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Top Five Defenses in Bills History

 
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jb_gobills


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:57 pm    Post subject: Top Five Defenses in Bills History Reply with quote

JB Presents: The Top Five Greatest Defenses in Bills History

#5. The Jerry Gray Years (2001-2005)



Jerry Gray was a former first round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985 and had a solid playing career at cornerback. He was selected to four straight Pro Bowls (1986-1989) and was named MVP of one of them. After spending time as the Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach from 1999-2000, new Bills head coach Gregg Williams hired Gray as his defensive coordinator in 2001. Williams was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee/Houston from 1997-2000, and had been coaching with the franchise since 1990. Williams was brought to Buffalo by new General Manager and President Tom Donahoe. After three seasons Williams averaged less than six wins per season and was let go. Mike Mularkey was brought in to take over as head coach and Jerry Gray remained as defensive coordinator. Following the 2005 season Donahoe was fired and Mularkey resigned.

Gray’s defensive units peaked in 2003 and 2004. Buffalo’s defense was number two in the league in yards in each of those two seasons. The defense was also in the top ten in points during each of those years. Key defensive players during Gray’s Bills tenure include Aaron Schobel, Sam Adams, Pat Williams, Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher, Nate Clements, Antoine Winfield and Lawyer Milloy. From 2001-2005 this unit had a combined four Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro.


#4. The Walt Corey Years (1987-1994)



Anyone remember Walt on the sidelines chewing on those swizzle sticks?

Walt Corey began his career as a linebacker for the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. He played from 1960-1966, making the AFL All-Star team in 1963. Corey was the defensive coordinator for Kansas City in 1986. Marv Levy brought him over to Buffalo in 1987. Corey was the Bills defensive coordinator for the next eight seasons.

The Bills of the time were known for having a “bend but don’t break” defense and for being a part of winning four straight AFC Championships. Corey had his defense at its peak from 1988-1990. During that time the Buffalo defense averaged in the top eight per season in points and yards. Key defensive players during Corey’s Bills tenure include Bruce Smith, Phil Hansen, Fred Smerlas, Cornelius Bennett, Darryl Talley, Shane Conlan, Nate Odomes and Henry Jones. From 1987-1994 this unit had a combined 21 Pro Bowls and 7 first-team All-Pros... with Bruce Smith accounting for 7 Pro Bowls and 5 first-team All-Pros.


#3. The Wade Phillips Years (1995-2000)



Wade Phillips replaced Walt Corey as defensive coordinator in 1995. After Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season, Phillips became Buffalo’s first new head coach since 1986. He would stay on through the 2000 season with defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

While Phillips is well known for the quarterback controversy between Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie, he had some great defenses. For all six of Phillips’s seasons from the Buffalo defense ranked on average in the top nine in yards each year. In 1999 the Bills were #1 in the league in yards and #2 in points. Key defensive players during Phillips’s Bills tenure include Bruce Smith, Phil Hansen, Ted Washington, Bryce Paup, Sam Rogers, Sam Cowart, Jeff Burris, Henry Jones and Kurt Schulz. From 1995-2000 this unit combined for 11 Pro Bowls and 4 first-team All-Pros.


#2. The Joe Collier Years (1962-1968)



Joe Collier was formally an end who was drafted by the New York Giants in 1954, but instead elected to go into the U.S. Army. From 1960-1961 Collier was an assistant coach with the Patriots before joining the Bills as defensive coordinator under head coach Lou Saban. After Saban left Collier took over as head coach in 1966, where he would remain until partway through the 1968 season. Dick McCabe was the defensive coordinator during that time. Collier wound up becoming the Broncos defensive coordinator for sixteen years. He became known for developing the 3-4 and Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense. In 1989 Wade Phillips replaced Collier in Denver and after four seasons became the head coach. Two years later Phillips himself came to Buffalo.

During Collier’s time in Buffalo the team went to three consecutive AFL Championship games, winning the first two and coming up one game short from going to Super Bowl I. Over the course of those three seasons no other AFL team allowed fewer points. From 1964-1965 the Buffalo defense went seventeen straight games that held opponents to zero rushing touchdowns, a pro football record. Key defensive players during Collier’s Bills tenure include Ron McDole, Tom Sestak, Jim Dunaway, Mike Stratton, John Tracey, Harry Jacobs, Butch Byrd, Booker Edgerson, Tom Janik and George Saimes. From 1962-1968 Buffalo’s defensive unit had a combined 24 All-Star selections, not including 1965 when the entire Bills team played in the AFL All-Star game. In addition, the Bills defense had 11 first-team All-AFL selections during the seven year stretch.


#1. The Chuck Knox Years (1978-1982)



After “Ground Chuck” posted 10+ win seasons in all five years as head coach with the Los Angeles Rams, Ralph Wilson brought him to Buffalo. With Knox came defensive coordinator Tom Catlin. Within a short amount of time Knox completely revamped the Bills defense and had the city of Buffalo “Talkin’ Proud.”

From 1979-1982 the Buffalo defense was on average top six in the league in both yards and points. Buffalo’s “Bermuda Triangle” included Fred Smerlas, Shane Nelson and Jim Haslett. In 1981 the Bills won their first playoff game since 1965. Other key defensive players from Knox’s tenure include Ben Williams, Sherman White, Lucius San ford, Charles Romes, Mario Clark, Tony Greene, Steve Freeman. This unit had four Pro Bowl selections and one-first team All-Pro. While this defensive team did not have many “star” names, what makes the unit #1 on this list is a combination of the amazing and immediate defensive turnaround from the dismal 70’s, the consistency during Knox’s tenure, and how important this team in particular was for the city of Buffalo and Bills fans everywhere.
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BigBillsFan13


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazy to see all those guys listed under Walt Corey, and have them at #4! That Bermuda Triangle was really something special though.

Great write up as always, jb!
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jb_gobills


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2013 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BigBillsFan13 wrote:
Crazy to see all those guys listed under Walt Corey, and have them at #4! That Bermuda Triangle was really something special though.

Great write up as always, jb!


Thanks, it's always cool to look back at the history of the game. I can't get enough of it.

As a whole, Chuck Knox's career is pretty impressive. I'm not sure he gets the credit he deserves. He was the head coach for three teams (Rams, Bills, Seahawks) over the course of 22 years and had a winning record with each team. While his playoff record wasn't very impressive, he did have a knack for turning mediocre teams around. We was named Coach of the Year with each club that he coached. He is tied with Bill Belichick for being coach of the year three times, with only Don Shula having more with four.
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Thelonebillsfan


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for putting these up JB, love going through the history of the game and the Bills.

It's such a weird feeling seeing Jerry Gray on a "best" defenses list now a days isn't it? Laughing
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