We are back baby, and in the only way we know how, writing about sadness. For seventeen years, the Buffalo Bills have, let we say, struggledto find their grip in the NFL and make it to the NFL playoffs. The last time the Bills made the playoffs Believe by Cher was the number one song in America, Bill Clinton was president and this happened. Kill me. If your dad staring at the TV and slowly standing up to turn it off after that BS is one of your first memories then maybe you should’ve known something had to give. It was forward pass, but that’s for another place and another time. Whatever way you slice it, the Bills lost that fateful “Music City Miracle” (give me a break, it was a crime as Tim Russert would say) and haven’t been back since. They’ve come close (see 2000, 2004, and just about every year in the 2010s) but really they have not come close at all. There have been many players and coaches that have come through One Bills Drive to try and lead the Bills back to the playoffs, but all have failed. Here are the best of the absolute worst, starting with the offense.
Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe, 2002-2004
The Bills have struggled to find a solid quarterback really since Jim Kelly retired in 1996. However, for three seasons, many felt like Bledsoe would be the guy to lead the Bills back to playoffs. Coming from New England after the emergence of Tom Brady (Kill me) during the 2001 season, Bledsoe had a renaissance with the Bills. He threw for 4,359 yards in 2002 and made the Pro Bowl (the only QB to make the Pro Bowl until Tyrod Taylor “made” it in 2015). The 2004 season saw Bledsoe have another stellar year and lead the Bills to within one win of the playoffs until the Bills ran into the Steelers…and their backups…at home (go to 5:30 if you dare). After the 2004 season, the Bills did not resign Bledsoe in favor of drafting J.P. Losman (Kill me) out Tulane who was absolute dumpster fire. Bledsoe said after the signing with the Cowboys that “I can’t wait to go home and dress my kids in little stars and get rid of the other team’s [Buffalo’s] stuff.”
Honorable Mentions? I guess?: Doug Flutie, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick (*Sigh*)
Running Back: Lesean McCoy, 2015-present
If the Bills have had one bright spot during this stretch, it has been at the running back position. McCoy came to Bills after the highway robbery of a trade with the Eagles that sent linebacker Kiko Alonso (now on the Dolphins) to Philadelphia and brought one of the best running backs in the entire NFL to Buffalo. McCoy has been a revelation for the Bills especially during the 2016 season where the team broke the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season and lead the league in rushing yards as McCoy got over 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his eight years in the league during that season.
Honorable Mentions: Travis “The Baby Maker” Henry, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson
Wide Receiver: Eric Moulds, 1996-2005
Moulds was on the team when they last made the playoffs, however his best years came after the Titans playoff game in the 1999 season. He was the first Bills receiver to have 100 receptions in a season in 2002 and was one of the premier receivers in the late-90s and early-2000s. He made the Pro Bowl in 1998, 2000 and 2002 and was also named to the All-Pro team during those years as well. He finished his Bills career with 764 receptions and was eventually named to the Bills 50th anniversary team.
Wide Receiver: Lee Evans, 2004-2010
Evans was a lightning rod for the Bills offense during a time where J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards ran the offense. His signature game came against the Houston Texans in 2006 when he set the Bills franchise record for receiving yards in a quarter (205) and in a game (265). Even coming off injury, Evans still had a 1,000 yard season in 2008. Evans was later traded to the Ravens after the 2010 season where he is most remembered for not catching a potential game-winning touchdown in the AFC Championship Game in 2012.
Wide Receiver: Stevie Johnson, 2008-2013
The final receiver spot was a tough decision but I ended up being a little bias and going with my favorite player from the drought, Stevie Johnson. He became the first Bills wide receiver to record three straight 1,000 yard seasons from 2010-2012. Unfortunately for Johnson, his career-defining play will be his drop against the Steelers in 2010 that would have given the Bills a huge win in the middle of the season. Johnson was later traded to the 49ers after the Bills drafted Sammy Watkins in the 2014 draft.
Honorable mentions: Sammy Watkins, Josh Reed, Peerless Price.
Tight End: Jay Riemersma, 1996-2002
A position that the Bills have never had success with, especially during the drought. Riemersma is another holdover from the Titans game but still found success after the playoff appearance. Riemersma had nearly 2,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns from 1999-2001 with a career day against the Green Bay Packers during the 2000 season. A pretty forgettable player who went on to run for office in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Here are some people who played tight end for the Bills: Robert Royal, Charles Clay, Scott Chandler
Left Tackle: Jason Peters, 2004-2008
Originally a special teams player and blocking tight end, Peters was selected as the starting left tackle for the Pro Bowl after the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He had a falling out with the Bills after the 2008 season and was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Eagles who he is still with now.
Left Guard: Richie Incognito, 2009, 2015-present
Like Bledsoe, Incognito had a renaissance when he joined the Bills after missing the entire 2014 season after the bullying scandal in Miami. Incognito was on the Bills before joining Miami in 2010, however he his second stint with the Bills has seen Incognito make the Pro Bowl in 2015 and be a key piece to the Bills league-leading rushing attack.
Center: Eric Wood, 2009-present
Another current player, Wood has had a solid career as the Bills center. While major injuries have bugged Wood throughout his career, he made the Pro Bowl in 2015 alongside Richie Incognito and will continue to start at center for years to come on the Bills’ offensive line.
Right Guard: Ruben Brown, 1995-2003
Ruben Brown is arguably the best player to play during this era. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler player from 1996-2003 and made the All-Pro team four times from 1998-2000 and 2002. He was the proverbial rock to the Bills offensive line during the last few years they made the playoffs and then the beginning years of the drought. He is a member of the Bills 50th anniversary team.
Right Tackle: Woof, Jordan Mills, I guess, 2015-present
Just look at the right tackles that have played football for the Bills during the past seventeen years. It’s brutal, but don’t just take my word for it, look at the Bills’ rosters on Pro Football Reference.
Here are some other people who played offensive line for the Bills during this time:
Mike Williams, Jonas Jennings, Andy Levitre
The Bills have had a rough go of it, especially on offense, during the drought. The failure to find and hold onto a solid, consistent quarterback has been one of the main reasons this team has not made the playoffs for nearly two decades. Check back later to for the All-Drought defense along with who is the coach of this band of misfits!