The Buffalo Bills announced yesterday that defensive end Phil Hansen would be the newest member of the team's Wall of Fame. Who should be next, Bills fans - and have your opinions changed since last year?
I've compiled a potential list based on Wall of Fame committee members' comments following last year's selection. None of them said Hansen's name a year ago. These players and executives should receive strong consideration for the team's highest honor.
Gilchrist was only a member of the Buffalo Bills for three seasons from 1962 to 1964, but in each of those seasons he was named to the AFL All-Star squad. After starring in the CFL, Gilchrist signed with the Bills and proceeded to be named the AP Player of the Year after leading the AFL in rushing yards (becoming the first AFL running back to top 1,000 yards) and touchdowns while scoring the second-most points in the league that year. He was named to the All-AFL team in both 1962 and 1964. In 1963, Gilchrist rushed for a professional football record 243 yards and five touchdowns in a single game against the New York Jets. His 4.5 yards per rush is third in Bills history. Gilchrist was selected as the fullback on the All-Time AFL team in 1970. He died in early 2011.
Saban is the only coach in Buffalo Bills history to win the last game of the playoffs - and he did it twice, winning both the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championships. He served two stints as Bills head coach from 1962-1965 and 1972-1976. His combined winning percentage is .602, with 68 wins, both second in Bills history to Marv Levy's .615 and 112. In the mid-'70s stint, he is credited with helping O.J. Simpson achieve greatness, and was the head coach during Simpson's 2,000-yard campaign in 1973.
Butch Byrd holds the Bills' career records for interceptions (40), interception touchdown returns (5), and interception return yards (666). He played in 98 games for Buffalo from 1964 to 1970 after being the Bills' fourth-round pick, and starred at the cornerback position opposite newest Wall of Famer Booker Edgerson. Byrd's 0.40 interceptions per game is considerably higher than any Bills player that's played more than 14 games. (Non-relation Jairus Byrd has 9 in 14 games for a 0.64 average.) He was a five-time AFL All-Star, and was named to the All-AFL team three times. He recorded seven interceptions in a season twice - his rookie year and 1969. He was also known for his punt return skills, taking one to the house in 1966. Byrd forced 10 fumbles and recovered four. He is best known for his plays in the 1965 AFL Championship game where he held Chargers WR Don Norton to one catch before knocking him unconscious with a block at the line. Later in the game, Byrd took a punt back 74 yards for a touchdown. He is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and was voted to the All-AFL second team.
After serving various roles in the NFL, USFL, and CFL, Bill Polian joined the Bills in 1984 as director of pro personnel. A year later, Polian was promoted to Bills general manager after GM Terry Bledsoe was fired. The Bills were coming off back-to-back 2-14 seasons and were mired in a low point in team history when he was promoted. He proved he belonged in his very first draft, selecting one of the greatest classes in draft history. He convinced Jim Kelly to come to Buffalo. He hired Marv Levy to be head coach. He drafted cornerstones of the Bills dynasty teams, including Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Shane Conlan, Nate Odomes, and traded for Cornelius Bennett. He assembled the teams that would make it to four straight Super Bowls before being fired prior to the 1993 season for disagreements within the organization.
Originally drafted in 1987 by the Indianapolis Colts, Cornelius Bennett held out until Polian traded for the linebacker during the season. "Biscuit" started 128 games for the Bills from 1987-1995, amassing 751 tackles (third in team history), 52.5 sacks (fourth), 22 forced fumbles (second) and 19 recovered fumbles (first). He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and the All-Pro team in 1988.
Christie is by far the leading scorer in Bills history, with 1,011 points. Rian Lindell is next with 735 points, followed by Scott Norwood with 622 and Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas fittingly tied at 522. He's made more FG kicks (234) than any other Bills kicker has ever attemped (Lindell's 210). He recovered his own onside kickoff in the greatest comeback in NFL history, and booted through the winning points in overtime. He is second in Bills history in FG percentage with 78.3% accuracy. Christie also holds the Bills' record for longest field goal (59 yards) and longest field goal in Super Bowl history (54 yards, Super Bowl XXVIII). His 140 points in 1998 is the most in franchise history for a single season. He is No. 44 on the Buffalo Rumblings list of the Top 50 All-Time Bills.
The current Wall of Fame members are (* denotes a non-player): O.J. Simpson, Billy Shaw, Jack Kemp, Patrick McGroder*, Tom Sestak, Ralph Wilson, Jr.*, The 12th Man*, Elbert Dubenion, Mike Stratton, Joe Ferguson, Marv Levy, Joe DeLamielleure, Robert James, Ed Abramoski*, Bob Kalsu, George Saimes, Jim Kelly, Fred Smerlas, Kent Hull, Darryl Talley, Jim Ritcher, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, Bruce Smith, Booker Edgerson, and Phil Hansen.