Top 10 Buffalo Bills in NFL History
They've had their share of success and misfortune in their history. Today I rank the top 10 Buffalo Bills of all time.
The Bills are the only team to win four consecutive conference championships, and are the only NFL team to play in four consecutive Super Bowl games, all of which they lost. The Bills have the longest playoff drought in the NFL meaning they have not made the playoffs since 1999. They also have the longest active streak of losing seasons in that they have not finished .500 or better since 2004.
For this list, I take into account career success, their importance to the franchise, and Hall of Fame status.
10. Cornelius Bennett
His success is forgotten due to the team's performances in the playoffs.
After failing to come to a deal in Indianapolis, Cornelius Bennett was dealt to the Bills. Playing in an already talent linebacker corps, Bennett made a name for himself on the outside. In his 14 NFL seasons, he recorded 71½ sacks, 7 interceptions, 112 return yards, 31 forced fumbles, 27 fumble recoveries, 78 fumble return yards, and 3 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, his 27 defensive fumble recoveries were the third most in NFL history.
He spent his final seasons in Indianapolis and Atlanta. He ended his career as a five time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, two time AFC defensive player of the year, and a member of the 90's all decade team.
9. Steve Tasker
After being cut by Houston in 1986, Steve Tasker was claimed by the Buffalo Bills. Once in Buffalo, he took on the role as gunner on special teams.
Tasker instantly made an impact on special teams despite his small frame. He quickly gained a reputation for being a fierce tackler forcing many fumbles on punt and kick coverage. Tasker was named to seven All-Pro teams in his career and was even named the MVP of the Pro Bowl in 1992 while helping the team to four straight Super Bowl appearances. He was also an impact on offense averaging 15 yards per catch and 9 touchdowns in his career. Bills quarterback Jim Kelly lobbied head coach Marv Levy to allow Tasker to play wide receiver more but Levy said he was needed more on special teams.
With the induction of punter Ray Guy in 2014, the door is now open for a special teamer to be inducted in Canton. Tasker is widely considered to be the greatest gunner/ special teamed to ever play and his play should be recognized by the Hall of Fame.
8. Darryl Talley
He was the leader of the defense for over a decade.
A second round pick in 1983, Darryl Talley was a fixture at middle linebacker. While with the Bills, Talley had multiple nicknames on the field as "The Duke of Awesome", "Spider-Man", and "The Hammer". His cheering section at Rich Stadium was known as the "Talley-Whackers". In 1990, playing against the Cleveland Browns in his hometown, Talley returned an interception for his first career touchdown. Talley retired as the Bills' all-time leading tackler with 1,137, and also recorded 38.5 sacks, 12 interceptions for 189 return yards and 3 touchdowns, and 14 fumble recoveries for 76 return yards. His 188 games played are fifth most in team history.
His final seasons were spent in Atlanta and Minnesota. In 14 seasons, Talley was a two time pro bowler and All-Pro, and recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
7. James Lofton
His skill set brought the first true deep threat of wide receivers.
Arc spewing his first 11 seasons with the Packers and Raiders, James Lofton was signed by Buffalo before the 1989 season. In 1991, Lofton became the oldest player to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season and the oldest player to record 200 yards receiving as well as 200 yards from scrimmage in a game. In his 16 NFL seasons, Lofton caught 764 passes for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns.
Lofton spent his final season with the Rams and Eagles. He finished his career as a eight time pro bowler, four time All-Pro, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
6. Thurman Thomas
He was an important part of the Bills no-huddle offense.
A second round pick in 1988, Thurman Thomas was the perfect running back for Buffalo's offense. He is the only player in NFL history to lead the league in total yards from scrimmage for four consecutive seasons. He is one of only six running backs to have over 400 receptions and 10,000 yards rushing. Thomas also set NFL playoff records with the most career points, touchdowns, and consecutive playoff games with a touchdown. He holds the all time Bills rushing record with 11,938 yards and the team record for yards from scrimmage with 16,279 over his 12 years with the team.
Thomas spent his final season in Miami before retiring in 2000. he was a five time pro bowler and All-Pro, the 1991 NFL MVP, and a member of the 90's all decade team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
5. Jack Kemp
He's was the most affective passer in the history of the AFL.
After spending his first few years in Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Canada, Jack Kemp was acquired by Buffalo. Kemp led Buffalo to four straight years in the AFL playoffs, three consecutive Eastern Division titles, and two straight AFL Championships. He led the league in career passes attempted, completions, and yards gained passing. He played in five of the AFL's 10 Championship Games, and holds the same career records. He was the only AFL quarterback to be listed as a starter all 10 years of the league's existence and one of only 20 players to serve all 10 of those years. His number 15 was retired by the Bills in 1984.
Kemp retired after the AFL disbanded to peruse a career in politics. In his career, he was seven time AFL All Star, a two time champion, and the 1965 AFL MVP.
4. Andre Reed
He can easily be considered as the greatest receiver after the catch.
A fourth round pick in 1985, Andre Reed switched from tight end to one of the greatest receiver's in league history. He played for the Bills for 15 consecutive seasons, from 1985 through 1999, during which he played in four Super Bowls for the Bills. Reed ranks near the top in nearly all NFL career statistical receiving categories. He went over 1000 yards four times in a 16 year career. Reed is tenth in NFL history in total career receptions with 951, ninth in NFL history in total career receiving yards with 13,198, and is also eleventh in NFL history in total career touchdown receptions with 87. He gained the nickname "YAC" signifying his ability to make plays after he caught the ball.
He spent his final season in Washington. Reed retired as a seven time pro bowler, two time All-Pro, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
3. O.J. Simpson
When people think about O.J. Simpson today, football isn't the first thing that comes to mind.
Simpson was arguably the most coveted player coming out of college ever and Buffalo was awarded the first pick. Early in his professional football career, Simpson struggled on poor Buffalo teams, averaging only 622 yards per season for his first three. In 1973, Simpson rushed for a record 2,003 yards, becoming the first player ever to pass the 2,000-yard mark, and scored 12 touchdowns. From 1972 to 1976, Simpson averaged 1,540 rushing yards per season, 5.1 yards per carry, and he won the NFL rushing title four times. Simpson had the best game of his career during the Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions when he rushed for a then record 273 yards on 29 attempts and scoring two touchdowns in a loss.
He finished his career as a six time pro bowler, five time All-Pro, the 1973 MVP, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. Its impossible to look at O.J. Simpson the same way post playing career, but for this list, I just accounted for what he did on the field.
2. Jim Kelly
Playing in upstate New York proved to be no issue for this gunslinger.
A first round pick in 1983, Jim Kelly spent his first few seasons in the USFL before joining the Bills in 1986. Kelly ran the Bills' "K-Gun" no-huddle offense, which was a fast-paced offense which denied opposing defenses the opportunity to make timely substitutions. He helped lead the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances and six divisional championships from 1988 to 1995. Buffalo made the playoffs in eight of Kelly's 11 seasons as their starting quarterback. Kelly holds the all-time NFL record for most yards gained per completion in a single game and recorded an NFL best 101.2 passer rating in 1990, led the league with 33 touchdowns passes in 1991.
He retired following 1996 as a five time pro bowler, the Bills all time leading passer, and a Hall of Famer in 2002.
1. Bruce Smith
He instilled as much fear in any quarterback as any defender in league history.
The first overall pick in 1985, Bruce Smith quickly became a sack specialist in Buffalo. By 1989, Smith, in notching his 52nd sack, had already become the Bills' all-time sack leader, claiming a team record that he was to raise 119 times over the years. Some conjecture that his 171 sacks in Buffalo set a standard that "may be unreachable" for future Bills. Smith was a two time defensive player of the year and was one of the Buffalo stars who didn't burnout during the four Super Bowl losses.
Smith spent his last few years in Washington were he was able to become the NFL's all time sack leader. In 19 seasons, Smith recorded 200 career sacks, made 11 pro bowls, was All-Pro 11 times, and was a member of both the 80's and 90's all decade teams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.