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Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football team based in the Buffalo, New York metropolitan area, playing seven of their home games in the suburb of Orchard Park, and, beginning in 2008, an eighth home game in Toronto. They are members of the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference (AFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Bills began competitive play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League and joined the NFL as part of the AFL-NFL merger.

The Bills won two consecutive American Football League titles in 1964 and 1965, but the club has not won a league championship since the merger. Buffalo is also the only team to win four consecutive American Football Conference Championships, though they failed to win any of the subsequent Super Bowls.

The Bills were named as the result of the winning entry in a local contest, which named the team after the AAFC Buffalo Bills, a previous football franchise from the All-America Football Conference that merged with the Cleveland Browns in 1950. That team, in turn, was named after Buffalo Bill Cody. The Bills' cheerleaders are known as the Buffalo Jills. The official mascot is Billy Buffalo.

The Bills conduct summer training camp at Saint John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY, a suburb of Rochester.

They are the only NFL team to play their home games within New York State. Both the New York Jets and the New York Giants play in the suburb of East Rutherford, New Jersey outside of New York City. On October 2, 2005, the Bills played the New Orleans Saints in the first NFL regular season game held in San Antonio, Texas. They are also the only team to play home games in Canada and, currently, the only one to have two home sites (and only the third in modern NFL history; the Green Bay Packers had played games at sites in Green Bay and Milwaukee from 1933 until 1994 (and continue to maintain a separate ticket plan for former Milwaukee season ticket holders), and the aforementioned Saints split home games between San Antonio, Giants Stadium and Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina).

Franchise history

The AFL years

When Lamar Hunt announced formation of the American Football League in the summer of 1959, Detroit Lions minority owner Ralph Wilson decided to field a team in the new league. After being turned down in his effort to put a team in Miami, Florida, he next turned to Buffalo. This effort was successful, and he sent Hunt a telegram with the now-famous words, "Count me in with Buffalo."

After a public contest, the team adopted the same name as the former All-America Football Conference team in Buffalo. On October 28, 1959; the Buffalo Bills officially became the 8th member of the AFL.

On August 8, 1961, the Bills were the first (and only) American Football League team to lose to a Canadian Football League team, the nearby Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The score of the exhibition game was 38-21 in favor of the home team.

The Bills' success would improve over the next several years as the team acquired quarterback Jack Kemp from the San Diego Chargers and Canadian Football League all-star running back Cookie Gilchrist. During the 1960s, the team won AFL championships in both 1964 and 1965 and 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. During this period the league, for one year (1965), changed the format of their all-star game so that the Bills played against the league's all-stars (as opposed to the east/west system they used normally). The Bills lost, 30-19.

In the AFL, a predominantly offensive league, the Bills were a great defensive team. In 1964, the defense allowed Buffalo to become the first American Football League team to win 13 games in a season (including the league championship game). During that year, they allowed just 913 yards rushing on 300 attempts during the regular season, a pro football record. The same defense registered fifty quarterback sacks, a team record that stands today, even though it was established in a 14-game season. The 1964 defense also 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, including cornerback Butch Byrd. Three were eventually named to the American Football League's All-Time Team, and six to the second team. The only professional football 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.

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 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.

After a rough 1968 season that saw Kemp injured and converted wide receiver (and future Erie County Executive) Ed Rutkowski at quarterback, the Bills finished in last place and earned the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, which the Bills used on running back O. J. Simpson.

1970s–early 1980s

The Bills became part of the NFL when the latter absorbed the AFL in a merger in 1970. Then in 1973, Joe Ferguson became their new quarterback, Simpson rushed for 2000 yards and was voted NFL MVP, and the team had its first winning record since 1966. The "Electric Company" of Simpson, Jim Braxton, Paul Seymour, and Joe DeLamielleure as recounted in the locally-recorded hit "Turn on the Juice", lead a dramatic turnaround on the field. The "Electric Company" was the offensive line (OG Reggie McKenzie, OT Dave Foley, C Mike Montler, OG Joe DeLamielleure and OT Donnie Green) which provided the electricity for the "Juice". The team made the NFL playoffs for the first time in 1974, but lost in the first round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Buffalo would not reach the playoffs again until 1980. 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 AFC East 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.

Mid-1980s–1997

In the 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. Meanwhile, the team finished the season with a 2-14 record in 1984 and 1985. Kelly would eventually join the Bills for the 1986 season after the USFL's demise. Then midway through the 1986 season, the Bills fired coach Hank Bullough and replaced him with Marv Levy, the former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Levy, along with general manager Bill Polian put together a receiving game featuring Andre Reed, a defense led by first-overall draft pick Bruce Smith, and a top-flight offensive line, led by center Kent Hull along with Jim Ritcher, Will Wolford and Howard "House" Ballard.

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. Two years later, the Bills switched to a hurry-up offense, (frequently with Kelly in the shotgun formation, known as the "K-gun," although the K-gun was named for tight end Keith McKeller) 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 (51-3) in the playoffs on their way to Super Bowl XXV where they would lose to the New York Giants 20-19 as Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right as time expired.

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, losing 37-24 to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI.

The Bills lost out on 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 early in the third quarter. Undaunted, the Bills scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions and five out of six to take the lead, only for the Oilers to tie the game at the end of regulation 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. Though they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 52-17, a memorable play was Don Beebe's rundown and strip of Leon Lett after Lett had returned a fumble inside the Bills' five yard line and was on his way to scoring. Lett started celebrating too early and held the ball out long enough for Beebe, who had made up a considerable distance on Lett, to knock it out of his hand.

The Bills won the AFC East championship in 1993 with a 12 – 4 record, and again won playoff games against the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, losing the rematch with the Cowboys 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII on January 30, 1994 .

During this period Steve Tasker established himself year in and year out as the league's top special teams performer.

In 1995 Buffalo, with free agent linebacker Bryce Paup anchoring the defense, again won the AFC East title 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, who went on to advance to the Super Bowl, beat Buffalo in the divisional playoffs 40-21.

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, the first visiting team ever to win a playoff game in Buffalo. Jim Kelly retired after the season, signaling 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.

1998

The Bills, under new coach Wade Phillips signed two quarterbacks for the 1998 season, one that Buffalo traded a high first round pick for, and one that was signed as almost an afterthought. The former trade was for Jaguars backup Rob Johnson and the latter trade was for former Heisman Trophy winner and Canadian Football League star Doug Flutie. Despite many Bills fans wanting Flutie to get the starting job after Flutie looked the better of the two QBs in camp and in preseason, Phillips named Johnson to the position. The Bills stumbled to begin the season, and after Johnson suffered a rib injury against the Indianapolis Colts, Flutie came in and led the Bills to a playoff spot and a 10 – 6 record. They faltered in their first playoff game against the Miami Dolphins, although Eric Moulds set a playoff record for most receiving yards in a game with 240.

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. Wade Phillips gave Rob Johnson the starting quarterback job in the first round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans even though Flutie had won 10 games and had gotten the Bills into the playoffs. The Bills scored a field goal with 16 seconds left to give them a 16–15 lead. But the Titans won the game on a controversial play that came to be known as the Music City Miracle: During the ensuing kickoff, Frank Wycheck lateraled the ball to Kevin Dyson who then scored the winning touchdown. Although Wycheck's pass was close to an illegal forward lateral, replays were ruled inconclusive and the call on the field was upheld as a touchdown. The Titans went on to advance to the Super Bowl.

2000

The final ties to the Bills' Super Bowl years were severed 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 an 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 first two Super Bowl championship teams. Both Flutie and Smith were dominant in their final game as Bills, in a 42-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Smith would be quickly replaced by rookie Travis Henry.

2001

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 match up 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.

2002–2003

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 Patriots castoff, safety Lawyer Milloy, joined the Bills days before the 2003 season began and gave the team an immediate boost on defense. However, the Bills stumbled through the season, finishing 6–10 and costing Gregg Williams' his job. Mike Mularkey was then hired as head coach, and the team drafted another quarterback, J.P. Losman.

2004

Bledsoe continued 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. The team finally managed to turn things around with the emergence of Willis McGahee (a first round-pick and a gamble by the Bills due to the knee injury that McGahee suffered in his last college game) taking over the starting running back role from the injured Travis Henry, and emergence of Lee Evans. The Bills went 9 – 2 in their next eleven games, and 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.

2005

The Bills released quarterback Drew Bledsoe and named Losman as the starter. But the team began the 2005 season at 1–3, prompting Kelly Holcomb to replace him. Losman would not see action again until Holcomb was injured in Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo's 2005 campaign eventually resulted in a 5–11 record and the firing of General Manager Tom Donahoe in January 2006. Marv Levy was rehired by the Bills to become Donahoe's replacement, with hopes that he would improve a franchise that failed to make the playoffs during Donahoe's tenure. That same month, Mike Mularkey resigned as head coach, citing family reasons along with disagreement over the direction of the organization. Dick Jauron was hired as his replacement.

2006–2007

The 2006 and 2007 seasons both brought 7–9 records under Jauron's coaching, having been eliminated from playoff contention in December in both years. 2006 saw the additions of Donte Whitner, Ko Simpson, Ashton Youboty, Anthony Hargrove and Kyle Williams to the defensive corps while 2007 brought in Trent Edwards to quarterback the offense, rookie first-round draft pick Marshawn Lynch, second-round pick Paul Posluszny, offensive linemen Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker, and backup running back Fred Jackson. J. P. Losman played all 16 games in 2006 but was benched in early 2007 in favor of Edwards.

At the end of the 2007 season, Levy retired once again, citing the fact that he had reached the end of his two-year contract. Meanwhile offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, a frequent fan target for the Bills' offensive woes, was hired as head coach of Colorado State University's football program, and Losman was (as of January 2008) seeking a trade out of Buffalo. Offensive line coach Jim McNally retired shortly after the end of the season. All of those positions were filled from within, with Turk Schonert promoted to offensive coordinator.

2008–present

In January 2008, the Bills became the first team to arrange to play annual home games outside of the United States when an agreement was struck for the Bills to move one of its December home games for each of the next five years to Toronto, Ontario's Rogers Centre. In the agreement, owner Ralph Wilson will lease the team to Ted Rogers (of Rogers Communications) in exchange for C$78,000,000.

Season-by-season records

Logos and uniforms

When the Bills began playing in 1960, the team's colors were royal blue, white, and silver, very similar to that of the Detroit Lions. The team wore blue jerseys with gray numbers and white jerseys with blue numbers. The helmets were all silver with blue numbers on the side.

In 1962, the standing red bison was designated as the logo and took its place on a white helmet. In 1962, the team's colors also changed to red, white, and blue. The team switched to blue jerseys with red and white stripes on the shoulders. the helmets were white with a red center stripe. By 1965, red and blue center stripes were put on the helmets.

In 1974, the standing bison logo was replaced by a blue charging one with a red slanting stripe streaming from its horn. In 1984, the helmet's background color was changed from white to red, reportedly in part to distinguish them more readily from three of their division rivals at that time, the Indianapolis Colts, the Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots, who all also wore white helmets at that point. Then in 2002, a darker shade of blue was introduced, along with red and white pipe trimming on the jerseys in pants. The original shades of red and blue, however, were contained as striping colors. They are also still used on their logos. In the same year in 2002, the Bills white uniforms went through a radical change. The white uniforms include a red stripe on the sides and are dark blue along the shoulders of the uniforms. The current white uniforms are worn for most Bills road games.

Fight songs

  • 1988–pres. "Buffalo Bills Shout" – Buffalo Bills All-Stars
  • 1994–1995. "Go Bills!" – Marv Levy (unofficial)
  • 1980–1987. "Talkin' Proud" – Alden Schutte

Players of note

Current players

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Inductees

Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame

Inductees

Retired numbers

  • 12 Jim Kelly, QB, 1986–96

Unofficially retired

  • 32 O. J. Simpson, RB, 1969–77
  • 34 Thurman Thomas, RB, 1988–99
  • 78 Bruce Smith, DE, 1985–99 (although guard Ruben Brown used 78 as his practice jersey; he wore 79 on the field)

Since the earliest days of the team, the number 31 was not supposed to be issued to any player. The Bills had stationery and various other team merchandise showing a running player wearing that number, and it was not supposed to represent any specific person, but the 'spirit of the team.' The tradition was broken in 1969 when reserve running back Preston Ridlehuber was issued number 31 for one game while his normal number 36 jersey was repaired by equipment manager Tony Marchitte. The number 31 was not issued again until 1990 when first round draft choice James (JD) Williams wore it for his first two seasons. The number has since been released for use by any player and was most recently worn by backup running back Dwayne Wright.

Other notable alumni

All-time first round draft picks

1960s
Year Player College Position
1960 Richie Lucas Penn State Quarterback
1961 Ken Rice, 1st Overall Auburn Tackle
1963 Dave Behrman Michigan State Center
1964 Carl Eller Minnesota Defensive End
1965 Jim Davidson Ohio State Tackle
1966 Mike Dennis Mississippi Running Back
1967 John Pitts Arizona State Safety
1968 Haven Moses San Diego State Wide Receiver
1969 O.J. Simpson, 1st Overall Southern California Running Back

1970s

Year Player College Position
1970 Al Cowlings Southern California Defensive Tackle
1971 J.D. Hill Arizona State Wide Receiver
1972 Walt Patulski, 1st Overall Notre Dame Defensive End
1973 Paul Seymour Michigan Tight End
1973 Joe DeLamielleure Michigan State Guard
1974 Reuben Gant Oklahoma State Tight End
1975 Tom Ruud Nebraska Linebacker
1976 Mario Clark Oregon Defensive Back
1977 Phil Dokes Oklahoma State Defensive Tackle
1978 Terry Miller Oklahoma State Running Back
1979 Tom Cousineau, 1st Overall Ohio State Linebacker
1979 Jerry Butler Clemson Wide Receiver

1980s

Year Player College Position
1980 Jim Ritcher North Carolina State Center
1981 Booker Moore Penn State Running Back
1982 Perry Tuttle Clemson Wide Receiver
1983 Tony Hunter Notre Dame Tight End
1983 Jim Kelly Miami (FL) Quarterback
1984 Greg Bell Notre Dame Running Back
1985 Bruce Smith, 1st Overall Virginia Tech Defensive End
1985 Derrick Burroughs Memphis State Defensive Back
1986 Ronnie Harmon Iowa Running Back
1986 Will Wolford Vanderbilt Tackle
1987 Shane Conlan Penn State Linebacker
1988 No 1st Rd Pick, Thurman Thomas (2nd Round) Oklahoma State Running Back
1989 No 1st Rd Pick, Don Beebe (3rd Round) Chadron State Wide Receiver

1990s

Year Player College Position
1990 James Williams Fresno State Defensive Back
1991 Henry Jones Illinois Defensive Back
1992 John Fina Arizona Tackle
1993 Thomas Smith North Carolina Defensive Back
1994 Jeff Burris Notre Dame Defensive Back
1995 Ruben Brown Pittsburgh Guard
1996 Eric Moulds Mississippi State Wide Receiver
1997 Antowain Smith Houston Running Back
1998 No 1st Rd Pick, Sam Cowart (2nd Round) Florida State Linebacker
1999 Antoine Winfield Ohio State Defensive Back

2000s

Year Player College Position
2000 Erik Flowers Arizona State Defensive End
2001 Nate Clements Ohio State Defensive Back
2002 Mike Williams Texas Tackle
2003 Willis McGahee Miami (FL) Running Back
2004 Lee Evans Wisconsin Wide Receiver
2004 J.P. Losman Tulane Quarterback
2005 No 1st Round Pick, Roscoe Parrish (2nd Round) Miami (FL) Wide Receiver
2006 Donte Whitner Ohio State Safety
2006 John McCargo North Carolina State Defensive Tackle
2007 Marshawn Lynch California Running Back
2008 Leodis McKelvin Troy Defensive Back

Recent Pro Bowl selections

  • 2007 Season - Jason Peters (Offensive Tackle), Aaron Schobel (Defensive End - Injury Replacement)
  • 2006 Season - Aaron Schobel (Defensive End), Brian Moorman (Punter)
  • 2005 Season - Brian Moorman (Punter)
  • 2004 Season - Brian Moorman (Punter), Mike Schneck (Need Player)
  • 2003 Season - Takeo Spikes (Line Backer), Ruben Brown (Offensive Guard)
  • 2002 Season - Drew Bledsoe (Quarterback), Ruben Brown (Offensive Guard), Eric Moulds (Wide Receiver), Travis Henry (Running Back - Injury Replacement)

Coaches of note

Head coaches

Current staff

Radio and television

The Buffalo Bills Radio Network is currently flagshipped at WGRF 96.9FM, with games also available on WEDG 103.3FM. John Murphy is the team's current play-by-play announcer; he was a Color commentator alongside and eventually succeeded longtime voice Van Miller after Miller's retirement at the end of the 2003 NFL season. Mark Kelso serves as the color analyst. The Bills radio network has over twenty affiliates in upstate New York and one affiliate in Toronto.

During preseason, most games are televised on Buffalo's ABC affiliate, WKBW-TV channel 7, with several other affiliates in western New York. Any non-Sunday games are also simulcasted on the same station. For the 2008 season, CITY-TV in Toronto became a part of the network. In addition, preseason games are also now broadcast in high definition.

Notes and references

See also

External links

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