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.
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).
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|1990||James Williams||Fresno State||Defensive Back|
|1991||Henry Jones||Illinois||Defensive Back|
|1993||Thomas Smith||North Carolina||Defensive Back|
|1994||Jeff Burris||Notre Dame||Defensive Back|
|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|
|2000||Erik Flowers||Arizona State||Defensive End|
|2001||Nate Clements||Ohio State||Defensive Back|
|2003||Willis McGahee||Miami (FL)||Running Back|
|2004||Lee Evans||Wisconsin||Wide Receiver|
|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|
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.