The Buffalo Bills began play in 1960 as a founding member of the American Football League (AFL), which would later merge with the NFL in 1970. While the Bills struggled to find both wins on the field and a team identity, they went on to win both the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championship over the San Diego Chargers, along with three straight AFL Eastern Division Championships.
This kicked off fifteen years of struggles for the Bills, who made only one playoff appearance between 1967 and 1979, a 32-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. They won their first division title as members of the AFC East in 1980, but again lost in the playoffs, this time to the Chargers.
After a few more lean years, the Bills drafted Jim Kelly from the University of Miami in 1983. After refusing to play for the Bills and instead playing for the Houston Gamblers in 1984 and 1985 of the USFL, Kelly reported to the Bills in 1986, where he led the team to what some even state were dynasty years.
From 1988 to Kelly’s final NFL season in 1996, the Bills won six AFC East Championships and saw six straight playoff appearances, eight in nine seasons if one counts 1995 and 1996.
The Bills also became the first team in NFL history to make four straight Super Bowls, however, the team lost all four games to NFC East opponents (New York Giants in 1990, Washington Redskins in 1991, and the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993).
Despite this, led by Kelly and fueled by players like Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, and Bruce Smith, arguably the most memorable moment came on January 3rd, 1993 at Rich Stadium (now known as New Era Field).
Backup quarterback Frank Reich started the game in place of an injured Kelly, leading the Bills to a win in the 1992 Wildcard Playoffs over the Houston Oilers, rallying from a 35-3 third-quarter deficit.
The Bills made two more playoff appearances after Kelly’s retirement in 1998 and 1999. However, the 1999 playoffs wouldn’t just be a revenge date from the Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) in what became known as the Music City Miracle; it would be the team’s final playoff appearance until 2017 in a losing effort to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bills made another playoff appearance in 2019 and garnered their first 10-win season since 1999. However, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Houston Texans, extending their drought without a playoff victory to 26 seasons.
Buffalo Bills Quick Links
Helmet History: Buffalo Bills Helmet History
Jersey History: Buffalo Bills Jersey History
Uniform History: Buffalo Bills Uniform History
Logo History: Buffalo Bills Logo History
The Miami Dolphins debuted in 1966 as an AFL expansion team, but it wasn’t long before the struggling team found its track, ending the 1970 season at 10-4 before falling to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI during just their sixth season of existence.
In their seventh and eighth seasons of existence, the Dolphins won back to back Super Bowl Titles, and in doing so, became the first team to compete in three straight Super Bowls. The 1972 campaign is one of the most memorable in NFL history, being the first team to finish off a perfect season in the Super Bowl era with a 14-0 regular-season record, combined with a 3-0 record in the playoffs.
While the team wouldn’t reach another Super Bowl until 1982 when they fell to the Washington Redskins, their winning ways continued throughout the 1970s, finishing below .500 just once.
The 1980s were no different, especially with the addition of quarterback Dan Marino from the University of Pittsburgh. Marino led the team to a loss in Super Bowl XIX to the San Francisco 49ers and made it to the AFC Championship game in 1985, where they lost to the league’s Cinderella team, the New England Patriots.
After four lean seasons, the Dolphins picked up steam again in the 1990s and early 2000s, making the playoffs nine times in twelve seasons. However, they failed to advance past the AFC Divisional Round.
One of the NFL’s winningest franchises from the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to 2001, many felt the Dolphins would continue their winning ways, but it wasn’t to be.
From 2002 to 2018, the Dolphins made the playoffs just twice, both losses. They had only one AFC East Championship, which came in 2008, one year after they suffered their worst record in franchise history at 1-15.
Compare this to 1970-2001, when the Dolphins won 12 AFC East Championships and made the playoffs 21 times in 32 seasons.
They have finished at or below .500 in 12 seasons since 2002, and have lacked a franchise quarterback since the dominating days of Dan Marino. Perhaps drafting Alabama’s Tua Tagoviloa can change that.
Miami Dolphins Quick Links
Related: Miami Dolphins Helmet History
Related: Miami Dolphins Jersey History
Related: Miami Dolphins Uniform History
Related: Miami Dolphins Logo History
The New England Patriots spent four decades on the outside, looking in. An up and down history, the team saw
three AFL/Super Bowl Championship Appearances in 1963, 1985, and 1996, but could never reach the crown as Champions.
For twenty-one seasons between 1964 and 1984, they made three playoff appearances, losing all three. They lost far more games than they won, and when they did win, they either missed the playoffs or were one and done.
Nothing seemed to work, regardless of their talented teams in the 1990s.
After a 5-11 season in 2000, no one gave the Patriots hope when some kid, a sixth-round draft pick named Tom Brady whose NFL Combine videos were the butt of jokes at the time, entered the field for an injured franchise quarterback named Drew Bledsoe.
No one gave Bill Belichick a chance, a coach who flamed out in Cleveland and later rekindled with his master named Bill Parcells, who retired from the New York Jets in 1998 and handed the job to Belichick.
Belichick would resign just a day after his introduction as head coach of the Jets.
Then came three Super Bowls in four seasons in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
Then came the 16-0 season in 2007, with a narrow loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl LII.
Then came another Super Bowl in 2011, and another loss to the Giants.
Then came the second round of Super Bowl victories in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Then came the winningest NFL franchise of the 2000s and 2010s, a coach and quarterback often regarded as the greatest duo of all time, along with the greatest of all time in their respective categories.
Then came the 13 AFC Championship appearances.
Then came 16 AFC East Championships.
Then came the legends that will be remembered in 2119, when the NFL celebrates its 200th anniversary.
Six Super Bowls in 18 seasons, since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001 is an NFL record itself while tying the record number of Super Bowl victories with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now that the Brady era is over the Patriots look to reload with a new face named Jarrett Stidham. Can he continue Brady’s legacy?
New England Patriots Quick Links
Related: New England Patriots Helmet History
Related: New England Patriots Uniform History
Related: New England Patriots Logo History
The Titans of New York were a founding member of the AFL in 1961, but they didn’t show much for most of their
first decade in existence until Super Bowl III in 1968, becoming the first AFL team to defeat a heavily favored NFL team to claim their first and only Super Bowl Title in their first and only Super Bowl appearance.
But don’t let this discourage Jets fans. While the team lost in the Divisional Playoffs the next season to eventual Super Bowl Champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, they found the playoffs again in 1981 in a Wildcard loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 1982, losing to the Miami Dolphins. In 1985 and 1986, the Jets saw two more playoff appearances, the latter of which saw them losing in spectacular fashion to the Cleveland Browns in double overtime of the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Lean seasons followed before Bill Parcells took over as head coach, leading the Jets to their first AFC East Championship in 30 seasons before falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.
The Jets made four more playoff appearances from 2001 to 2006, winning another AFC East Title in 2002, but failed to advance past the Divisional Round.
In 2009 and 2010, the Jets finally broke past the barrier and advanced to their third and fourth Conference Championship in team history. However, they fell to the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.
Since 2010, the Jets haven’t seen a single playoff appearance, seeing just one winning season in 2015. However, with the additions of players like Sam Darnold, C.J. Mosely, and Le’Veon Bell, as well as stalwart Leonard Williams, the Jets may be on the verge of a decade of winning, especially as their top rival, the New England Patriots prepare for life without Tom Brady.
Will it finally be the Jets’ turn?
New York Jets Quick Links
Related: New York Jets Helmet History
Related: New York Jets Jersey History
Related: New York Jets Uniform History
Related: New York Jets Logo History