The Buffalo Bills were a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. After a public contest, the team adopted the same name as the AAFC Buffalo Bills, the former All-America Football Conference team in Buffalo. The AAFC Bills franchise was named after the Buffalo Bills a popular barbershop quartet, whose name was a play on the name of the famed Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody. The franchises are not officially related, other than in name, to each other.
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 in 1970. The Bills won two consecutive American Football League titles in 1964 and 1965, but the club has not won a league championship since then.
Simpson was drafted by the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, who got first pick in the 1969 AFL-NFL Common Draft after finishing 1–12–1 in 1968. Before the 1969 season, the Bills drafted running back O. J. Simpson, who would become the face of the franchise through the 1970s. The NFL-AFL merger placed Buffalo in the AFC East division with the Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, and Colts.
The NFL-AFL merger placed Buffalo in the AFC East division with the Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, and Colts. Their first season in the NFL saw the team win only three games, lose ten, and tie one. In 1971, not only did the Bills finish in sole possession of the NFL’s worst overall record at 1–13, but they also scored the fewest points (184) in the league that year while allowing the most (394); no NFL team has since done all three of those things in the same season in a non-strike year. They thus obtained the #1 draft pick for 1972, which was Notre Dame DE Walt Patulski. Despite good on-field performances, he struggled with injuries before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976. Lou Saban, who had coached the Bills’ AFL championship teams, was re-hired in 1972, in which the team finished 4–9–1.
War Memorial Stadium was in severe need of replacement, being in poor condition and too small to meet the NFL’s post-1969 requirement that all stadiums seat at least 50,000. Construction began on a new stadium in the suburbs after Ralph Wilson threatened to move the team to another city; at one point after the 1970 season Wilson was “prepared to move the team” to Husky Stadium in Seattle and was also fielding offers from Tampa and Memphis. Western New York leaders acquiesced to Wilson’s demands and built a new open-air facility that featured a capacity of over 80,000 (at Wilson’s request) and, unlike other stadiums, was built into the ground. Rich Stadium opened in 1973 and continues to house the Bills today.
In 1990, the Bills switched to a no huddle, hurry-up offense (frequently with Kelly in the shotgun formation, the “K-gun”, named for tight-end Keith McKeller), and it led The Bills’ offense to one of the best in the league; their 428 points (26.75 points per game) scored was first in the league,. The team finished 13–3 and won a close game with the dolphins the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders (51–3) in the playoffs on their way to Super Bowl XXV. The Bills were favorites to beat the New York Giants (whom they had beaten on the road during the regular season), but the defensive plan laid out by Giants coach Bill Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick kept Buffalo in check (and without the ball) for much of the game. The game featured many lead changes, and with the score 20–19 in favor of New York with eight seconds left, Bills kicker Scott Norwood attempted a 47-yard field goal. His kick sailed wide right, less than a yard outside of the goalpost upright.
The Bills had a tough time through the 1991 regular season as well, finishing 13–3 again and with Thurman Thomas winning a couple of awards. They also had a hard 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 17–0 halftime lead and never looked back, handing the Bills a 37–24 loss. During this game, Thurman Thomas lost his helmet and shockingly had to sit out the first two plays of the game, making the Bills the butt of jokes nationwide.
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 early in the third quarter. With a few plays of luck the bills won. Buffalo then 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 loss. The Bills became the first team in NFL history to lose three consecutive Super Bowls. One of the sole bright spots for the Bills was Don Beebe’s rundown and strip of Leon Lett after Lett had returned a fumble inside the Bills’ 5 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 to get to Lett, to knock it out of his hand. The play resulted in a touchback, not a touchdown, thus stopping Dallas from breaking the record for most points scored by a team in a Super Bowl (55), which was set three years earlier and is still held today by the San Francisco 49ers.
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, 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 in this game became the first team to face the same team in 2 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 tied the game, with Super Bowl MVP Emmitt Smith taking over the rest of the game for the Cowboys and the Bills were stunned again, 30–13.
Owner Ralph Wilson died March 25, 2014, at the age of 95. Wilson’s assets, including the team, were placed into a trust governed by four members: Wilson’s widow, Mary Wilson; his niece, Mary Owen; Jeff Littman, the Bills’ chief financial officer; and Eugene Driker, an attorney. The trust sold the team to Buffalo Sabres owner Terrence Pegula, along with his wife Kim, reportedly for $1.4 billion in cash, which the Wilson trust intends to use as an endowment for charitable causes in Western New York and Wilson’s hometown of Detroit. The deal closed October 10, 2014. The 2015 season will be the first full season for the Bills under the Pegula Family’s ownership.
The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football team based in the Buffalo–Niagara Falls metropolitan area. The Bills compete in the National Football League (NFL), as a member club of the league’s American Football Conference (AFC) East division. The team plays their home games at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills are the only NFL team that plays its home games in the state of New York (the New York Giants and New York Jets play at MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey). The Bills conduct summer training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, an eastern suburb of Rochester, New York.
1970 – Present / National Football League
1960 – 1969 / American Football League
1960 – Present / Buffalo Bills
Bills – The nickname refers to William F. Cody, who was known as “Buffalo Bill.” Buffalo had a football team called the Bisons, but the city’s minor league baseball and hockey teams had the same name. The football team held a contest to select a new nickname following the 1946 season. More than 4,500 entries were submitted and Bills beat out Bullets, Nickels and Blue Devils.
Super Bowl 0
AFL Championships 2
2020 – Present / Bills Stadium
2016 – 2020 / New Era Field
1999 – 2016 / Ralph Wilson Stadium
1973 – 1998 / Rich Stadium
1960 – 1972 / War Memorial Stadium
2014 – Present / Terry and Kim Pegula
2014 / Estate of Ralph Wilson
1960 – 2014 / Ralph Wilson
12 Jim Kelly
78 Bruce Smith
*Blue is this team’s history