Did you know that New York has people living outside of the Big Apple? Who would have thought? There are even inhabitants in the freezing western part of the state – and yes, they are living – and no, they aren’t stuck underneath snow – and yes, they could all be abominable snowmen and snowwomen and snowchildren. One thing is for certain, its Bills’ and Sabers’ territory, and Winter is coming.
I know, super intimidating, but the city of Buffalo has suffered through more than the cold for a very long time. Should I remind everyone of the ‘90s? No? Okay, I will. Led by Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith, the Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls from 1990-1993. That has to be one of the most depressing facts in sports history. All four losses came from the helmets of NFC East opponents, but since that conference is seemingly getting better than maybe it’s time again for the Bills to repeat as repeat losers. They made the playoffs eight seasons from 1990-1999 which is quite incredible. See, the New England Patriots haven’t won that division since the beginning of time.
If you follow football then you probably realize it has been a steady decline from almost-glory to complete doom for the franchise since we entered the 2000s. The 21st century has not been the greatest for Bills’ fans – most probably wishing at this point that Y2K actually happened – but they are one of the most loyal bases in all of sports. Could you imagine the craziness if the team was moved to Toronto? Snowballs everywhere! They can stand the Blue Jays, but that’s just because the Buffalo Hoary Redpolls (it’s a bird that lives in cold weather, and also has a funny name – feel free to research) are not an MLB franchise as of yet.
So let’s go over the best and worst Bills since 2000 who have suffered through the losses, the cold and snow, and threats to move to Canada. Bring a warm jacket.
15 BEST: DOUG FLUTIE AND DREW BLEDSOE
There aren’t many famous quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills other than Jim Kelly, but Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe certainly brought some excitement to Western New York this century. If we’re being really specific, then it was mostly Bledsoe because Flutie’s last season with the Bills was in 2000. Also, it’s not like he played a full season for Buffalo during his short time with the team because he served as a backup to Rob Johnson for whatever stupid reason from 1998-2000, but put his mark on the city while there, as well as put his face on a cereal box. Bledsoe, on the other hand, had a little more success as the signal caller of the Bills from 2002-2004. However, in the end there was just bitterness toward the franchise as they released him – just like Flutie – for more suitable quarterbacks for what the team was trying to accomplish which was apparently a long streak of bad seasons.
14 WORST: TERRELL OWENS
That’s right, the famed wideout played for the Buffalo Bills for one year in 2009-2010. Terrell Owens didn’t have a bad season that year per se, but a selfish one – surprise surprise. First he passed the great and highly-loved Bills’ receiver Andre Reed on the all-time NFL receptions list, then set a record for longest touchdown reception for the organization and as the oldest player in the NFL to ever accomplish such a feat, and lastly he achieved his 1,000 mark for career receptions. Okay, let’s be fair now, I’m sure his presence has helped win more games for Buffalo than many of their 21st Century receivers combined, but it still just felt like a publicity stunt and a way to increase his statistics. No one out there is saying, “Hey, you know what would be great for my career? Going to the freezing cold and playing on a team that really isn’t all that great and has some pretty crappy luck.”
13 BEST: MARSHWN LYNCH
Again, that’s right, Marshawn Lynch played for the Buffalo Bills; it’s where he started his career. Of course, he gained more popularity and fame while a member of the Seattle Seahawks, but why do you think the Great Northwest wanted to steal him from the Great Northeast? He was a good player, a hard-worker with the toughness of a blue-collar Buffalonian (is that what they call people from Buffalo?). He broke 1,000 yards in his rookie season and also did it again his second year. However, in 2009 he had a little hiccup with the law and was suspended and ended up having a sub-par season due to Fred Jackson’s 1,000-yard year. Then, in 2010 Lynch hurt his ankle, forcing him to miss a few weeks, essentially lose his starting job for good, and be shipped off to Seattle. I feel like management made a mistake, but that’s just me. I also feel like there could be a trend here with how football operations work in Buffalo. I’ve only spent a little time in the area so I’m not positive.
12 WORST: KYLE ORTON
Sometimes I feel bad for Kyle Orton because it seems he’s never thrown into the best situation, but does pretty well for a small amount of time. Then sometimes I don’t feel bad because maybe it’s him? I don’t know. It’s kind of like how Taylor Swift sings about all these problems with guys, but no one is addressing the fact that maybe she is awful at relationships. In 2014, Orton became the highest-paid backup quarterback in the NFL when he joined the Buffalo Bills, and later earned the starting job over EJ Manuel after just four weeks making him probably one of the lowest-paid starters. Back to the start of this paragraph, Orton did lead the Bills to a winning record – the first time since 2004 pathetically – and had a solid season in the process. So solid that he decided to retire after it was over. Some quarterbacks like going out on top, others prefer average marks and then eventual abandonment to follow. A good season, but a bad Bill. Who cares if you’re slowing down, you still were the better alternative, Kyle.
11 BEST: FRED JACKSON
Fred Jackson was nine seasons a Buffalo Bill which is a pretty impressive fact alone considering many people don’t stay in Buffalo that long outside of the crazy residents who just will not move. Here’s a fun fact: Jackson played for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europa before the NFL and before the 26-year American football experiment overseas folded in 2007. The Bills then gave him a chance, and eventually extended Jackson’s chance for another four years in 2009, leading to his claim as the starter over their stud, Marshawn Lynch, during the 2010 season. What a nice luxury to have in Buffalo: good running backs. I guess you could say it’s more like a waste rather than a luxury, but who are we to claim that? In 2012, he signed another extension. All right, we have something going here, Buffalo! Then they released him in 2015. Sad face. His multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons gave fans something to remember this century though.
10 WORST: EJ MANUEL
What’s worse than Kyle Orton being your starting quarterback for a season? Losing your job to Kyle Orton, that’s what. EJ Manuel was the Buffalo Bills’ first-round pick in 2013. He entered his rookie season as the starter, and there were some speed bumps, but he was a rookie so it was understandable. Not everyone can be Dak Prescott – and not everyone wants to be after this past weekend. Manuel still earned the right to be the starter in 2014, but was quickly benched Orton replaced the NFL sophomore. Hope for Manuel was given when Orton retired, but he lost his opportunity to regain control of the huddle to Tyrod Taylor during training camp. If you struggle during training camp, that’s probably not a good indicator that you’ll have a chance to be one of the best Bills this century – and what’s even worse is that the bar is sadly set pretty low to begin with.
9 BEST: MARIO WILLIAMS
This is arguable. Yes, many Buffalo Bills’ fans will consider Mario Williams as a bust free agent due to the $100 million dollar contract he signed in 2012 to become the star of the franchise. Frankly, I don’t think anyone deserves that kind of money. Case and point: trailer trash who win the lottery and are bankrupt shortly after. At the time, it was the highest a defensive end had ever been paid in NFL history. Of course, some sort of jealousy could be involved – I know I would rather have $100 million than someone else – but he performed great for the team his first two years, setting a franchise record for most sacks in a season and making the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. Then Rex Ryan came along and did what he likes to do best: concentrate all his energy on beating the New England Patriots with a scheme that’s okay at first, but eventually gets him fired. Williams was released in 2016 before the start of the season, which turned out to be Ryan’s final coaching year in Buffalo. Ahh, management.
8 WORST: ERECK FLOWERS
Now, let’s talk about a real bust. A first-round draft choice in 2000 by the Buffalo Bills, Ereck Flowers was ready to make an impact right away as many rookies are. He earned the starting job the following year, but it turned out that 2001 would quickly be his last season in Buffalo. He only started five games before becoming benched. After the regular season was over – remember, the Bills are seemingly banned from the playoffs this century by the way they perform on the field – management thought hard about Flowers and eventually released him during training camp in 2002. He bounced around from the Houston Texans to the St. Louis Rams, and eventually ended up signing with the Toronto Argonauts. Maybe he thought joining the Canadian Football League would bring him new life, and maybe he thought being in Toronto would bring him closer to Buffalo so he could cross the border and attempt to sneak onto the team again. Long story short, he was injured before training camp with the Argonauts.
7 BEST: LONDON FLETCHER
He was an undrafted force, a linebacker from a small school, an ironman with amazing work ethic. London Fletcher wasn’t just one of the best Buffalo Bills during the 21st century, he was one of the best linebackers for whichever team he played for. He played in Buffalo from 2002-2006, and during his first season he set the franchise record for tackles. He also started all 16 games each year, and his stamina proved to not be an issue considering he led the team in tackles during his final year with the Bills as well. However, and perhaps this is the reward one gets for playing in Buffalo, he was named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl during his Western New York stint, but I guess that’s really great for being a Bill, pretty good for being on another team. Maybe not the Browns. With that being said, he was a rock on defense for Buffalo and a great Bill to have as a teammate or to watch from the stands – they aren’t televised much so you probably couldn’t see him otherwise.
6 WORST: AARON MAYBIN
Aaron Maybin was yet another high first-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills who just didn’t seem to cut it. Like Ereck Flowers he played for the Bills and ended his career with the Toronto Argonauts. Why are all these guys trying to sneak back into the country and play for Buffalo? Probably because no one would notice. The only difference between Maybin and Flowers is that… well there isn’t much difference. Maybin only lasted two seasons as well and was a huge disappointment. He signed with the New York Jets in 2011 for like 18 days after he was waived by the Bills, so at least he had that going for him. Okay, okay, he was re-signed eventually and played for them until about halfway through the 2012 schedule. Whoopie. He went to the Cincinnati Bengals and then went up North for one game before finally announcing retirement. See, kids, that’s what happens when you leave school too early.
5 BEST: LESEAN MCCOY
A fresh face! A new hope! No, LeSean McCoy isn’t Luke Skywalker. Actually, if we’re going to make Star Wars references and keep it in the division, then I must ask if anyone else thinks Bill Belichick resembles the Emperor when his hood is up? Anyway, Shady, the Jedi running back, is putting up great numbers so far as a member of the Buffalo Bills. Sure, he started a little slow in his 2015 campaign after being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles, but this past season earned him another trip to the Pro Bowl. He ignited a great offense at the beginning of the year, but once teams figured out that Tyrod Taylor isn’t that big of a threat, they focused on the talented running back entirely. Yet, his numbers were still good and he certainly helped the Bills get close to making a playoff run. Hey, getting close to getting close to the playoffs is still progress.
4 WORST: J.P. LOSMAN
Oh boy, another quarterback. Let’s see if the Buffalo Bills scouts and executives are picking up on this. You know, they do have a National Championship winning quarterback who actually has only lost one game sitting on the bench in Cardale Jones. Before their current situation, and the situation before that, the Bills had J.P. Losman. Guess what? He was a former first-round draft choice by Buffalo! Let’s give Losman the benefit of the doubt, he had a rich quarterback draft class with Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger being selected as well so the bar was set really high. Also, maybe if his teammate didn’t break his leg during his first training camp things could of panned out differently. Yet, part of a season coming off a broken leg was good enough for Losman to be named the starter, and the rest is just messy disappointing history – except for his UFL Championship with the Las Vegas Locomotives. Whatever that is and whoever they are.
3 BEST: KYLE WILLIAMS
Who in the world? Everyone in Buffalo knows who Kyle Williams is because he has been a member of the Buffalo Bills since 2006. Maybe all Bills should be drafted in the later rounds because they seem to work out better. He’s earned trips to four Pro Bowls (2010, 2012-2014) as Buffalo’s star defensive end – and, yes, that does include when Mario Williams was on the team. Shouldn’t they have been a lot better during those years then? One would think. The Bills just can’t seem to work on all cylinders, but Williams has remained loyal to the franchise making him one of the best players for Buffalo during this grueling century thus far. I believe his career is starting to dwindle, but playing in the cold is hard on your joints as you age. It’s safe to say that the Southern teams are more appealing for players as they get older so if he lands somewhere in Florida or playing for the Saints in his home state of New Orleans, don’t be surprised.
2 WORST: MIKE WILLIAMS
What’s with all the guys who played for the Buffalo Bills with the last name of Williams? Are they all related? I hope not if you’re Mario or Kyle because Mike Williams certainly did nothing for the name… or the city. That’s rude, I’m sure there are plenty of lesser Williams in the world. Drafted fourth overall by the Bills in 2002 – I don’t even have to say it – Williams was touted as not only one of the best offensive lineman, but one of the best players available. His projection was full of hype, but that was about it as the prospect may have been the biggest draft bust in Bills’ history. He was moved around on the line, lost his job to an undrafted rookie, and they even tried him on defense as a goal-line tackle. I think this time the Bills tried everything they could to keep their player from being a disappointment, but Williams was just not working out and was released in 2006.
1 BEST: BRIAN MOORMAN
Usually when a team is bad it means their punter is pretty good because he gets a lot of playing time. Brian Moorman was a member of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2012, making him the longest tenured Bill of the 21st century, and was voted into the roster of Buffalo’s 50th Anniversary team. I know we’ve had some fun at the Bills’ expense during this post, but that’s quite an honor because there have been plenty of greats to roam Orchard Park over the years. Other accolades include being elected to the Pro Bowl twice (2005-2006), being named to the NFL’s all-decade team, registering the longest punt in the NFL two seasons, was the 2005 NFL leader in Yards per Punt because that’s a thing, and also once kicked it 84 yards which is a Bills’ record. He also still has the P.U.N.T. Foundation in Western New York which supports life-threatening illnesses children are battling. A great man and player deserving of the best, but he ended up on the Bills. There’s nothing wrong with that though.