A new generation comes along every thirty years and it has taken almost that long for the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl teams to finally really be appreciated. The latest NFL Films production on Thurman Thomas is proof of that.

“Thurman Thomas A Football Life” profiled the career of Thomas and for the most past was highly entertaining. Now make no mistake, most players in any sport look great if you creatively edit only their best performances to dramatic music. But, Thurman Thomas was a great running back and his career needs no hype. The fact that he was under appreciated during his career and after is what is maddening for Bills fans.

Thurman was one of the most productive NFL players of all time and is the only player to have led the league in yards from scrimmage for four consecutive years. Not Brown, Simpson, Sanders, Smith, Dickerson, Payton, Sayers, Jackson, Tomlinson or Campbell have accomplished that feat. Yet, it took the second year of eligibility for Thurman to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thurman Thomas, in many ways, represents how national sentiment has been about the 1990 era Bills until 2013. It was then that Jim Kelly announced he was diagnosed with cancer in the upper Jaw and the national spotlight began to focus on Kelly and the support he was receiving from his former teammates.

Suddenly NFL Films produced the “Four Falls of Buffalo” and fans born after 1995 began to realize just how good the team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls actually was.

Having covered the Buffalo Bills through the Super Bowl years I vividly remember just how tired the national media had become covering Kelly, Smith, Thomas, Reed, Tasker and company. 

The Bills first appearance in Super Bowl XXV was a great story story. Plenty of stars and a high powered offense was tailor made for the “old school” media from three decades ago. Then after losing by a single point in 1991 the Bills became a great comeback story returning in 1992. The welcome more than wore off in 1993 however, when they were buried by Dallas 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. 

Then to make matters worse both the Bills and Cowboys returned in 1994 a match-up few on the national level wanted to see. The Bills teased viewers by leading Dallas at the half 13-6, but the final 30-13 outcome cemented Buffalo as “losers” of the decade.

To understand the mood of the national press towards the Bills back then one needs to have for a feel for what their job was. Covering the Super Bowl was both a burden and a joy. A monotonous schedule of daily interviews with the same players and coaches over four days followed by lavish parties.

At least each year would bring a new and different group of players and stories to write and talk about. To have to cover the Bills four consecutive years and generate unique stories or angles became maddening.

That stigma for that group of players stuck for years, only momentarily pushed aside to celebrate the Pro Football HOF inductions of individual players like Jim Kelly and others. 

When Coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017 he clearly let it be known within the walls of One Bills Drive that he wanted to move on from celebrating that era of Bills history and eliminated several key members of the football staff who had been employed since the late 1980’s.  

Yet, on the national level as the years went by younger reporters, writers and producers began to revisit the achievements of Buffalo’s Super Bowl Bills and their true legacy began to emerge.

Today NFL announcers glowingly talk about the “great” Buffalo teams of the 1990’s and the stigma of four Super Bowl losses has been replaced by the accomplishment of four consecutive AFC championships. 

While I honestly grow a bit tired of the “scratching of the scab” by these new productions that revisit issues like “Wide Right”, Thurman losing his helmet or the Bickering Bills”, it’s still great to see that team and those players truly and finally be appreciated.

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