Alternate meaning: Buffalo Bills (barbershop quartet)
The Buffalo Bills are a Buffalo, New York-based National Football League team which plays its home games in the suburb of Orchard Park.
Founded: 1960 (charter member of the American Football League; joined NFL in 1970 merger)
Home field: Ralph Wilson Stadium (formerly Rich Stadium)
Previous home field: War Memorial Stadium (1960-1972)
- Uniform colors: 1960 - 1961: Light blue and white; 1962 - Present: Red, white and blue
Helmet design: 1960 - 1961: Silver with blue side numerals; 1962 - 1964: White with red center stripe and red standing bison; 1965 - 1973: White with red and blue center stripes and red standing bison; 1975 - 1983: White with red and blue center stripes and blue charging bison with a red slanting stripe streaming from its horn; 1984 - Present: Red with blue center stripes and blue charging bison as before.
- AFC championships won: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
League Championships won: AFL 1964, 1965
- Super Bowl victories: none
The early years
The Bufalo Bills were a founding member of the American Football League in 1960. After a public contest, the team adopted the same name as the former All-America Football Conference team in Buffalo. In the AFL, a predominantly offensive league, the Buffalo Bills were a great defensive team. With a linebacking corps of Harry Jacobs , Mike Stratton and John Tracey ; and defensive line stalwarts like Tom Day , Tom Sestak, Jim Dunaway and Ron McDole.
Bills logo (1960-1973)
The 1964 Buffalo Bills squad was one of the great teams in professional football history. The 1964 Bills allowed their opponents only 300 rushing attempts and held them to 913 yards rushing during the regular season; a pro football record, just over 65 yards per game. The same defense registered fifty quarterback sacks, a team record that stands today, even though it was established in a 14-game season. They were the first American Football League team to win 13 games in a season.
In 1964, the Bills defense allowed only four touchdowns rushing all season, and started a string that would extend into the 1965 season: seventeen straight games without allowing an opponent to score a rushing touchdown. Eight members of the 1964 squad were on that year's AFL Eastern Division All-Star Team. Three were eventually named to the American Football League's All-Time Team, six to the second team, and sixteen are in the American Football League Hall of Fame. The only player ever inducted to the "pro football" hall of fame, without ever playing in the NFL, was a member of the 1964 Bills; guard Billy Shaw.
The Bills won AFL championships in both 1964 and 1965, were one of only three teams to appear in an AFL championship game for three consecutive years, and the only AFL team to play in the post-season for four straight years, 1963 through 1966. In addition to their defensive prowess, the Bills had offensive muscle as well, in stars such as fullback Cookie Gilchrist, quarterbacks Jack Kemp and Daryle Lamonica, and receivers Elbert Dubenion and Ernie Warlick. Tragedy struck the Bills in when Bob Kalsu, an offensive lineman, quit the team after his 1968 rookie season to serve in the Vietnam War, where he was killed in action in 1970.
Before the 1969 season, the Bills drafted running back O.J. Simpson, who would become the face of the franchise through the 1970s. After the AFL merged into the NFL in 1970, the Bills spent the next few years in the basement until Lou Saban, who coached the Bills' AFL championship teams, returned in time for the 1972 season.
1973 was a season of change: Joe Ferguson became their new quarterback, they moved into a new stadium, Simpson recorded a 2000-yard season and was voted NFL MVP, and the team had its first winning record since 1966. They made the NFL playoffs for the first time in 1974, but lost in the first round to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a mediocre 1975 season the Bills had internal troubles in 1976 as the team dropped to the bottom of the AFC East, where they stayed for the rest of the 1970s. After the 1977 season Simpson was traded to the San Francisco 49ers (his legal troubles were still years down the road). Chuck Knox was hired as head coach and he would end up leading the Bills back to the top.
1980 marked another breakthrough for the Bills. They beat the archrival Miami Dolphins for the first time in 11 years in their season opener, en route to winning their first AFC East title. The following season they lost their title to the Dolphins, but won their first NFL playoff game (over the New York Jets). They lost in the second round to the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. The team's players and fans alike adopted the informal slogan "We're Talkin' Proud" during this period. The following year — the strike-shortened season of 1982 — the Bills slipped to a 4-5 final record.
In the famous 1983 draft the Bills selected quarterback Jim Kelly as their replacement to an aging Joe Ferguson, but Kelly decided to play in the upstart United States Football League instead. Knox left his coaching position to take a job with the Seattle Seahawks, and new coach Kay Stephenson proved to be less than stellar. In 1984 and 1985 the Bills went 2-14.
The Marv Levy - Jim Kelly era
After the USFL's demise, Jim Kelly joined the Bills for the 1986 season, and immediately proved to be worth the wait. In addition to new coach Marv Levy, a receiving game featuring Andre Reed and a defense led by first-overall draft pick Bruce Smith, the Bills started marching back to the top.
In 1988, the rookie season of running back Thurman Thomas, the Bills went 12-4 and finished atop the AFC East for the first of four consecutive seasons. After having an easy time with the Houston Oilers in the divisional playoff, they lost the AFC championship to the Cincinnati Bengals. 1989 was a relative disappointment, with a 9-7 record and a first-round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
In 1990 the Bills switched to a no-huddle offense and it started one of the most successful runs in NFL history. The team finished 13-3 and blew out the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders in the playoffs on their way to Super Bowl XXV. The Bills were overwhelming favorites to beat the New York Giants, but the defensive plan laid out by coach Bill Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick kept Buffalo in check (and without the ball) throughout the game. The game featured many lead changes, and with the score 20-19 in favor of New York with 10 seconds left, Bills kicker Scott Norwood attempted a 47-yard field goal. It went wide to the right, and the Giants emerged victorious; however, some criticized Levy for not calling one more offensive play in an effort to make the field goal try shorter. Norwood's miss set the stage for future failures by the Bills in the early 1990s.
The Bills steamrolled through the 1991 regular season as well, finishing 13-3 again and with Thurman Thomas winning the Offensive Player of the Year award. They also had an easy time with the Kansas City Chiefs in their first playoff game and beat the Denver Broncos in a defensive struggle in the AFC Championship. The Bills looked to avenge their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss a year earlier by playing the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI, but it was not to be. The Redskins opened up a 24-0 halftime lead and never looked back, handing the Bills a 37-24 loss (an embarrassing moment occurred as the teams were leaving the field at the end of the first half when Bills center Adam Lingner angrily ordered a cameraman to "Get that f***in' camera out of my face;" the comment was picked up by a nearby microphone and everyone watching or listening to the game on television or radio would have had an opportunity to hear it).
The Bills lost the 1992 AFC East title to the Miami Dolphins and Jim Kelly was injured in the final game of the regular season. Backup quarterback Frank Reich started their wild card playoff game against the Houston Oilers, and they were down 35-3 by the third quarter. Undaunted, the Bills scored touchdowns on several consecutive possessions to tie the game and force overtime. Steve Christie kicked the game-winning field goal in the extra session to cap the biggest comeback in NFL history, 41-38. They then handily defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional playoff and upset the archrival Dolphins in the AFC Championship to advance to their third straight Super Bowl. Super Bowl XXVII, played against the Dallas Cowboys, turned out to be a mismatch. Buffalo committed 9 turnovers en route to a 52-17 thrashing.
By now the Bills had become laughingstocks, poster children for failure in the eyes of many. They looked to rectify the situation in the 1993 season, but the same result happened. They won the AFC East championship with a 12-4 record, and again won playoff games against the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, setting up a rematch with the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII on January 30, 1994 . The Bills became the only team ever to play in four straight Super Bowls, and looked ready to finally win one when they led at halftime. A Thurman Thomas fumble returned for a touchdown by James Washington put Dallas in the lead, however, and the Bills were stunned again, 30-13.
The Bills would not get a chance to make it five straight in 1994. The team stumbled down the stretch and finished 7-9, fourth in the division and out of the playoffs. The outcome of Buffalo's 1994 season has proven to mark the start of what has become known as the "Super Bowl Runner-up Jinx:" Beginning with the 1993 Bills, no Super Bowl loser has since reached the conference championship game the following year in either the AFC or the NFC, and only one has advanced that far in the postseason in either of the next two seasons after losing a Super Bowl (the Steelers, who lost to Denver in the 1997 AFC Championship Game two years after having lost Super Bowl XXX to Dallas); furthermore, only one Super Bowl loser since the 1989 Denver Broncos (who lost the game the year before the first of Buffalo's four defeats) has won a Super Bowl in any season since losing one (the New England Patriots, who lost the game in 1996 but won it in 2001, 2003 and 2004) and starting with the 1998 Atlanta Falcons, five out of six Super Bowl losers have finished with losing records the season after. The 1993 Bills also proved to be the first of twelve different teams to lose the Super Bowl, with no NFL team doing so twice since then.
In 1995 Buffalo, with free agent linebacker Bryce Paup anchoring the defense, again made the playoffs with a 10-6 record, and defeated Miami in the wild card round. They would not get a chance to get back to the Super Bowl - the Pittsburgh Steelers beat Buffalo in the divisional playoff and ended up being the AFC's representative there.
In 1996 the Bills saw their commanding lead in the AFC East race disappear to a surging New England Patriots team. They still made the playoffs, but as a wild card - and the first victim of the cinderella Jacksonville Jaguars. Jim Kelly retired after the season, signalling an end to the most successful era in Bills history. Thurman Thomas gave way to new running back Antowain Smith. Kelly's loss was felt in 1997, with the Bills stumbling to 6-10. Coach Marv Levy retired after the season.
The Bills, under new coach Wade Phillips signed two quarterbacks for the 1998 season, Rob Johnson and former Canadian Football League star Doug Flutie. This started one of the biggest controversies in the NFL at the time. Despite many Bills fans wanting Flutie to get the starting job, Phillips named Johnson to the position. After Johnson and the Bills stumbled to begin the season, Flutie came in and led the Bills to a playoff spot and 10-6 record. They faltered in their first playoff game against the Dolphins, though the game's poor officiating was one of many poorly called games which caused instant replay to be brought back in 1999.
Flutie's popularity continued into the 1999 season, with the Bills finishing 11-5, two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC East standings. However, Johnson was given the starting job in the first playoff game against the Tennessee Titans (the former Houston Oilers) in Nashville. The Bills scored a field goal with 16 seconds left to give them a 16-15 lead, but the Music City Miracle, a lateral from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson that led to a Tennessee touchdown on the ensuing kickoff lost the game for Buffalo. Many Bills fans still think that the lateral was actually a forward pass, and the touchdown should not have counted. The Titans ended up advancing to the Super Bowl. Others believe it wouldn't be an issue, had Johnson not taken sack in the endzone early on, allowing Tennessee to get 2 points, and good field position, which they used to score a touchdown.
The final ties to the Bills' Super Bowl years were cut in 2000 when Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith were all cut. Antowain Smith, Eric Moulds and Marcellus Wiley respectively had long since eclipsed them on the depth chart. After a dismal 8-8 season, and the team still caught up in the Johnson vs. Flutie controversy, general manager John Butler departed for the San Diego Chargers - and took Flutie and Wiley with him. Doug Flutie left the Bills with a .677 winning percentage in 31 starts. Antowain Smith also left as a free agent for the New England Patriots, where he was the starting running back on their two Super Bowl championship teams. Both Flutie and Smith were dominant in their final game as Bills, in a rout of the Seahawks. Smith would be quickly replaced by rookie Travis Henry.
Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took over as head coach for the 2001 season, which proved to be the worst in recent memory for the Bills. Rob Johnson went down in mid-season with an injury and Alex Van Pelt took over. Buffalo finished 3-13. The Bills even lost a much-hyped mid-season matchup with "Bills West" (the Flutie-led Chargers.)After the season they traded for quarterback Drew Bledsoe, deemed expendable by the Patriots after Tom Brady led them to a Super Bowl victory.
Bledsoe revived the Bills for the 2002 season, leading them to an 8-8 record, setting 10 team passing records in the process. However, in a tough division with all other teams finishing 9-7, they were still in last place. Another Patriot castoff, safety Lawyer Milloy, joined the Bills days before the 2003 season began and gave the team an immediate boost on defense. After beating eventual champions New England 31-0 in the first game, and crushing the Jaguars in their second game, the Bills stumbled through the rest of the season, finishing 6-10. In one game, however, the Bills' fans gained a small measure of satisfaction when the defense sacked Rob Johnson multilpe times in his relief effort for Washington. Gregg Williams was fired as head coach after the 2003 season and replaced with Mike Mularkey. The Bills also drafted another quarterback, J.P. Losman, to be used if Bledsoe continued to struggle in 2004.
And indeed, Bledsoe did continue to struggle in 2004. The Bills started the 2004 season 0-4, with Bledsoe and his offense struggling in their run-first offense, averaging only 13 points per game. Additionally, each loss was heartbreakingly close. The team finally managed to turn things around with a victory at home against the also winless Miami Dolphins. This, along with the emergence of Willis McGahee taking over the starting running back role from the injured Travis Henry, and emergence of Lee Evans to give the Bills a second deep threat, sparked the Bills to go 7-2 in their next nine games. This string of victories allowed the Bills to be in the hunt for a final AFC wildcard playoff spot. Though they would lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of the season, costing them a playoff berth, the late season surge gave the team a positive direction to approach 2005.
In the offseason, the Bills have recently revealed that quarterback Drew Bledsoe will indeed be released on February 22, 2005. Many fans hope that replacement J.P Losman can lead the Bills to the playoffs in the 2005-2006 season.
Buffalo Bills of note
Pro Football Hall of Fame Awards
- McCann Award winner Larry Felser
- Rozelle Award winner Van Miller
Players and contributors on the Bills' "Wall of Fame"
Not to be forgotten
Last updated: 08-21-2005 04:01:59
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13