1967 - The Championship Door Closes

1967 - The Championship Door Closes
4-10 record, tied for third place of five in AFL East, tied for sixth of nine in AFL
The biggest change in Buffalo happened at back-up quarterback when the 26-year-old Daryle Lamonica was traded, leaving Jack Kemp as the lone Bills signal caller with game experience, a decision that would come back to haunt the Bills when Lamonica was named AP Player of the Year.  Lamonica was traded to the Oakland Raiders with Glenn Bass for receiver Art Powell and quarterback Tom Flores coming off the best season of his career.  Coming off four straight ALl-Star games Powell played in only six games for the Bills putting up solid stats in all of them.  Flores started three games for the Bills in 1967 and threw for a... wait for it... 34.4% completion percentage.  Lamonica was known as the "Fireman" for being able to come in and solve the problems Kemp created.  Flores could be called the "wet blanket".  He threw eight interceptions against zero touchdowns and threw a pick every eight times he threw the ball.

For the first time ever the two leagues would conduct a joint draft and teams would no longer have to bid against one another for players drafted by both leagues.  Buffalo picks No. 22 overall and selected safety John Pitts, who had a long and unspectacular career.  In the seventeen rounds of the draft the Bills did not pick a single player that would make a significant impact, dooming the Bills to a slide in the later part of the '60s into the 1970s.  A lowlight was missing out on selecting Hall of Fame tackle Rayfield Wright at 182 overall when they picked tackle George Gaiser at 181.  Gaiser never played a down for the Bills.  The major addition to the team was running back Keith Lincoln, who you remember getting leveled by Bills linebacker Mike Stratton in the 1964 AFL Championship.  Lincoln rushed for 601 yards and four touchdowns while adding 41 catches for 558 yards on his way to an All-Star nod.

The core of the Championship teams was aging.  Elbert Dubenion was 34, Jack Kemp 32, Wray Carlton was 30, Tom Sestak was 31, and linebackers Harry Jacobs and John Tracey were 30 and 34.  These were all key members of the team and replacements needed to be found but the failure in the draft led to a swift fall from grace for the Bills.

The Bills offense in particular suffered in 1967 managing more than 21 points in only two games and averaging just under 17 points a game.  This placed them eighth in the nine-team AFL in points scored.  They had the third-fewest yards and passing yards, second-fewest first downs and rushing yards, and were dead last in touchdowns scored.  The defense finished slightly better finishing fourth in points allowed, second in yards allowed, and first in passing yards allowed.

Many perennial Buffalo All-Stars were noticeably absent from the squad. Lamonica supplanted Kemp on the squad.  Running back Keith Lincoln was the only Bills offensive skill position player to make the squad.  Stew Barber and Billy Shaw joined him on the team.  Defensive end Ron McDole and defensive tackle Jim Dunaway joined linebacker Mike Stratton and safeties George Saimes and Tom Janik on the team.  Kicker Mike Mercer was also selected.

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