The Butler Did It

John Butler, the Bills' ex-GM and scout, returns to Buffalo this weekend. During his 14 year tenure there as GM and scout he led the team to four AFC titles.

Butler admits this homecoming will be special.

"That organization and the people I had a chance to work with were so special," he said. "The special coaches I had a chance to be with and the very special players and people of Buffalo were just wonderful. It's a unique and wonderful place. I've often told people wherever I've traveled that the city is much maligned for a lot of things. But if they ever knew the people and if they ever knew the football team up there, everybody would want to live there."

The co-existence between Butler and Bills owner Ralph Wilson was not always so wonderful.

The owner, who said he wanted to win last year's game against the Chargers more than the Super Bowl, approached Butler six times during 2000. Wilson said he asked what it would take for Butler to remain in Buffalo.

"He would not give me an answer," Wilson said after the 2000 season. "Now, upon reflection, I know that he didn't want to give me an answer to the question, because I might say 'OK.' This guy just didn't want to stay."

"He was pretty much revered when he was here," said Van Miller, the Bills' radio voice for 36 seasons. "But he left Buffalo in such terrible shape salary-cap wise, we had a terrible time untangling that."

"I knew what I was getting into, but it was up in the $20-plus million of dead money, and this year it was pretty high in dead money," said Bills coach Gregg Williams, who arrived in 2001 and went 3-13 in his first season. "It'll be in a manageable area next year."

"I know they got left space for millions of dollars, so that is very confusing to me,'' Butler said. "Every year we were very tight against the salary cap, but we worked hard and had to say goodbye to some guys. But we always had a way of doing it."

"Those memories will always be there, and no one can ever take those away from me,'' said Butler, whose Chargers teams are 13-16. "I will always appreciate my time with that football team and those fans. It's a fabulous city, and it was a chapter of my life that I will always look fondly on."

In San Diego, Butler continues to show why he's one of the NFL's most astute talent evaluators. He's had two great drafts and signed several quality free agents; although it is evident he still errs when throwing money at free agents on occasion. Among them are Rob Johnson, Doug Flutie, Jay Riemersma and Tim Dwight.

He sometimes will overpay and get burned, but no one doubts his prowess as a NFL Draft talent guru. In the past two years with San Diego he has brought in 5 draft picks from 2001, and 5 draft picks from 2002 that contribute on a regular basis and see playing time every Sunday. That does not include a growing number of undrafted free agents that have contributed this year alone.

His focus now is on rebuilding the Chargers to greatness. On July 4, doctors informed him he had cancer. It has yet to deter his resolve. Butler is in his office everyday carrying out his duties as executive vice president and general manager of the San Diego Chargers.

He can no longer scout college talent, something he loves to do, due to the treatments he receives, but he still spends hours looking at film and discussing personnel. He also travels to every road game on the team's charter plane.

"As much as I love those players and the people in that organization, I'm a Charger now, and we're coming there to try and play the Bills well and hopefully get a win," he said.

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