As all members of the Bills Mafia are keenly aware, one of their favorite players is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Steve Tasker, a wide receiver and special-teams ace for 13 seasons, almost all with the Bills, has been here before. Eight times, to be precise. Thus, according to the Hall's rules, this ninth appearance as a semifinalist represents his final year of modern-era eligibility.
If he doesn't make the Hall this year, the only way he can get in is as a nominee of the Senior committee, presumably many years down the road.
That's why one of Tasker's Buffalo teammates, Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Andre Reed, is nervous. Reed believes Tasker is absolutely worthy of joining him in Canton but senses how difficult it's going to be to see his dream realized this year because of how the voting process works and the stigma attached to special-teams players, particularly those who aren't standout returners or kickers.
"It's long overdue," Reed told Bills Central last week. "The Hall of Fame is its own entity. It's its own group of electors that you know, select every single year from who's the best to be put in the Hall, and it's the best of the best. Tasker definitely deserves to be in there. He's been what special teams is about in the NFL for a lot of years.
Guys like [the New England Patriots'] Matthew Slater and some of these other guys that are playing on special teams all emulate a guy like Steve Tasker because of what he's done. And that in itself should his ticket to be inducted into the Hall."
The problem is that there is a limit to the number of individuals who can be inducted each year and that the semifinalists must be among those who make the cut to 15 finalists, which doesn't seem likely for Tasker.
Bills Central spoke to one of the members of the exclusive 49-person selection committee about Tasker's chances. The selector, who requested that his name not be used, explained why he and probably most others won't see fit to vote for Tasker beyond this point.
"He's one of the better special teams guys who ever played," he said, "but my reservations are that he made 10 career starts, had 51 career receptions. I mean, I have a problem picking the 40th guy on the roster, 35th guy on the roster and putting him in the Hall of Fame because of special-teams play. And as much as Tasker was a terrific special-teams player, you know, I could go through a dozen guys — Chris Maragos Matthew Slater — I mean, guys that we've seen play over the years that also were terrific special-teams guys.
"What distinguishes Tasker over them? Nothing I've seen on film. He was a terrific special-teams player, but I just think there's a ceiling on that contribution to a team, and so would I ever be willing to put him in the Hall of Fame? I would not be in favor of it.
"You know, if it came down to where he made the finals and was one of the final five guys and everybody else was voting for him, I might relent. But it's not Steve Tasker, it's who he represents: Guys that are backups who were great special-teams players, and I just don't know that there's a place in the Hall of Fame for them."
Reed disagrees with that kind of thinking.
"Special teams is one quarter of the game and it's the biggest yardage accumulation in every game," he said. "And you've got to have the guidance of a great player on special teams that kind of keeps that yardage down. And again, we were talking about Steve. Steve was that guy. He won a lot of games for us himself. And he took pride in that. And there's no doubt that I want to see him don a yellow jacket, a ring and a bust that he deserves, and that would be great for the city."