Twenty-five years. That’s how long it has been since the Buffalo Bills have
won the AFC East, a feat they have finally accomplished this season. The last time
the Bills were division champions was the year movies such as “Toy Story,” “Bad
Boys,” and “Apollo 13” were in theatres and “Waterfalls,” “This Is How We Do It,”
and “Kiss from a Rose” were tops on the music charts. For me, a 29-year-old Bills
fan, I did not get to enjoy, or suffer through, four straight Super Bowl losses. Instead,
my earliest memory of watching them play is one of the two worst phrases a Bills
fan can hear, “music city miracle;” the event that was the first speck of trauma Bills
fans had to endure that led directly in to a 17-year playoff drought.
Here are some statistics from the drought that show the consistently poor to
mediocre teams that were fielded. In those 17 years, they were 8-8 three times, 9-7
twice, and were never terrible enough to get the first overall pick and attempt to
remedy their lack of a new Jim Kelly. They cycled through coach and quarterbacks
every one to four years while the mighty New England Patriots haven’t made one
change (until this season). They tried older veteran coaches like Chan Gailey and
Dick Jauron, they tried a college coach in Doug Marrone (Don’t get us started on
Doug Marrone), and they tried hiring a coach that had national intrigue in Rex Ryan.
The team had at least a .500 record through ten games seven times, (’02, ’07, ’08,
’11, ’14, ’15, and ’16), but never finished strong enough to make it.
Throughout the drought, they only even sniffed the playoffs once, in 2004 with a Drew Bledsoe led team where all they needed to do was beat a Steelers team that was playing the
backups to their backups. The offense ranked in the top 20 in the NFL in points
seven of the seventeen years and in the top 10 only twice in seventeen years. TWICE
IN SEVENTEEN YEARS they had a top 10 scoring offense! You can blame a poorly
run franchise, you can blame poor college and pro scouting, you can blame poor
coaching, or you can blame the players, but it was a combination of all of that and
more (*cough Tom Brady cough*) that caused a 17 year playoff drought for the
Now, on to the current Bills. First up was in 2017 when then general manager
Doug Whaley hired head coach Sean McDermott. The interesting part was the Bills
let Doug Whaley go one day AFTER the 2017 draft. There had been speculation
McDermott had been gaining trust and confidence quickly with the Bills owners
Terry and Kim Pegula, and they had been planning to bring in executives that had
relationships with McDermott; cue Brandon Beane as the “GM elect.” Once this came
to fruition, Beane went to work, clearing dead cap space. He traded players like
Sammy Watkins, Marcel Dareus, Ronald Darby, and Cordy Glenn. He got players in
return like EJ Gaines, Jordan Matthews, and Kelvin Benjamin and signed guys like
Anquan Boldin as to still attempt to field a winning team. Although Boldin retired
almost immediately, and the Benjamin experiment was a failure, Bills fans could see
things were finally happening. Despite being led by Tyrod Taylor with a 22 nd ranked
offense and 18 th ranked defense, with the help of Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd the
Bills squeaked in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
That off-season season, Beane and McDermott had the draft that would
change everything. Trading up to 7 th overall to draft QB Joshua Patrick Allen out of
Wyoming, the guy who could throw a ball to the moon, but miss the broad side of a
barn from 5 yards away. A lot of fans weren’t happy about it, but to be fair a lot, even
more, fans also liked the move, just weren’t as vocal as the other group. McDermott
stated that the coming season would be a step back before they started moving
forward again as they had to develop a rookie QB and chose to move on from Tyrod
Taylor. Coming out of camp they named Nathan Peterman as their starting qb, yes
you read that right. Peterman WON the job in camp. That lasted about a half into
their first game as Peterman went 5/18 for 24 yards and 2 INTs. In comes Josh Allen
to finish the game and the season minus a few games he missed because of injury.
Allen finished the season with 2,074 yards, 10 TDs, 12 INTS, and with a 52.8%
completion percentage. The surprising part was his 631 rushing yards and 8
rushing TDs. The Bills went 6-10 and had a bad year just like “McBeane” as
BillsMafia calls them, had said.
The 2019 season was the beginning of the transformation of the offense.
They started using the cap space they had cleared, signing among others, John
Brown, Cole Beasley, Mitch Morse, and Frank Gore, as well as pro bowl return man
Andre Roberts. While the front office was making moves, Allen was in California
working with quarterback guru Jordan Palmer on his mechanics and footwork. That
season Allen threw 1,000 more yards and doubled the amount of passing TDs from
the previous season throwing for 3,089 yards 20 TDs and 9 INTs with a completion
percentage of 58.8% (up 6%). He also added 510 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs.
The Bills clinched their second playoff birth in three years with a win over the
Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Taking nothing away from the first appearance,
this one was feeling more like the beginning of something great.
Going in to the 2020 offseason, fans were only clamoring for one thing, a true
number one wide receiver.
While John Brown and Cole Beasley had good seasons, with Brown going for over 1,000 yards and Beasley having one of the best seasons of his career. With the Bills on their way, Beane pulled the trigger, sending a 1st round pick (pick 22) along with other later picks to Minnesota for Stefon Diggs. This season, Diggs is having the best year of his career and his having a blast doing it. He is well over 100 catches and 1,000 yards with Beasley also heading towards the 1,000 yard mark as Brown has been injured. Beane also continued taking care of the cap this offseason while signing All-Pro CB Tre’Davious White to a large extension, but refusing to sign Shaq Lawson and Jordan Jenkins to the large cap eating deals they wanted and replacing them with a quantity of players to lesser deals. I would
be remiss if I didn’t mention the play of the offensive line this season, and the fact
that the Bills still may have the best and most underrated safety duo in Jordan Poyer
and Micah Hyde.
With the help of Jordan Palmer, Brian Daboll, and Ken Dorsey, Josh Allen
took an even larger step forwards this season while on pace for 4,500 passing yards,
35 TDs, and 10 INTs with a completion percentage of almost 69%. That’s a 17%
increase from year one to year three and is almost unheard of. This season wasn’t
just about the development of Allen and acquisition of Diggs. The coaches have all
shown improvement as well, starting with McDermott. His decision-making and
aggressiveness have shined through this season. An example would be going for it
more on 4 th down, which lets them play smarter on 3 rd down knowing that if they
don’t get it they have another play. The bigger example would be keeping their foot
on the gas in the fourth quarter when they are winning instead of trying to run out
the clock and giving it right back to the opponent. Daboll has continued to improve
the art of schemes and play calling getting his receivers open on seemingly every
play. Leslie Frazier has had to deal with significant opt-outs due to covid-19 such as
their big run stuffer in Star Lotulelei and depth cornerback EJ Gaines. He also had to
deal with injuries to both star linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano
and had to adjust how he called the defense with very different style linebackers in
It truly is the luck of Buffalo sports fans that even if they get the 2 seed this
year they won’t have a bye week in the playoffs, and the fact that no one has been
able to go to the stadium at watch this team. All jokes and stats aside, I have never
been as excited watching a Bills team as I am with this one. The youth, the talent, the
coaching, the front office, and the culture that has been built around One Bills Drive
have all been as good as it has been since the early 1990’s. This franchise has the
ammunition to be Superbowl contenders for the next decade. In my opinion there is
no fan base as deserving as this one with the 25 years we just had to endure.