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Subject: John Butler, 56, San Diego Chargers GM

lost 9-month battle with cancer
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Date Posted: April 11, 2003 3:57:30 EDT

John Butler, the San Diego Chargers' general manager and an architect of Buffalo's Super Bowl teams of the 1990s, died Friday from lung cancer, the Chargers said. He was 56.

Butler, diagnosed with the disease in July, was the Bills' general manager for eight seasons before taking that job in San Diego in 2001.

He was in Buffalo's front office for all of its record four straight trips to the NFL championship game from 1991-94. The Bills lost all of those Super Bowls.

"All of our thoughts and prayers right now are with his wife, Alice, and daughter, Andrea," team president Dean Spanos said. "He meant so much to everyone here. It's hard to put into words this feeling of loss. We'll miss him."

Butler was considered one of the NFL's top talent evaluators.

As personnel director in Buffalo, he was known for finding big talent at small colleges, such as wide receiver Don Beebe of Chadron State and defensive end Phil Hansen of North Dakota.

A native of Chicago, Butler spent four years in the Marines and saw active duty in Vietnam. After his discharge, he enrolled at San Bernardino Junior College, then went to the University of Illinois, where he played one season on the offensive line before a knee injury cut short his playing career.

He coached for three seasons (1979-81) at the University of Evansville, the worked for George Allen and Marv Levy with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL. Butler served in a variety of capacities with the Blitz, including director of college scouting for three years while also coaching the tight ends and offensive line.

His first NFL job was as a scout for the Chargers in 1985.

He joined the Bills in 1987 as the personnel director, then became the team's general manager in 1993. During his tenure there, the Bills went to the playoffs 10 times and had a record of 140-83.

With the Chargers, he built the foundation for an offense by drafting quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. San Diego went 5-11 and 8-8 in Butler's two seasons.

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