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Letter To The Editor: John Rauch, Jr. On Ron McDole Trade

Wednesday was the 40-year anniversary of the trade of Ron McDole. In response to that article, Angelo Coniglio of Remember the AFL put me in touch with John Rauch, Jr., the son of the Buffalo Bills coach supposedly responsible for the trade. The younger Rauch wanted to set the story straight for Bills fans that his late father not only didn't trade McDole, but lost his job despite not knowing about the trade until after it happened.

In the article, I quoted the oft-told story of how McDole was traded:

After the 1970 season, head coach John Rauch thought McDole had lost a step and traded him to the Washington Redskins for third- and fourth-round picks.

"He has not played what I would call winning football for the last three years," said Rauch of McDole on a local radio station.

The public nature of the comments caused a rift between the city and the team, with owner Ralph Wilson publicly backing the former Bill, McDole. Rauch resigned, and the Bills hired Harvey Johnson to take over for the 1971 season.

Rauch debated some of the things I relayed, and added some of his own comments about the McDole trade.

Rauch asserted that his father had absolutely no business in dealing the former AFL All-Star when I asked what role his father played in the trade.

"None," explains Rauch, Jr. "He did not know that McDole was being traded to the Redskins until after it was made. Ralph Wilson personally made the deal with [Redskins Owner] George Allen. Rauch had nothing to do with it."

The public comments seem damning until you take into account what was going on behind the scenes, says Rauch:

"Your quote made by my father, 'He has not played what I would call winning football for the last three years,' is true, but out of context," Rauch explained. "You left out the part where he continued, '... and we traded him while we could get something in return.' He also did not say 'I', he said 'we.' This was said at his first show on a local TV station the Sunday before training camp opened at Niagara University. My dad has told me that he said this out of loyalty to Mr. Wilson. He could have said, 'I had nothing to do with the trade. Ask Mr. Wilson,' but he didn't. He supported the Bills organization and gave that overall statement that supported why Mr. Wilson made the trade."

The above-mentioned television show where Rauch made his comments was at the beginning of training camp. Right after that conversation, things began to unravel quickly in the relationship between Wilson and Rauch.

"On Friday after camp started, Wilson arrived and after practice they went into one of the back rooms in one of those cottages at Niagara that was used for offices," continued Rauch. "Wilson said that McDole and [former Bills punter] Paul Maguire had given many years to the Buffalo Bills, and (Wilson) was going to issue a statement supporting them. This really pissed my dad off. He told Wilson that they were preparing for the '71 season, and these guys don't play for the Bills. If he did this, he could have his resignation. Wilson called his bluff and accepted. He always regretted giving Wilson an ultimatum."

Wilson made the statement, Rauch resigned and ended up getting a job with the Philadelphia Eagles before moving on to several other coaching stops. With training camp already under way, the Bills turned to the man who preceded Rauch, Harvey Johnson, to coach the 1971 season.

John Rauch passed away in his sleep in 2008 after coaching for 25 years.