Two late, great Buffalo Bills could finally be placed on the team's Wall of Fame this season. Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News speculates that AFL-era stalwarts in head coach Lou Saban and running back Cookie Gilchrist are the names being considered for enshrinement in 2015.
The pair has been off the Wall for five decades after Saban led the Bills to consecutive AFL championships in the mid-1960s. Gilchrist was on the 1964 championship squad, but elsewhere the following year. Both were instrumental in establishing the Bills as an AFL powerhouse, but their personalities drove a wedge between themselves and the organization.
Saban was the second coach in Bills history, coming over from the rival Boston Patriots. After turning the fortunes of the franchise around, he abruptly quit the team following the second championship run to join the college ranks, but quickly found his way back to the AFL. In 1971, he re-joined the Bills as head coach and ran O.J. Simpson like he had run Gilchrist - but again resigned in the middle of the 1976 season over a dispute about re-signing Simpson.
Gilchrist was inducted into the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame in 1971, but that endeavor was brushed aside when the team began the Wall of Fame. His propensity for being unpredictable following his career (largely attributed to the CTE he suffered from) and demands for compensation for appearances has kept him off the wall, despite being one of the team's first superstars, says Sullivan.
Both men had confrontations with late owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. through the years. Prior to his passing, the Bills' founding owner had expressed regret over those, but nothing was done to rectify the situation. Wilson passed away in 2014; Saban died in 2009, and Gilchrist passed in 2011. With all three deceased, new owner Terry Pegula and the reporters tasked with selecting the Wall of Fame could be looking to rectify the absence of the two men on the Wall of Fame at the same time the team honors the 50th anniversary of the AFL championships.
Check out Sullivan's article for quotes from Saban's family, as well as long-time Buffalo News Bills beat reporter Larry Felser.