The Buffalo Bills have been part of the National Football League since 1970. Before that, the Bills were part of the American Football League, and were founded in 1960. In the last 53 years, the Bills have been part of some of best and the worst history in the National Football League.
Highmark Stadium is the Home of the Bills
When the Bills first started playing, they used War Memorial Stadium. Then, in 1973 they moved to their current location – Highmark Stadium. It certainly was not Highmark Stadium the entire time. Here is a look at the progression of the venue in Orchard Park, New York. In 1973 – it was known as Rich Stadium. The venue opened in 1973 and had Astro Turf throughout it. The capacity was and has stayed at 71,608 most of the time it’s been in existence.
In 1998 – the stadium was then named after Bills owned and founder, and until 2015 was named Ralph Wilson Stadium. In 2016, New Era Cap Company reached a seven-year deal for $5M per season for the naming rights. It was then named New Era Field. That agreement lasted until the end of the 2019 season, and in July of 2020, the Bills started taking down signage for New Era Field. At that point, the stadium would be known as Bills Stadium, at least until a new name was unveiled. Finally, in March of 2021 – the team and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York came to an agreement, and the stadium is known as Highmark Stadium. This agreement was met for 10 seasons.
The first playoff game at this venue was held in 1988. During the stretch of 1989 through 1996 – the Bulls won every playoff game at home. The open-air venue has seen it’s fair share of concerts, along with Syracuse Football playing games there as well. In 2008, the Winter Classic was held there in front of nearly 72,000 fans.
Why the Bills? And Who are They
Many know what the Buffalo Bills are, but not many know why. The team was originally called the Bison when it was part of the All-American Football Conference. One year after it’s existence, the owner wanted to rename the team. The team held an essay contest, and the winner won $500. James F. Dyson won the contest, comparing the team to a band of “Buffalo Bills”. This was in reference to Buffalo Bill Cody, who was famous in the late 1880’s.
The original colors of the Bills were blue, silver, and white. The helmets had no striping, and there was no logo on the helmet. This has been changed several times throughout the years, with the most notable coming in 2011 when they returned to the royal blue instead of the navy and went with more of a “charging” Buffalo-type logo. The Bills have a very unique logo, and one that folks throughout sports typically do not get confused with other teams.
Historical Records for the Buffalo Bills
Throughout the long history of the Buffalo Bills, they hold several notable records. Obviously, the big one that still stands the four straight trips to the Super Bowl. Most, if not all, football fans know and remember that one. Another that comes to mind is the biggest comeback in playoff history:
The Bills trailed the Houston Oilers 35-3, and came back to win the game 41-38 in overtime. While this record was recently shattered by the Minnesota Vikings in 2022, this one is memorable for the franchise. The comeback was anchored by 28 third-quarter points and an additional touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Super Bowl Titles for Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills have still yet to win a Super Bowl. During the AFL seasons, before 1970, the franchise won back-to-back titles in 1964 and 1965. But, since then, the Bills have never won one, and been to four of them. Those four came in four straight seasons, from 1990-1993. The Bills are still the only franchise in the National Football League to reach the Super Bowl in four straight seasons.
The first trip to the Super Bowl – XXV: The Bills lost by a single point to state rival – New York Giants. This game hurts more for the franchise knowing they had a 12-3 lead after Don Smith scored, and the Bills defensively picked up a safety. This game was known as the Scott Norwood game, as he missed a 47-yard field goal that would have won the game for Buffalo.
The next season, the Bills allowed 37 points to the Washington Redskins. The defense was never there in this one, and at one point, the Bills would trail 24-0. Jim Kelly was sacked five times, and threw four interceptions in this one.
If they thought XXVI was bad, then XXVII came. The Buffalo Bills trailed 14-10 in the second quarter, only to see the Dallas Cowboys score 38 of the next 45 points and blow the game out. This was another not to memorable game for Jim Kelly, as he left with an injury.
Finally, Super Bowl XXVIII saw a rematch against the Cowboys. This one was much closer, as the Bills led the game 13-6 at halftime. The second half was all Dallas, as they would score 24 straight points, including two touchdowns from Emmitt Smith.
Famous Quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills
Most recently, Josh Allen has been known as one of the top quarterbacks in the game. Heading into 2023 – Allen has the best winning percentage, and has started 76 games under center. Second on the lost is Jim Kelly, who many consider the best quarterback of all time for the Bills. Kelly won 9 games as the starting quarterback in the postseason. As of 2023 – Allen is 4-4 in his career in the postseason.
Some other notable quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills include Joe Ferguson, from 1973-1984, Jack Kemp during the 1960’s, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a good career, but only won 38% of his games with the Bills.
Drew Bledsoe and Tyrod Taylor also started nearly 50 games each for the Bills. Bledsoe finished with a 23-25 record as a start, while Taylor was a little better with 23 wins in 43 starts.
Kelly is the franchise leader in passing attempts with 4,779 and touchdowns with 237. Allen comes into the 2023 season with 2,566 attempts and 138 touchdowns.
Buffalo Bills Hall of Famers
As the years go along, the list of Buffalo Bills members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame continues to grow. As of the start of the 2023 season, the Buffalo Bills had 10 players and 3 coaches/executives in the Hall of Fame. All but 2 of these were prominent members of the organization the entire time.
The first player into the Hall of Fame from the Buffalo Bills was O.J. Simpson. Obviously, Simpson is known for his abilities on the field, but also the drama that surrounded him off the field. Simpson played from 1969-1977. Thurman Thomas was the second running back from Buffalo into the Hall of Fame. Thomas was inducted in 2007.
At quarterback, Jim Kelly is the only member from the Bills into the Hall of Fame. Kelly was inducted in 2002 after his playing career of 1986-1996.
Other players from the Buffalo Bills inducted include offensive guard Billy Shaw, receivers James Lofton, Andre Reed, and Terrell Owens (one season), along with offensive guards Billy Shaw and Joe DeLamielleure, and defensive end Bruce Smith.
Marv Levy, the head coach of the Bills during their successful season, was inducted in 2001. Ralph Wilson got in during the 2009 season, and Bill Polian, their general manager from 1984-1992, was inducted in 2015.
Final Buffalo Bills Tidbits
The Buffalo Bills have held their training came at St. John Fisher University, which is in Pittsford, New York. Throughout the years, this is the fifth host to their camp, with the most recent being in Fredonia, back until 1999.
The Bills have a mascot named Billy Buffalo, who is known as being 8 feet tall, and wears the jersey number BB. The Bills are also one of the few franchises in the National Football League that do not have cheerleaders. The team used to have a cheer squad named the “Jills”, but that ended in 2013.
Despite not having cheerleaders, the Bills are one of six teams that have their own official marching band and or drumline. Fans in Buffalo are known for being very passionate about their team, and there are no bigger fans than the Bills Backers, or as many call them, the “Bills Mafia.” That name was trademarked back in 2020.
Finally, Buffalo Bills are the team that the famous Demar Hamlin played on January 2nd, 2023. Many consider this moment against the Cincinnati Bengals as the scariest moment in the history of the National Football League. Hamlin was carried off the field with cardiac arrest after making a tackle. Following 9 days in the hospital, he was able to recover after home rehabilitation.