As far as symbolic outreach goes, some gestures far outweigh others. Giving franchise greats a shout-out is one thing, but making those greats feels as if they are still part of the family is a completely different ballgame.
New Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott took a tremendous step in the right direction this week, taking it upon himself to treat seven Super Bowl-era Bills to dinner, according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News. McDermott dined with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, Darryl Talley, and Cornelius Bennett. Tim Graham later tweeted that one of the “magnificent seven” to dine with McDermott texted Graham to say that it was the first time a Buffalo head coach had made this kind of gesture.
While many will recall former coach Rex Ryan’s outing for beer and wings with Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas (mostly due to the coverage it received in Sports Illustrated), McDermott’s gesture is the first to include members of the Bills’ family outside of the star quarterback and running back. The table had a very 1990s-feel to it, for sure; however, the symbolism is obvious. As the Bills search for an identity in the midst of a seventeen-year stretch of mediocrity at best and awful play at worst, bridging the gap between the team’s glory years and what will hopefully be the next generation of success is good business. Picking the brains of a core group of players responsible for the third-highest winning percentage in the NFL during the ‘90s (and the AFC’s highest in that same time frame) is a shrewd move football-wise, as well.
Any good organization takes care of its alumni. Hopefully, this is a signal that these franchise greats will be welcome at One Bills Drive and at New Era Field more often than they have been in years past. For my part, I just would have loved to have been the waiter for that table!