1984 - Bottom of the Barrel
2-14 record, fifth of five in AFC East, 14 of 14 in AFC, 28 of 28 in NFL
Following an 8-8 season where the Bills top draft choices were mediocre (Troy Hunter) and in a different league (Jim Kelly) the Buffalo Bills fired former Bills offensive lineman and current General Manager Stew Barber. Terry Bledsoe was named their new General Manager effective January 1, 1984 and in August hired Bill Polian as director of pro personell. Shortly thereafter the Bills lost their leading rusher and receiver from 1983, running back Joe Cribbs, to the USFL's Birmingham Stallions. To rub even more salt in the wounds, Jim Kelly was named Player of the Year in the USFL for throwing for 5,219 yards and 44 touchdowns and Dan Marino would go on to be named NFL MVP of 1984. In May, six-year Bills receiver Frank retired from the game at the age of 36. Upon his retirement he was the second-leading receiver in Bills history behind Elbert Dubenion with 4,638 total receiving yards and third behind Dubenion and Bob Chandler in receiving touchdowns. Another long-time Bills starter left prior to 1984 when cornerback Mario Clark was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after starting all but two games in his eight year career in Buffalo. To counteract the loss of Cribbs the Bills selected running back Greg Bell No. 26 overall in the draft. The remainder of Buffalo's draft picks were role players and spot starters.
One other major change for the Buffalo Bills was a new helmet design. The charging Buffalo remained the same but the white helmet was replaced by the red helmet still worn today. The Bills started the 1984 season with eleven straight losses scoring ten points or less in five games and averaging just over two touchdowns a game during the winless stretch. On the season the team averaged 15.6 points a game, fourth-worst in the league, while allowing opponents to score over 28 points a game, second worst in the NFL. Both the defense and offense were in the bottom five in yardage. In week 5 Joe Ferguson's streak of consecutive starts ended at 107. Ferguson missed five games. The last home game of the season saw the smallest crown in Rich Stadium history welcome the relocated Indianapolis Colts. The Bills were 1-12 at the time but scored 21 points in the first quarter behind Joe Dufek and held on for a 21-15 win in front of 20,693 fans.
Despite the awful product on the field, the Bills had plenty to cheer about in 1984. Rookie Greg Bell rushed for 1100 yards and earned a Pro Bowl bid, receiver Byron Franklin caught 69 balls for 862 yards, and Darryl Talley had 5 QB sacks and 84 tackles. Prior to the season the Bills announced their silver anniversary team in preparation of the team's 25th season. The team was voted on by local media and consisted of: QB Jack Kemp, RB O.J. Simpson, RB Cookie Gilchrist, WR Elbert Dubenion, WR Bob Chandler, TE Ernie Warlick, OT Joe Devlin, OG Billy Shaw, C Al Bemiller, P Paul Maguire, NT Fred Smerlas, DT Tom Sestak, DE Ben Williams, DE Ron McDole, LB John Tracey, LB Jim Haslett, LB Mike Stratton, CB Robert James, CB Butch Byrd, S George Saimes, S Steve Freeman, K Pete Gogolak, and owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. Notable exemptions from the team were guard Joe DeLamielleure and WR Frank Lewis. During the season, Jack Kemp became the second member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame. During Super Bowl week O.J. Simpson became the first Buffalo Bill elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Simpson's 143 yards a game average in 1973 ranks first all-time and he was the only player ever to rush for 2000 yards in a 14 game season. At his retirement he was the second-leading rusher in NFL/AFL history with 11,236 yards behind only Jim Brown.