- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

Tom Donahoe does not believe in tweaking.

In 2001, Donahoe became general manager of the Buffalo Bills, a team that had won four AFC titles and reached the playoffs 10 times in 13 seasons.

He fired his first coach, Gregg Williams, and got rid of every player he inherited except one.

Donahoe’s team is in worse shape than when he took command — “chaos,” one prominent player calls it — and the Bills are a dismal 30-47 during his tenure, a record better than only the Browns, Cardinals and Lions.

“We’re still learning how to play the game at certain positions,” veteran linebacker London Fletcher lamented.

Donahoe fired Williams after three seasons. Williams’ successor, Mike Mularkey, made a promising debut but sank from a promising 9-7 record to 4-9 this season.

Receiver Eric Moulds is the only holdover from the pre-Donahoe era, and he was suspended for last week’s 35-0 loss to the Patriots for a sideline argument with position coach Tyke Tolbert and for publicly questioning Mularkey’s game plans. Moulds is back for tomorrow night’s game with AFC West leader Denver.

“It’s crazy,” running back Willis McGahee said after Moulds was suspended. “It’s a lot of chaos. You don’t know what to expect.”

Bills owner Ralph Wilson, 87, has been waiting 40 years for another title — his teams won AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 — and he certainly expected better than this:

• The NFL’s worst red zone defense, a year after Buffalo was fifth in category.

• The NFL’s third-worst red zone offense.

• A team that, other than 1-12 Houston and 2-11 San Francisco, is the only one in the bottom four in offense and defense.

• A coach who can’t decide on a quarterback, veering between 2004 first-round draft pick J.P. Losman and veteran journeyman Kelly Holcomb after Donahoe jettisoned Drew Bledsoe.

• A coach who suspended Moulds; who told Sam Adams he was inactive not long before a kickoff, prompting the Pro Bowl defensive tackle to go home rather than support his teammates; and who benched offensive tackle Mike Williams, the fourth pick in the 2002 draft.

If the 38-17 and 48-10 bludgeonings at Oakland and San Diego, respectively, weren’t bad enough, Buffalo led Miami 23-3 late in the third quarter and had first-and-goal at the 3-yard line and lost 24-23.

However, the nadir came last week as Losman posted an 8.5 rating in the first 57 minutes and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady outrushed McGahee 17-3. McGahee, who ran well last year after losing 2003 to knee surgery, has gone five weeks without a 100-yard game.

All told, it was Buffalo’s worst loss in two seasons and its worst home loss in three. The Bills have lost four straight and were outscored 59-9 during the last seven quarters.

“Obviously, it was a poor performance,” Mularkey said. “It seems like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.”

That could be the motto of the Donahoe era, which, if Wilson is smart, should end after this season.

Police state

Houston nose tackle Seth Payne had an interesting take on how the NFL has changed during his nine seasons.

“There’s not as much frontier justice anymore,” Payne said. “When I first came into the league, there were a lot of dirty blocks below the waist and behind the knees when the play was away from you. [Now] people in the league office are looking for any type of infraction. So many guys have been fined big amounts for things that they weren’t even flagged for in a game. Today, if you want to get back at somebody, the best thing you can do is to just beat them clean and embarrass them.”

Vick’s good deed

After high school defensive back Kenny Gibson was paralyzed during a 2004 game, he decided he wanted to die. When Gibson’s doctors learned Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick was his hero, they arranged for Vick to call Gibson in the hospital. That made all the difference for the 17-year-old, who now carries a 4.0 grade point average. So Vick was named the winner of the “When U Dream A Dream” organization’s Inspiration Award, given to an individual who inspires people with physical disabilities. Vick met with Gibson last week and dedicated Monday’s victory over New Orleans to him.

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