idea of Thomas being involved in the process this time around isn't quite the same situation; Thomas would not get the type of power that Levy got were he actually to receive a formal position with the Bills franchise. In fact, it's not entirely clear that Thomas even covets a formal role; he might just be after someone's ear to get his voice heard, and if that's the case, he's apparently already achieved those results in getting an audience with Brandon.
My point of view on this story - which isn't super-important, but it's certainly interesting - is that it would undeniably be cool to see some of Buffalo's most historic sports figures, Thomas and Kelly at the forefront, return to the organization to try to restore its respectability. It was cool to see Levy give it a try, too, but there's something cooler about knowing that the men making the plays are still fans, and want to try to turn it around here. You can't ask for more from the players that you came to love in the '90s, particularly for a guy like me, who cut my teeth as an adolescent watching these guys play. These guys are why I love the Buffalo Bills.
But ultimately, I strongly believe that one voice and one vision - in the form of a quality GM capable of surrounding himself with strong evaluators and great coaches and players - is what's needed to fix this team. Wilson already seems to have put some of his faith in the turn-around into Brandon, who appears to be heading up the search process. As long as Brandon doesn't seek ot dozens of opinions (though I'm sure dozens will be thrown at him) to dilute the meaning of the interview process, I'm OK with Thurman and any other players being involved in the hiring process. But ultimately, Brandon is the decision-maker, by all appearances, and if extra opinions make his job more difficult, what is Thomas' potential involvement really achieving?
Ultimately, any disagreements about the potential front office involvement of Thurman Thomas will likely stem from one's faith in Brandon as a decision-maker. It's becoming clear that Brandon won't be as involved in the football operation as he's been - and despite popular opinion, he hasn't been very involved at all. Brandon's good at the job he does, and that fact alone speaks to his ability to find good people for the jobs he needs done. Who's to say he can't do the same in finding the right guy to head up Buffalo's football side of the franchise?
Knowing the full weight of the decision coming up, I absolutely love the fact that Thurman and other players are passionate in wanting to help turn things around. I just hope that if it happens, it won't have negative effects, because ultimately, Thurman, nor any other former players, are - or should be - the ultimate decision-maker.