Possibly the next best thing to winning one Super Bowl is losing four straight Super Bowls. That’s exactly what the Buffalo Bills accomplished from 1990 to 1993. No NFL team has ever won four straight AFC championships or played in four consecutive Super Bowls.
Marv Levy was the team’s head coach and Jim Kelly, whose NFL career was delayed by a stint in the USFL, was the quarterback who marshaled the Bills’ innovated no-huddle offense.
Their vaunted offensive attack featured running back Thurman Thomas and wide receiver Andre Reed. Meanwhile, end Bruce Smith and linebackers Cornelius Bennett and Darryl Talley anchored a stout defense.
To cap the 1990 season, the heavily favored Bills lost Super Bowl XXV to the New York Giants. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide right with eight seconds left in the game.
Super Bowl XXVI, the finale of the 1991 season, saw the Bills fall behind early, 17-0, before eventually losing 37-24 to the Washington Redskins.
Kelly was injured in the final game of the 1992 season. His replacement for the wild card playoff game against the Houston Oilers was Frank Reich. The Bills looked like a team with a backup quarterback as they trailed the Oilers 35-3 early in the third quarter.
However, Reich would get hot and lead the Bills to the greatest comeback in NFL history. Bills kicker Steve Christie made a field goal in overtime to complete the momentous rally, 41-38.
Despite the record setting comeback, the Bills would commit nine turnovers in Super Bowl XXVII and lose to the Dallas Cowboys 52-17.
Their fourth and final Super Bowl appearance came at the end of 1993 season in a rematch with the Cowboys. The Bills went into the locker room with a halftime lead but a Thomas fumble was returned for a touchdown and future hall of famer Emmitt Smith ran all over the Buffalo defense. The Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII going away, 30-13.
The Bills wouldn’t even make the playoffs in 1994. They would in 1995 and 1996 but managed to win only one playoff game in those two years.
Kelly retired after the 1996 season. Levy retired following the 1997 season. Thomas would stay with the team until 1999 but slipped down the depth chart long before he left. Also leaving the Bills after the 1999 season were Reed and Smith.
The great Bills teams of this era failed to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl but the Bills had been league champions before, way back in the 1960’s.
The Bills were a charter member of the American Football League. Owner Ralph Wilson had tried to put a team in Miami but when that didn’t work he selected Buffalo.
The city of Buffalo had been home to several professional football teams before 1960. The Buffalo Niagaras, also known as the Buffalo All-Americans played in the city from 1918 to 1929 and was part of the NFL before they dissolved. A previous installment of the American Football League had a team called the Buffalo Indians but they folded due to World War II. The All-American Football Conference had a Buffalo team called the Bisons, later changed to Bills. That team merged with the Cleveland Browns when the Browns merged with the NFL.
The AAFC nickname “Bills” was so popular that it would be appropriated for the new AFL team. Although he had no connection to the city, the name “Bills” was derived from William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the famous American cowboy.
The Bills struggled in the AFL until they acquired quarterback Jack Kemp off of waivers in the 1962 season. With Kemp under center, running back Cookie Gilchrist in the back field and cornerback Butch Byrd, the Bills won the AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965.
On the 1964 team was future ESPN analyst Paul Maguire and on the 1965 team was future NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer.
The Bills’ of the 1970’s were defined by one of the greatest running backs of all-time and one the most notorious figure in all of American sports, Orenthal James Simpson.
Buffalo selected O.J. Simpson number one overall in the 1968 AFL-NFL draft. Since Simpson was nicknamed the “Juice,” his offensive line, at least during his best seasons, were known as “The Electric Company.”
Simpson, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, rushed for 11,236 yards and 61 touchdowns in his ten-year NFL career. He was selected to six Pro Bowls, made five All-Pro teams and won the 1973 NFL MVP. He was also voted to the NFL’s 1970’s All-Decade team as well as the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team.
The Bills and Simpson parted ways in 1977. Simpson retired from the league in 1979 after two mediocre years with the San Francisco 49’ers.
In 1995, after a highly publicized trail, Simpson was acquitted of the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. In 2008, Simpson was sentenced to nine years in prison for numerous felonies surrounding an armed robbery of a sports memorabilia dealer in Las Vegas. He’s currently serving his sentence in a Nevada prison.
After a 6-10 season in 1997, the Bills hired Wade Phillips as head coach. The team then traded for Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Rob Johnson and signed former CFL star, quarterback Dough Flutie.
After Johnson went down with an injury, Flutie took over to lead the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff spot. However, Flutie and company could not get pass the dreaded Dolphins in the playoffs..
In 1999, Flutie again worked his magic and lead the team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Inexplicably, Phillips turned the team over to Rob Johnson for their playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.
Late in the game, Johnson marched the Bills down the field to score a go-ahead field goal. The score gave Buffalo a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Titans scored a touchdown thanks to Frank Wycheck’s lateral to Kevin Dyson. The play is now known as the Music City Miracle.
As of 2008, that was the last time the Bills were in the playoffs.
Flutie left the Bills after the 2000 season with .677 winning percentage. The team tried desperately to make Johnson a winning NFL quarterback but it just never worked. Johnson left the Bills holding the team record for highest sack-to-dropback ratio.
In 2005, the Bills played the NFL’s first regular season game in San Antonio, Texas. They battled the New Orleans Saints who were forced to vacate the Superdome in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina. Saints won 19-7.
Since 2008, the Bills have played an annual regular season game in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. They are the only team in the league to play home games in Canada.
This is not the team’s only tie to Canada. In 1961, the Bills became the first and only AFL franchise to play a team from the Canadian Football League, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Sadly for the Bills, they are the only NFL team to ever lose a game to a CFL team. The Tiger-Cats won the contest 38-21.
The Bills play their other seven regular season home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The stadium is located in a small town south of Buffalo called Orchard Park.
The Bills are the only NFL team that plays in the state of New York, as both the New York Jets and the New York Giants play in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Bills are in the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference.