A Short Recap Of the First 50 Years Of Buffalo Bills Football

Kyle RichardsonCorrespondent IMay 30, 2009

Way before I was born, the Buffalo Bills became one of the eight expansion AFL franchises in 1960.

In the early 1960s the Buffalo Bills enjoyed an era of glory behind head coach Lou Saban. Under Saban, the Bills did not allow a rushing touchdown in 17 consecutive games over the 1964-1965 seasons. His record at Buffalo during the AFL years was 36-17-3, with winning seasons in each of his four years.

In 1964 and 1965, the Bills went 12-2 and 10-3-1, en route to consecutive AFL championships. With players like quarterback Jack Kemp, running back Cookie Gilchrist, offensive lineman Billy Shaw, safety George Saimes, defensive tackle Tom Sestak, and wide receiver Elbert Dubenion, the Bills were just short of a dynasty.   


The Bills entered the NFL in 1970. After a few losing seasons without Saban, coach returned to the Bills from 1972 through 1976. This team was led by Joe Ferguson, O.J. Simpson, and even included receiver Ahmad Rashad.

Though this team never won anything of significance, they helped solidify the Bills position in the NFL, and Simpson broke numerous rushing records behind right guard Joe DeLamielleure.


The 1980s were highlighted with running back Joe Cribbs, still behind Ferguson for the first few years. They started the decade by winning the division, but went on to lose to San Diego 14-20 in the Divisional playoffs.

In 1986, a new era began with the beginning of Marv Levy’s coaching career with the Buffalo Bills and Jim Kelly’s move from the USFL to the NFL.

After a few losing seasons the 1988 Bills won the AFC East division title led by Kelly, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas in his rookie year, under Robb Riddick who scored 12 touchdowns. This team also solidified for many years the great Buffalo defense with Fred Smerlas in the end of his career, Bruce Smith, Daryl Talley, Shane Conlan, Cornelius Bennett, Mark Kelso, and Nate Odomes.

The next year the Bills picked up James Lofton and Kelly threw 25 touchdowns, but they lost to Cleveland in the Divisional Playoffs.


By 1990, the Bills had solidified themselves as one of the best teams each season and looked to have a dynasty. In the AFC Championship, the Bills defeated the Raiders with the most lopsided victory in the history of the playoffs 51-3, only to fall 20-19 to the NY Giants in the Super Bowl after a missed field goal that would have given the Bills the victory.

The year 1992 marked the biggest comeback in NFL history in the first round vs. Houston. With Kelly out, Frank Reich came in and brought the Bills back, down 38-3, only to win the game 41-38 in overtime. This momentum took them to the Super Bowl for a third straight year only to lose to the Cowboys team that featured Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.

They went back to the Super Bowl in 1993 and lost to the Cowboys again, making it four straight lost Super Bowls. After a few more seasons making the playoffs, the Bills started to fall apart later in the 1990s as the greats retired.

In 1998 the Bills were led by Doug Flutie, Eric Moulds, Ted Washington, and still with greats Smith and Reed, went to the playoffs and lost to Miami in the wild card.

The next year the Bills returned to the wild card and experienced the "Music City Miracle" vs. the Titans in a game they were winning with less than a minute left, until they kicked off and…


They would get Drew Bledsoe from the Patriots in 2002, but faced a couple years of mediocre finishes and never quite made it to the playoffs. One year, they nearly squeezed in the playoffs when in a win-or-go-home situation, they lost to Pittsburgh (who played their reserves) at home.

Next came J.P. Losman who threw for 3,051 yards in 2006, but the Bills went 7-9 and left fans unimpressed. In 2008, the Bills had another 7-9 finish, making it three straight seasons.

They head into the 2009 season with high expectations as fans continue to “Billieve” each year, continuing to buy season tickets in record numbers.

Hoping that this year is “our” year.

The beginning of a new era is upon us with Trent Edwards as the leader, and a solid roster that combines great veterans with young standout players.

How sweet it would be if the team honored the fans, and original owner Ralph Wilson with an NFL Championship in the Bills 50th season.