Golden Football Magazine
June 2, 2017


"The best professional football crowd, cur­rently in Seattle, is equivalent to the sixth- or seventh-best Southeastern Con­ference crowd. Nobody watches, say, a Falcons-Panthers game for the atmo­sphere. They watch it for the occupational expertise."

Michael Weinreb, Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games (2014)

Tiger Den

Houdini Coaches the Commodores

Bernie Moore had yet to lose an SEC game in his 2 1/2 years as head coach when his 1937 Tigers traveled to Van­derbilt.

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Saints Short Story

Mount St. Haslett

Hair-trigger temper, intimidator of reporters and officials, loose with the facts. Yet Jim Haslett had some success with the Saints.

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Seminole Sidelines

Profile: Warrick Dunn - IV

Warrick returned for his senior year and became the school's all-time leading rusher.

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Profile: Bill Walsh - VI

The 1981 49ers jumped to the pinnacle of the NFL.


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Super Bowl IV

As the oddsmakers expected, the game wasn't close. Only it was the underdog that dominated.

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How Well Do You Know the Rules?

Muffed kickoff in NFL overtime

Football Quiz

Mystery player
The Prodigal QB Comes Home - II
The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team, Bill Polian (2014)
Part I
Bill Polian became GM of the Buffalo Bills in 1984.
In 1986, a potential trade materialized for Jim's negotiating rights, which we still owned. It would have involved some pretty high draft choices, and I thought it was something that Mr. Wilson [the Bills' owner] should at least consider. For one thing, it could have netted us, at the very minimum, a decent QB, along with allowing us to fill other positions. For another, Jim was going to be difficult for us to sign, because his price tag would be high for that time and he already had made it clear he had no desire to play for the Bills, so I thought we needed to look at a fall-back option.
"No!," Mr. Wilson said emphatically. "We're not going to do it. We're going to sign Jim Kelly."
"Jim Kelly is going to cost a fortune to sign," I reminded him.
"I know. We're going to sign Jim Kelly." ...
In my mind, having actually seen him up close and personal for a whole season in the USFL, there was no question that he was going to be a great QB in the NFL. There were no questions about him physically, none about him mentally, none about him emotionally. He was so big, so strong, so tough, I honestly thought that we had a weapon that nobody else had. Guys like that are rare in professional football. ... They make everybody around them better ...

L-R: Bill Polian, Ralph Wilson, Marv Levy
On July 29, 1986, at the end of an 11-week trial in U.S. District Court in Man­hattan, a jury awarded the USFL all of one dollar in its $1.7-billion antitrust suit against the NFL. That was trebled to three dollars. But the hollow nature of that "victory" was based on the fact the jury rejected all of the USFL's claims that the NFL's contracts with the television networks broadcasting its games constituted a monopoly, which was the very essence of its case.
Five days later, USFL commissioner Harry Usher announced that the league was suspending operations until 1987 (although it would never resume play), and a week later, the NFL announced that more than 600 USFL players were available to NFL teams. Soon thereafter, Al Davis, the late owner of the Raid­ers ... called me and said, "I'll give you any seven players on our team for the rights to Jim Kelly. Name the players."
So I named Howie Long, an eventual Hall of Famer, and virtually every other star that they had. He said, "Well, I'll call you back." He never called back.
Greg Lustig [Kelly's agent] then called me to say he wanted to meet. After receiving permission from the NFL office, I called Lustig back. The first thing he said was, "We don't want to go to Buffalo. We didn't want to go to Buffalo in the first place. We have no intention of going to Buffalo now."
All Lustig wanted to talk about was convincing us to trade Jim's rights to the Raiders. I told him that he wasn't necessarily in a position to make that de­mand, but that I thought it was still appropriate that we get together.
"Let me talk to Jim about what we have going here," I said.
I had a week to prepare. My plan was to sell Jim on the Bills, making sure he understood we weren't as bad as our record or reputation said we were. ...
We agreed to meet on August 14, 1986, in New York, at the Helmsley-Palace Hotel, which happened to be right across the street from Saint Patrick's Cathe­dral. I remembered being there as a little grade-school boy, touring that mag­nificent church. I considered that a good omen.
I opened the meeting by sharing an anecdote of being with the Chicago Blitz while Marv Levy [the Bills coach] and I were on the sideline of a game against the Gamblers in the Astrodome. In the second half, our S, Doug Plank, was blitzing. ... Doug came after Jim and he popped him right under the chin. It was a hit that in today's NFL would get you ejected and suspend­ed. You could see that he opened a gash in Jim's chin, yet, with blood pouring out, Jim stood back there and delivered a strike for a touchdown.
Marv and I looked at each other and we both went, "Holy cow!" or words to that effect.
I told Jim, "It was that play, more than any other, that convinced me that you're the kind of QB we need with the Buffalo Bills. ..."
I also reminded him of when he beat us [the Chicago Blitz] in a Saint Patrick's Day blizzard in Chicago. I'm talking about 17-18 inches of snow. I said, "Heck, you played in a blizzard in Chicago. Why are you worried about a little snow in western New York?"
We were just two guys talking football. ... I think it put Jim at ease a little bit, allowing me to gain some trust from him.
After that, I went into my recruiting speech.
I told him about Andre Reed, an extremely talented receiver ... I told him a­bout Pete Metzelaars, who we had acquired in a trade with the Seattle Sea­hawks in '85.
"We've got Bruce Smith on defense," I said. "We got some guys who can make plays on this team. This is not the mediocre outfit that it was when you were originally drafted in '83. It's a new, young team that you're going to grow with ..."
"This whole thing has been built with you in mind. This is not an offense that we dreamed up out of whole cloth and we don't care who the QB is. This is an offense that requires a QB who can lead, who can make throws down the field, who can do the kind of things that are necessary to have a top-flight passing game. And we think that that's possible in Buffalo."
At some point the idea of a trade to the Raiders came up and I said, "Well, Jim, here's the issue: we control your rights. They belong to us unilaterally, and there's no place that you can go of your own volition without our agree­ment. And I'm quite sure that we would never agree to trade you."
"Well, what if I didn't come to Buffalo?" Jim Asked. "What if I just refused to play?"
"Well, if that happened, I guess at some point in time we'd be inclined to may­be entertain a trade, because what skin is it off our nose if you don't play? We would be no worse off than we are now. But I can assure you that we would­n't trade you to the Raiders, under no circumstances. It's not happening. Take it to the bank. It's just not happening." ...
"This franchise has a cloud over it because we didn't sign you. Conversely, when we do sign you, that cloud will be lifted. ... The fans of Buffalo will wel­come you with open arms. You're not just another football player coming to Buffalo. You're the prodigal son coming home to lead us to the Promised Land." ...
On the morning of August 15, 1986, I was at the airport in Buffalo, ready to head to Houston, where I would meet with Jim Kelly's agents later that day. ... I got to the airport, and people there knew I was on my way to Houston to do the negotiations. There were actually children from a Catholic church in a northern suburb of Buffalo that brought along a little scroll, which was essen­tially a group of prayer thoughts for me.
"We're praying for you when you go to sign Jim Kelly," a nun told me. ...
I think the first day we went five to six hours and the discussion was focused on the Montana and Young contracts. I was trying to figure out what their "magic number" was. By the end of the day, I got to the point where I was pretty confident in saying to myself, I think a million a year is the magic number. By today's salary standards, that would be laughable for a backup QB, but it was unheard of for anybody in the NFL at the time. ...
We called it a day. Our game against the Oilers was that night, and Jim at­tended as Ralph Wilson's guest in his suite at the Astrodome. ... I heard af­terward that Mr. Wilson did a great job of selling Jim on the Bills and Buffalo.
The next day, ... his agents were more receptive to what we were offering, which was a five-year deal worth $8 million, including a $1 million signing bo­nus. That made him, at least briefly, the highest-paid player in the NFL.