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.
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. The Bills have the longest active playoff drought in any major professional sport: they have not qualified to play in the NFL playoffs since 1999 and are the only team that has not appeared in the playoffs so far in the 21st century.
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. The Bills won two consecutive American Football League titles in 1964 and 1965, 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 another team named the Bills in the late 1940s. Buffalo's team in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946 was the Bisons.
In 1947 a contest was held to rename the team, 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.
After being pushed to the brink of failure in the mid-1980s, the collapse of the United States Football League and a series of high draft picks 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, have prevented the Bills from reaching the playoffs since 1999, a 17-year drought that is the longest active playoff drought in all major professional sports. On October 8, 2014, Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula received unanimous approval to acquire the Bills during the NFL owners' meetings.
The Bills' uniforms in its first two seasons were based on those of the Detroit Lions at the time. 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. In 1962, the team's colors also changed to red, white, and blue. The team switched to blue jerseys with red and white "LSU" stripes on the shoulders. the helmets were white with a red center stripe. 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.
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. 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.
In 1984, the helmet's background 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." (The Patriots now use a silver helmet, the Colts have since been realigned to the AFC South, and the New York Jets, who switched to green helmets after the 1977 season, have since switched back to white helmets.)
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.
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.
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.
A notable use of the Bills' uniforms outside of football will be in the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, when the United States men's national junior ice hockey team will use Bills uniforms in their outdoor game against Team Canada on December 29, 2017.
|Buffalo Bills retired numbers|
|12||Jim Kelly||QB||1986–96||Previously worn by Joe Ferguson, QB, 1973–84; and Daryle Lamonica, QB, 1963–66|
|78||Bruce Smith||DE||1985–99||Previously worn by Tom Day, DE, 1961–68; Dave Foley, OT, 1972–77; Gene Grabosky, OT, 1960; and Scott Hutchinson, DE, 1978–80, 1983|
The Buffalo Bills have retired two numbers in franchise history: No. 12 for Jim Kelly and No. 78 for Bruce Smith. Despite the fact that the Bills have only retired two jersey numbers in franchise history, the team has other numbers no longer issued to any player or in reduced circulation.
Since the earliest days of the team, the number 31 was not supposed to be issued to any other player. The Bills had stationery and various other team merchandise showing a running player wearing that number, and it was not supposed to represent any specific person, but the 'spirit of the team.' In the first three decades of the team's existence, the number 31 was only seen once: in 1969, when reserve running back Preston Ridlehuber damaged his number 36 jersey during a game, equipment manager Tony Marchitte gave him the number 31 jersey to wear while repairing the number 36. The number 31 was not issued again until 1990 when first round draft choice James (J.D.) Williams wore it for his first two seasons.
Number 1 has also only rarely been used, for reasons never explained. Kicker Mike Hollis, who played one season for the Bills in 2002, was the most recent to wear the number.
|Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame|
|1980||32||O. J. Simpson||RB||1969–1977|
|1989||—||Ralph C. Wilson Jr.||Owner||1959–2014|
|1992||12||The 12th Man||Fans||1960–present|
|Buffalo Bills Hall of Famers|
|32||O. J. Simpson||RB||1969–1977||1985|
Buffalo Bills staff
Buffalo Bills roster
The Buffalo Bills Radio Network is flagshipped at WGR, AM 550 in Buffalo. John Murphy is the team's current play-by-play announcer; he was a color commentator alongside, and eventually succeeded, longtime voice Van Miller after Miller's retirement at the end of the 2003 NFL season. Mark Kelso serves as the color analyst. The Bills radio network has approximately seventeen affiliates in upstate New York and one affiliate, CJCL 590AM (The Fan) in Toronto. As of early 2012, it is composed mostly of WGR, Entercom's sister stations WCMF (96.5 FM) and WROC-AM 950 in Rochester, and a fleet of independent AM and FM stations across upstate New York from Jamestown east to Albany. Previous flagship Citadel Broadcasting was purchased by Cumulus Media, who in turn ceased carrying Bills games at the end of the 2011 season, leaving the network without affiliates in Syracuse, Binghamton, and Erie. (The Syracuse affiliations were later picked up by Galaxy Communications.) Buffalo is one of ten teams contracted with Compass Media Networks to syndicate selected games nationwide.
During the preseason, most games are televised on Buffalo's ABC affiliate, WKBW-TV channel 7, with several other affiliates in western New York. These games are simulcast on sister stations WTVH in Syracuse, WICU in Erie, WHAM-TV in Rochester, and for a period, CITY-TV in Toronto. CBS analyst and former Bills special teams player Steve Tasker does color commentary on these games; the play-by-play position is rotated between his CBS partner Andrew Catalon and Rob Stone. WHAM-TV sports anchor Mike Catalana is the sideline reporter. Since 2008, preseason games have been broadcast in high definition.
Beginning in the 2016 season, as per a new rights deal which covers rights to the team as well as its sister NHL franchise, the Buffalo Sabres, most team-related programming, including studio programming and the coach's show, was re-located to MSG Western New York—a joint venture of MSG and the team ownership. Preseason games will continue to air in simulcast on WKBW.
In the event regular season games are broadcast by ESPN, WKBW-TV will also hold the broadcast rights to that contest, with the station having won back the rights to cable games after WBBZ-TV held the rights for 2012 and 2013.
The Bills currently do not have cheerleaders. The Bills employed the Buffalo Jills, an independent organization, from 1967 to 2013; the Jills suspended operations prior to the 2014 season due to legal actions. The Bills and Jills are currently involved in a legal battle, in which the Jills allege they were employees, not independent contractors, and are seeking back pay.
The Bills are one of six teams in the NFL to designate an official marching band or drumline (the others being the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks). Since the last game of the 2013 season, this position has been served by the Stampede Drumline, known outside of Buffalo as Downbeat Percussion. The Bills have also used the full marching bands from Attica High School, the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University at home games in recent years.
The Bills have several theme songs associated with them. One is a variation of the Isley Brothers hit "Shout", recorded by Scott Kemper, which served as the Bills' official promotional song from 1987 through 1990s. It was officially replaced circa 2000 with "The Power of the Bills", although "Shout" remains in use. The Bills' unofficial fight song, "Go Bills", was penned by Bills head coach Marv Levy in the mid-1990s on a friendly wager with his players that he will write the song if the team won a particular game.
The Bills Backers are the official fan organization of the Buffalo Bills. It has over 200 chapters across North America, Europe and Oceania. Also notable is the Bills Mafia, a collection of Bills fans organized via Twitter beginning in 2010; the phrase "Bills Mafia" had by 2017 grown to unofficially represent the broad community surrounding and encompassing the team as a whole, and players who join the Bills often speak of joining the Bills Mafia. Outsiders often treat the Bills' fan base in derogatory terms, especially since the 2010s, in part because of negative press coverage of select fans' wilder antics.
The Bills are one of the favorite teams of ESPN announcer Chris Berman, who picked the Bills to reach the Super Bowl nearly every year in the 1990s. Berman often uses the catchphrase "No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!" Berman gave the induction speech for Bills owner Ralph Wilson when Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Bills were also the favorite team of late NBC political commentator Tim Russert, a South Buffalo native, who often referred to the Bills on his Sunday morning talk show, Meet the Press. (His son, Luke, is also a notable fan of the team.) CNN's Wolf Blitzer, also a Buffalo native, has proclaimed he is also a fan.
ESPN anchor Kevin Connors is also a noted Bills fan, dating to his time attending Ithaca College. Actor Nick Bakay, a Buffalo native, is also a well-known Bills fan; he has discussed the team in segments of NFL Top 10. Character actor William Fichtner, raised in Cheektowaga, is a fan, and did a commercial for the team in 2014. In 2015, Fichtner also narrated the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Bills four Super Bowl appearances, "Four Falls of Buffalo".
Bills fans are particularly well known for their wearing of Zubaz zebra-printed sportswear; so much is the association between Bills fans and Zubaz that when a revival of the company opened their first brick-and-mortar storefront, it chose Western New York as its first location.
Buffalo's rivalry with the Miami Dolphins is referenced on Steve Martin's 1979 album Comedy Is Not Pretty! on the track "How To Meet A Girl." On the track, Martin simulates chatter about football at a party, and one "partier" expresses disbelief that Buffalo could beat Miami – at the time of the album's release, the Dolphins had won 18 straight games over the Bills.
In the 1996 X-Files episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", the titular character, a member of a shadowy government cabal, states that the Buffalo Bills will not win a Super Bowl while he lives.
Actor Dean Cain was briefly a member of the Bills. Because of this, references to the Bills have appeared in the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which Cain played the title character. In the first episode of season four, titled "Lord of the Flys", Clark picks up a blue Buffalo Bills hat with the Charging Buffalo emblem in the center and uses it to help disguise himself. In a later episode, he lets it be known the Metropolis Mammoths are playing the Bills.
In an April 2011 episode of the television series 30 Rock, titled "100", Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy discovers that, in an alternate future, he would not only be wealthier and more successful, but he would also be the owner of a "New York football team." He later is disappointed to learn the team is not the New York Giants or New York Jets, but the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are the team that eventually unseats the Orlando Breakers, the fictional NFL team that serves as the focus of the sitcom Coach in later seasons, in the playoffs.
In a March 2014 episode of the television series Family Guy entitled "3 Acts of God", Peter Griffin—along with his family and friends—attends a game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which the Bills win. The episode also features Bills players Mario Williams and C. J. Spiller guest starring as themselves.
Several former Buffalo Bills players have earned a name in politics after their playing careers had ended, almost always as members of the Republican Party. The most famous of these was quarterback Jack Kemp, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Western New York in 1971—two years after his playing career ended and remained there for nearly two decades, serving as the Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States under Bob Dole in 1996. Kemp's backup, Ed Rutkowski, served as county executive of Erie County from 1979 to 1987. Former tight end Jay Riemersma, defensive tackle Fred Smerlas and defensive end Phil Hansen have all run for Congress, though all three either lost or withdrew from their respective races. Quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas have also both been mentioned as potential candidates for political office, although both have declined all requests to date.
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