1968 - The Bottom Falls Out
1-12-1 Record, fifth place of five in AFL East, tenth of ten in AFL
In a year when the AFL would finally prove its worth by winning Super Bowl III, the Bills were going the opposite direction. The Cincinnati joined the AFL in preparation of the merger and were placed in the AFL West to balance the divisions. The expansion Bengals managed three wins while the Bills managed only half that.
In the 1968 Draft the Bills selected receiver Haven Moses with an eye towards the inevitable retirement of the 35-year-old Elbert Dubenion. Moses played four and a half years for the Bills leading the Bills in receiving his first two years and earning an All-Star Game selection. The other notable addition was lineman Bob Kalsu. Kalsu was selected to solidify the interior of the Bills line for years to come and started the final nine games of the year for the Bills.
The 1968 season was a tumultuous one. Prior to the 1968 season the Bills cut Wray Carlton leaving Elbert Dubenion as the only original Buffalo Bill remaining. Starter Jack Kemp was injured and with Lamonica in Oakland Buffalo resorted to converting wide receiver Ed Rutkowski to quarterback in a rotation with Rutkowski, Kay Stephenson and rookie Dan Darragh. Largely due to the injuries, Buffalo scored fewer than 200 points averaging just two touchdowns a game. They were dead last in total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns, as well as yards per play and were second to last in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. The defense was third-worst in points allowed and rushing yards allowed. The result was disastrous and after going 4-10 in 1967 the Bills fired coach Joe Collier after the second game of 1968, a 48-6 drubbing at the Rockpile versus the Raiders. The team promoted defensive backs coach Harvey Johnson to head coach for the remainder of the year. The Bills dropped to last place, resulting in the Bills earning the first overall draft pick in the draft.
Just one good note about this team... their lone win was a Week 4 tilt against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Jets, 37-35, highlighted by three Buffalo interception returns for touchdowns. Joe Namath made a game of it at the end throwing two late touchdowns but his five interceptions were too much to overcome.
Guard Billy Shaw was the only Bills offensive player to make the All-Star game with perennial selection Stew Barber being left off the team. Defensive tackle Jim Dunaway, linebacker Mike Stratton, cornerback Butch Byrd, and safety George Saimes joined Shaw on the team. It was the fewest Bills elected since the team was first introduced.