Buffalo Bills
Current season
Established October 28, 1959; 60 years ago (October 28, 1959)[1]
First season: 1960
Play in and headquartered in New Era Field
Orchard Park, New York[2]
Buffalo Bills logo
Buffalo Bills wordmark
LogoWordmark
League/conference affiliations

American Football League (1960–1969)

  • Eastern Division (1960–1969)

National Football League (1970–present)

Current uniform
AFCE-Uniform-BUF-V3.png
Team colorsRoyal blue, red, white, navy blue[3][4][5]
                   
Fight song"Shout"
MascotBilly Buffalo
Personnel
Owner(s)
Head coachSean McDermott
General managerBrandon Beane
Team history
  • Buffalo Bills (1960–present)
Championships
League championships (2)
Conference championships (4)
Division championships (10)
Playoff appearances (19)
Home fields

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.[6] The Bills conduct summer training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York, an eastern suburb of Rochester.[7]

The Bills began play as an original franchise of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. The club joined the NFL as a result of the AFL–NFL merger for the 1970 season. The 1964 and 1965 Bills were the only teams representing Buffalo that won major league professional sports championships ("back-to-back" American Football League Championships). The Bills are the only team to win four consecutive conference championships and are the only NFL team to lose four consecutive Super Bowl games. The team was owned by Ralph Wilson from the team's founding in 1960, until his death in 2014 at the age of 95. After his death, Wilson's estate reached an agreement to sell the team to Terry and Kim Pegula, which was approved by the other NFL team owners on October 8, 2014.[8] The Bills formerly possessed the longest active playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports in North America: they did not qualify to play in the NFL playoffs from 1999 until 2017 and were the last NFL team (and last team in the major North American professional sports leagues overall) to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century.[9][10] Since then, the Bills have reached the playoffs in two of the past three NFL seasons and also clinched their first 10-win season in two decades in December 2019.

History

The Bills began competitive play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League led by head coach Buster Ramsey and joined the NFL as part of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970.[11] The Bills won two consecutive American Football League titles in 1964 and 1965 with quarterback Jack Kemp and coach Lou Saban, but the club has yet to win a league championship since.

Once the AFL–NFL merger took effect, the Bills became the second NFL team to represent the city; they followed the Buffalo All-Americans, a charter member of the league. Buffalo had been left out of the league since the All-Americans (by that point renamed the Bisons) folded in 1929; the Bills were no less than the third professional non-NFL team to compete in the city before the merger, following the Indians/Tigers of the early 1940s and an earlier team named the Bills, originally the Bisons, in the late 1940s in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC).

Following the AFL–NFL merger, the Bills were generally mediocre in the 1970s, but featured All-Pro running back O. J. Simpson. After being pushed to the brink of failure in the mid-1980s, the collapse of the United States Football League and a series of highly drafted players such as Jim Kelly (who initially played for the USFL instead of the Bills), Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and Darryl Talley allowed the Bills to rebuild into a perennial contender in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, a period in which the team won four consecutive AFC Championships; the team nevertheless lost all four subsequent Super Bowls, records in both categories that still stand.

The rise of the division rival New England Patriots under Tom Brady, along with numerous failed attempts at rebuilding in the 2000s and 2010s, prevented the Bills from reaching the playoffs in seventeen consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2016, a 17-year drought that was the longest active playoff drought in all major professional sports at the time. It was broken when the Bills secured a wild-card berth on December 31, 2017. On October 8, 2014, Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula received unanimous approval to acquire the Bills during the NFL owners' meetings, becoming the second ownership group of the team after team founder Ralph Wilson.[8]

Name origins

In 1947 a contest was held to rename the AAFC Bisons, which was owned by James Breuil of the Frontier Oil Company. The winning entry suggested "Bills", reflecting on the famous western frontiersman, Buffalo Bill Cody. Carrying the "frontier" theme further, the winning contestant offered the team was being supported by Frontier Oil and was "opening a new frontier in sports in Western New York." When Buffalo joined the new American Football League in 1960, the name of the city's earlier pro football entry was adopted.[12]

Logos and uniforms

Bills logo, 1962–1973

The Bills' uniforms in its first two seasons were based on those of the Detroit Lions at the time.[3][13]

The team's original colors were Honolulu blue, silver and white, and the helmets were silver with no striping. There was no logo on the helmet, which displayed the players' numbers on each side.

In 1962, the standing red bison was designated as the logo and took its place on a white helmet.[3] In 1962, the team's colors also changed to red, white, and blue. The team switched to blue jerseys with red and white shoulder stripes similar to those worn by the Buffalo Bisons AHL hockey team of the same era. The helmets were white with a red center stripe.[3] The jerseys again saw a change in 1964 when the shoulder stripes were replaced by a distinctive stripe pattern on the sleeves consisting of four stripes, two thicker inner stripes and two thinner outer stripes all bordered by red piping. By 1965, red and blue center stripes were put on the helmets.[14]

The Bills introduced blue pants worn with the white jerseys in 1973, the last year of the standing buffalo helmet. The blue pants remained through 1985.[15] The face mask on the helmet was blue from 1974 through 1986 before changing to white.

The standing bison logo was replaced by a blue charging one with a red slanting stripe streaming from its horn. The newer emblem, which is still the primary one used by the franchise, was designed by aerospace designer Stevens Wright in 1974.[16][17]

In 1984, the helmet's shell color was changed from white to red, primarily to help Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson distinguish them more readily from three of their division rivals at that time, the Baltimore Colts, the Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots, who all also wore white helmets at that point. Ferguson said "Everyone we played had white helmets at that time. Our new head coach Kay Stephenson just wanted to get more of a contrast on the field that may help spot a receiver down the field."[18] (The Patriots have worn silver helmets since 1993, the Colts have since been realigned to the AFC South, and the New York Jets have since switched back to green-colored helmets after 20 years with white ones in 2019.)

In 2002, under the direction of general manager Tom Donahoe, the Bills' uniforms went through radical changes. A darker shade of blue was introduced as the main jersey color, and nickel gray was introduced as an accent color. Both the blue and white jerseys featured red side panels. The white jerseys included a dark blue shoulder yoke and royal blue numbers. The helmet remained primarily red with one navy blue, two nickel, two royal blue, two white stripes, and white face mask. A new logo, a stylized "B" consisting of two bullets and a more detailed buffalo head on top, was proposed and had been released (it can be seen on a few baseball caps that were released for sale), but fan backlash led to the team retaining the running bison logo. The helmet logo adopted in 1974—a charging royal blue bison, with a red streak, white horn and eyeball—remained unchanged.

In 2005, the Bills revived the standing bison helmet and uniform of the mid-1960s as a throwback uniform.

The Bills usually wore the all-blue combination at home and the all-white combination on the road when not wearing the throwback uniforms. They stopped wearing blue-on-white after 2006, while the white-on-blue was not worn after 2007.

For the 2011 season, the Bills unveiled a new uniform design, an updated rendition of the 1975–83 design. This change includes a return to the white helmets with "charging buffalo" logo, and a return to royal blue instead of navy.[4][19]

Buffalo sporadically wore white at home in the 1980s, but stopped doing so before their Super Bowl years. On November 6, 2011, against the New York Jets, the Bills wore white at home for the first time since 1986. Since 2011, the Bills have worn white for a home game either with their primary uniform or a throwback set.

The Bills' uniform received minor alterations as part of the league's new uniform contract with Nike. The new Nike uniform was unveiled on April 3, 2012.[20]

On November 12, 2015, the Bills and the New York Jets became the first two teams to participate in the NFL's Color Rush uniform initiative, with Buffalo wearing an all-red combination for the first time in team history.[21]

A notable use of the Bills' uniforms outside of football was in the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, when the United States men's national junior ice hockey team wore Bills-inspired uniforms in their outdoor game against Team Canada on December 29, 2017.[22]

Rivalries

The Bills have rivalries with their three AFC East opponents, and also have had occasional or historical rivalries with other teams such as the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (a former divisional rival), Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, and Dallas Cowboys.[23] They also play an annual preseason game against the Detroit Lions.

Divisional rivalries

Miami Dolphins

This is often considered Buffalo's most famous rivalry. Though the Bills and Dolphins both originated in the American Football League, the Dolphins did not start playing until 1966 as an expansion team while the Bills were one of the original eight teams. The rivalry first gained prominence when the Dolphins won every match-up against the Bills in the 1970s for an NFL-record 20 straight wins against a single opponent (the Bills defeated the Dolphins in their first matchup of the 1980s). Fortunes changed in the following decades with the rise of Jim Kelly as Buffalo's franchise quarterback, and though Kelly and Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino shared a competitive rivalry in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bills became dominant in the 1990s. Things have since cooled down after the retirements of Kelly and Marino and the rise of the New England Patriots, but Miami remains a fierce rival of the Bills, coming in second place in a recent poll of Buffalo's primary rival,[24] and the two teams have typically been close to each other in win-loss records. Miami leads the overall series 61–48–1 as of 2018, but Buffalo has the advantage in the playoffs at 3–1, including a win in the 1992 AFC Championship Game.[25]

New England Patriots

The rivalry with the New England Patriots first started when both teams were original franchises in the American Football League prior to the NFL-AFL merger. After the rise of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady in New England, the Patriots have dominated the AFC East, including the Bills. The Bills-Patriots rivalry in particular has become lopsided as the Patriots are 31–5 against the Bills since Belichick became head coach in 2000. This has led many fans and players in the 2000s and beyond to replace the Dolphins with the Patriots as Buffalo's most hated rival.[24][26] Overall, the Patriots lead the series 76–43–1 as of 2019.[27]

The rivalry is also notable as numerous players, including Drew Bledsoe, Doug Flutie, Lawyer Milloy, Brandon Spikes, Scott Chandler, Chris Hogan, Mike Gillislee and Stephon Gilmore have played for both teams at some point in their careers.

New York Jets

The Bills and Jets were both original AFL teams, and both represent the state of New York, though the Jets (since 1984) actually play their games in East Rutherford, New Jersey. While the rivalry represents the differences between New York City and Western New York, it has historically not been as intense as the Bills' rivalries with the Dolphins and Patriots, and the teams' fanbases either have grudging respect or low-key annoyance for each other when the teams are not playing one another. Oftentimes the Bills-Jets rivalry has become characterized by ugly games and shared mediocrity, but it has had a handful of competitive moments. The series heated up recently when former Jets head coach Rex Ryan became the Bills' head coach for two seasons, and has become notable again as Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, both drafted in the same year, maintain a friendly rivalry with one another.[28] Buffalo leads the series 62–55 as of 2018, including a playoff win in 1981.[29]

Other rivalries

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) share an extended history with the Bills, both teams being original AFL clubs in 1960 and rivals in that league's East Division before the AFL-NFL merger. Matchups were intense in the 1990s with quarterback Warren Moon leading the Oilers against Jim Kelly's Bills.[30] Memorable playoff moments between the teams include The Comeback, in which the Frank Reich-led Bills overcame a 35–3 deficit to stun the Oilers 41–38 in 1992,[30] and the Music City Miracle, in which the now-Titans scored on a near-last-minute kickoff return with a controversial lateral pass to stun the Bills 22–16 in 1999.[31] The Music City Miracle was notable for being Buffalo's last playoff appearance until 2017.[32] The Titans currently lead the series 28–19.[33]

Cleveland Browns

Though the Bills and Cleveland Browns are in different divisions and did not start playing each other until after 1972, match-ups between the two teams occasionally get heated up due to the proximity and similarity between the cities of Buffalo and Cleveland, though the teams' fanbases otherwise share a mutual respect. As with the Bills–Jets rivalry, the Bills and Browns often share bad luck and have seen their share of ugly games, including a 6–3 Browns win in which the winning quarterback only completed 2 of 17 passes.[34] However, there have been other occasions when both teams have been competitive such as in the 1980s and most recently in 2007 and 2014.[35] The rivalry also gained heat when former Bills safety Donte Whitner was with the Browns.[36] The Browns currently lead the series 13–9, including a playoff win in 1990, though the Bills have outscored the Browns in the series.[37]

The Browns shared a rivalry with the Bills' predecessors in the All-America Football Conference, playing them twice in the AAFC playoffs before becoming one of three AAFC teams to join the NFL. The Bills were not selected to join the NFL and folded with the rest of the AAFC, leaving Buffalo without professional football until the current Bills were formed in 1959.[35]

Other AFC rivals

The Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs were also original teams in the AFL and have had a long history against each other, despite never being in the same division. This rivalry heated up recently as the Bills and Chiefs met in consecutive years from 2008 to 2015, and again in 2017.[38] The teams have played three playoff games against each other, including the AFL Championship game that determined the AFL's (later AFC) representative in the first Super Bowl, with Kansas City winning and going on to face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. However, Buffalo defeated Kansas City in the 1993 AFC championship game to advance to its fourth straight Super Bowl appearance. Buffalo currently leads the series 26-21-1.[39]

In recent years, bitterness has emerged between the Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had handed Buffalo its first playoff loss in New Era Field in 1996. Both teams occupy two of the smallest media markets in the NFL. After years of concurrent bottom feeding in the late 2000s and early 2010s, this rivalry has emerged after former Bills head coach Doug Marrone, who had quit on the team after the 2014 season, was hired as a coaching assistant for Jacksonville and rose to become the Jaguars' head coach.[40] Since then, the series has featured a Bills loss to the Jaguars in London,[41] an ugly, low-scoring playoff game in 2017,[42] trash talk from Jaguars players such as Jalen Ramsey and a brawl between the teams in 2018.[43][44]

Playoffs