The Buffalo Bills are about to open the book on their first season in 18 years that doesn’t exist under a shadow of failure. The playoff drought is history, and we celebrated during the offseason by looking back at the notable coaches and players from that stretch of ineptitude. Bills fans voted on the All-Drought roster, and here’s who you picked!
Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe
No one was a more prolific producer of passing stats during Buffalo’s drought than Bledsoe at his best. He brought a Bills team to the brink of the playoffs in 2004, and his place in the record books gave him the edge with voters over the runner-up, Tyrod Taylor.
Running back: LeSean McCoy
The Bills had no shortage of talented runners during the drought, but this future Hall of Famer tops them all. He has 4396 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Bills, helping to end the drought in the most recent one.
Wide receiver 1: Eric Moulds
Moulds is arguably the most talented receiver to play for the Bills. He took a few years to get going after being drafted in 1996, but was unstoppable for several years at the beginning of the drought. His 100/1292/10 season in 2002 is one of the best in franchise history.
Wide receiver 2: Stevie Johnson
It was a dead heat between Johnson and the runner-up, Lee Evans, but what eventually put Johnson over the top was his resume of three consecutive 1000 yard seasons, giving the Bills a number 1 receiver when their passing offense was climbing out of the pit of inadequacy. He’s also one of the few players to win against Darrelle Revis one-on-one during his prime.
Tight end: Scott Chandler
A waiver-wire find who turned into a solid red zone threat for the Bills, Chandler had 182 receptions and 17 touchdowns in five seasons with the team. His scoring efficiency gave him a slight edge over late-career Jay Riemersma and Charles Clay.
Offensive flex: Fred Jackson
There was no better choice to round out the offensive skill positions than one of the all-time most beloved Buffalo Bills. Jackson battled up from Division III football to NFL Europe to NFL backup and finally to a spot starter, but he consistently produced when the Bills called his number. He ranks third in career rushing for the franchise, and set an NFL record for all-purpose yards in a season. (Sorry, Lee Evans.)
Left tackle: Jason Peters
The most talented left tackle to play in Buffalo would eventually negotiate his way to Philadelphia, but Bills fans remembered Peters as a dominant run blocker and a smothering pass protector, and the peak of his talent elevated him above runner-up Cordy Glenn’s solid resume.
Left guard: Ruben Brown
On another team, Richie Incognito’s three Pro Bowl seasons would lock him into this spot. But Brown is one of the greatest players in franchise history, and even outside the prime of his career, he went to four Pro Bowls in Buffalo during the drought. Brown was also a two-time second-team All-Pro.
Center: Eric Wood
The dependable Eric Wood started 120 games for Buffalo during the drought, the vast majority of them at center. Despite injuries occasionally sending him to the sideline, Wood’s blocking was dependable and made him a landslide favorite for this spot.
Right guard: Kraig Urbik
By rule we split the left and right sides of the offensive line, which meant that we couldn’t claim two Pro Bowl left guards and zero right guards. Kraig Urbik was voted the best from the group of RGs, starting more games than Brad Butler and playing more consistently than John Miller.
Right tackle: Langston Walker
Again, the Bills never saw strong success from the right tackle position (aside from Peters playing a short stint there), but Walker was voted the best of the options. He started two full seasons for the Bills, blocking effectively as the Bills recorded a franchise-low 26-sack season in 2007. When the coaching staff tried him at left tackle, the experiment didn’t work out.
Nose tackle: Pat Williams
Big Pat Williams was a tour de force in the middle of running plays, with a whopping 222 tackles in 64 games during Buffalo’s drought. He was part of some excellent defenses, enabling other players to play better by locking up blockers. He solidly beat Marcell Dareus, whose Buffalo career took an opposite trajectory.
Defensive tackle: Kyle Williams
Kyle Williams was one of the best players in Buffalo Bills history, started 162 games during the drought, and attended five Pro Bowls. He has the franchise record for sacks by a defensive tackle.
Edge rusher: Aaron Schobel
Schobel was one of the best edge rushers in franchise history, with an average of 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four passes defended from 2002-2007. His sustained production gave him a clear victory over other talented contenders for the role.
Edge rusher (defensive flex): Mario Williams
Not content with that, Bills fans voted Williams into the squad as one of their two defensive flex players. This gives the team a full 40-front flavor. Williams didn’t live up to his $100 million contract (who could), but started 45 games for the Bills and recorded 43 sacks in that span. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and was voted first-team All-Pro in 2014.
Linebacker 1: London Fletcher
Iron Man Fletcher recorded more than 700 tackles during his five seasons as a starting linebacker for the Bills. He never made the Pro Bowl, but was selected as an alternate several times. He also holds the franchise record for tackles in a single season.
Linebacker 2: Takeo Spikes
Spikes was a phenomenal playmaker after signing with the Bills, and was voted first-team All-Pro in 2004. He backslid after an Achilles tear, but his peak was exactly what Bills fans envisioned when they voted him onto the roster.
Cornerback 1: Nate Clements
Clements started 91 games for the Bills during the drought, and is best known for his incredible ball skills. He broke up 87 passes in that time, intercepted 23, and forced 12 fumbles. That gave him the edge over the other candidates.
Cornerback 2: Antoine Winfield
Winfield was proof that size limitations can be overcome, as a first round pick who set a long career as one of the NFL’s great cover corners. Winfield started 56 games during Buffalo’s drought, and he set the standard for run support with a 103-tackle season in 2003.
Cornerback (defensive flex): Terrence McGee
With one more spot remaining on the defensive roster, Bills fans elevated McGee to the “nickel” role (or maybe Winfield will slide into the slot where his tackling skill can pay off). McGee holds the franchise record for passes defended with 90, and he intercepted 17 passes. He played in 122 games for the Bills, starting 90, and had a solid stretch of being a lead cornerback for his team, until injuries sapped his effectiveness later in his career.
Strong safety: Aaron Williams
Williams emerged as the leader of this group after a runoff, when the original vote had no one nabbing more than 30 percent. Fans liked the way he successfully converted from cornerback to safety, and that he started 52 games over six seasons. They felt like he would’ve been better had injuries not ended his career.
Free safety: Jairus Byrd
One of the most pleasant surprises in franchise history was Byrd’s transformation from universally panned “slow cornerback” second round pick to rookie sensation leading the league in picks. Byrd logged 22 interceptions, 33 passes defended, 11 forced fumbles, and three sacks with the Bills.
Kicker: Rian Lindell
Lindell didn’t have the strongest leg, but he was practically automatic on the shorter stuff. He went 305/306 on extra points in Buffalo, and converted nearly 95% of kicks from fewer than 40 yards out. He started 152 games for the Bills, most of any kicker in franchise history.
Punter: Brian Moorman
With 99% of the vote, this was as unanimous as an online poll could get. Moorman started 190 games in 13 seasons for Buffalo, and was the best punter in franchise history. He was first-team All-Pro in 2005 and 2006, and only had two of his 979 career punts blocked in Buffalo.
Kick returner: Terrence McGee
McGee is one of the greatest kick returners in NFL history, not just Buffalo history. He returned a whopping 207 kickoffs and only fumbled five of them. With five kick return touchdowns, he more than made up for those. He scored three touchdowns in 2004 alone.
Punt returner: Roscoe Parrish
Parrish’s receiving skills may have lacked, but he was an electric punt returner. With three punt returns for touchdowns, he holds a franchise record in that stat. His punt returning average was higher than his receiving average!
Head coach: Wade Phillips
Remember, we didn’t allow voters to choose any members of Sean McDermott’s staff. It’s way too easy to say that the coaches who brought the team out of the drought were the best of the drought, and kudos to them.
Phillips was the next choice by the voters. He coached the first season of the drought with an 8-8 finish, and after his firing returned to the NFL as one of the league’s best defensive coordinators.
Offensive coordinator: Anthony Lynn
Lynn was a solid winner over runners-up Kevin Gilbride and Greg Roman. Taking over Roman’s offense after two games, Lynn coached a scheme that led the league in rushing yards and yards per attempt and scored a league-leading 29 rushing touchdowns. Despite low passing numbers, the Bills offense protected the ball and the team as a whole ranked 10th in points. Lynn would become the head coach of the Chargers after that season.
Defensive coordinator: Jim Schwartz
Schwartz coached during one of the best defensive seasons in recent memory. The team nearly broke a franchise sack record, surrendered the fewest passing touchdowns in the league, and had a top-five pass defense. It also significantly improved against the run, and finished fourth in yards and points allowed.