1961 - Laying the Groundwork
6-8 record, fourth place of four in AFL East, tied for fifth of eight in AFL
Prior to the 1961 season, the Bills would begin laying the groundwork for their success later in the 1960s. Buffalo drafted two key members of their offensive line that year - eventual Hall of Fame Guard Billy Shaw and five-time AFL All-Star Stew Barber. Shaw is the only person never to be affiliated with the NFL to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The low point in Bills history came in the build up to their second season. Desperate to prove that it was the real deal, the AFL challenged the Canadian Football League to an exhibition game. It was decided that the game would be between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Buffalo Bills on August 8, 1961. The Ticats were one of the best teams in the CFL at the time and were chosen because they were geographically close to Buffalo. It was thought that beating a CFL team would prove that the AFL was at least the second-best football league in North America. The NFL had sent several teams against teams from the CFL and had won every game, so it was thought that victory against the CFL would be easy. Playing in Hamilton, Ontario, the game proved to be a disaster for the AFL as the Ticats crushed the Bills 38-21, playing a mix of AFL and CFL rules. To this day, it is the only time a pro football team from Canada defeated a pro football team from the United States.
Buffalo's offensive woes continued into the 1961 season, where they once again finished in the bottom half of the league in every major offensive category. This season saw five different quarterbacks start at least one game in hopes of finding a suitable leader for the offense, but one still was not found. The defense hovered around the league average in every statistical category. After the season, the Bills parted ways with the coach from their two inaugural seasons, Buster Ramsey.
The first AFL All-Star team was named following the 1961 season. The Bills placed six players on the squad; left tackle Ken Rice, right tackle Harold Olsen, defensive tackle Chuck McMurtry, defensive end LaVern Torczon, linebacker Archie Matsos, and safety/kicker/punter Billy Atkins and his 10 interceptions.