When Steve Christie booted in a 40-plus yard field goal in the waning seconds of the 2000 Wild Card, the excitement was palpable throughout our Orchard Park neighborhood. The collective roar ringed down the entire street. Life never seemed better, and we all just knew, or thought we knew, that the Bills were advancing to the second round.
Fast forward ten years, and times have changed here in Bills country. The team was not able to hold onto the lead for a mere quarter of a minute, and Music City Miracle (a.k.a. Forward Lateral) became forever enshrined in team lore. Since then, the Bills have not returned to the playoffs.
Each August, filled with optimism, conversations among Bills fans invariably turn to the prospects of the team for the upcoming season. Ninety percent of the time, at least, the loyal fan will wholeheartedly predict that the team will go 10-6, or even 11-5, and finally get the elusive wild-card spot. Time and time again, for one reason or another, the Bills fail to live up to the expectations of their loyal followers, and restlessness abounds on One Bills Drive.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it seems as if the team is running out of options for improvement. With the deterioration of the city of Buffalo, as well as the continual addition of home games in Toronto, you get the sense that the team won't be around forever. This offseason, a jolt of energy was needed in the Bills organization.
This offseason, one of the best receivers in the history of the game, Terrell Owens, became a free agent. Although Owens had a history of problems in the locker room, not just with teammates but with coaches as well, there was never a doubt as to his ability. The guy could flat-out play the game.
Owens, with his career winding down, needed a team. The Bills, with their days in Buffalo possibly winding down, needed some excitement. Put the two together, and sure enough, Terrell Owens, yes, the Just-Give-Me-The-Damn-Ball Terrell Owens, will be playing for the Bills this year.
On first glance, it seems as if T. O. and Buffalo are exact opposites. It would appear is if the city of Buffalo, with its blue-collar makeup of hardworking citizens who tend to shy away from the spotlight, would fail to welcome with open arms a career showboater who embraces attention. However, Owens was given a key to the city upon his arrival, and away we went again, excited for the season, chatting it up about our playoff prospects.
Last year, we had to endure a 5-1 start that fizzled into a 7-9 debacle. When T. O. came into town, all of that misery was forgotten, immediately replaced by hope and a readiness for the season. Did the city forget the reputation of the man that we are welcoming in? Where does this acceptance come from?
Maybe we just feel happy that management is taking a chance for once on this team. After all, when Dick Jauron was retained, the general consensus was that the Bills were being run in an uninspired fashion, stuck in rebuilding mode year after year. People aren't thinking that way now.
Terrell Owens is running out of time to change his reputation. Maybe he can do that in Buffalo. The Bills could be running out of time to shed their reputation as a team that comes up short time and time again. Maybe they can do that with Owens. Whatever happens, Bills Nation can't blame the organization for not taking a chance this year.
Owens could quickly make a few negative comments about his teammates or his new city, isolating himself in the community and hurting the team's collective prospects early on. He could also provide the missing piece to a dynamic receiving corps, opening up the running game and allowing the offense the flourish. Who knows? Football operations are risky, and nothing is a safe bet. Some decisions have a wider range of potential outcomes than others, and this is one of them. Maybe, just once, Buffalo will be on the high end of that continuum this year.
When fans watched helplessly as the Tennessee Titans stole that 1999 wild-card game away from the Bills in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, nobody had no idea this long of a playoff drought would follow. Let's hope in 30 years, we don't have to think of the Music City Miracle as the final playoff game that the Bills ever played.
With T. O., maybe the Bills avoid that fate asap. With T. O., there's a chance. Here in Bills Land, that chance is all we ask for.
Kevin Prise is a contributor to BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up with T.O. Fever at the BFR...
-- Owens had strong words on the Michael Vick situation. Tyler Dunne writes that it's vintage T.O.
-- Is it only a matter of time before he erupts? We examine.
-- And get all T.O. stories at his Scout.com player page here.