The Buffalo Bills were founded in 1960 as part of the AFL. The team would fair well there, winning two league championships. In 1970 the AFL-NFL merger would take place. This did not seem to suit the Bills well at all, as the decade saw generally mediocre play and several losing seasons. Although the exciting play of O.J. Simpson kept some fans coming to the games, many were opting to stay home due to the lack of a competitive team with the exception of a divisional title in 1980. By the mid-1980’s the team was nearly bankrupt.
The team would find their salvation in the failure of another. In 1985 the United States Football League folded, leaving a whole host of high-level, veteran, professional football players looking for a job. The Bills quickly grabbed some of these players, such as future hall-of-fame quarterback Jim Kelly, and started making moves in the draft that would serve to rebuild the team. Notable among their draft picks were Virginia Tech all-American Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas who was an integral part of their K-gun offense.
The K-gun no-huddle shotgun formations gave opposing defenses fits, and it would serve the Bills well. Suddenly things would change for Buffalo fans as they would see their team finally become contenders year after year. The team started putting together a string of divisional championships, and starting in 1990 saw conference titles. The Bills would win the AFC title and go to the Super Bowl four years in a row. An outstanding record that stands to this day, and one which many believe will never be repeated.
The Bills would win one more division title after those four Super Bowl appearances. That would be in 1995. Then things would take a turn for the worse. The New England Patriots, quarterbacked by Tom Brady, a player who many thought was a backup at best, would come to dominate the division. Losing their dominance caused problems for the team and they attempted two painful rebuilds in two consecutive decades. The Bills would not make the playoffs for 17 long years.
In 2014 the team was sold. With new owners came big changes. The most important change from a fan’s perspective was the hiring of Sean McDermott as head coach. Starting in 2020 McDermott and the Bills have once again put together a string of consecutive division titles. This should give everyone else in the NFL reason for concern. The last time the Bills did this, AFC dominance was the result.
The Bills can boast of 22 playoff appearances combined between the NFL and AFL, as well as 13 combined division championships, four consecutive conference championships, and two AFL titles. Will 2023 be the season when the Bills regain their title as kings of the AFC?
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