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1977 Buffalo Bills – End of an Era

by Bill Choinski

1977 saw the end of a “Golden Age” in Buffalo sports history. From 1972 through 1976, Buffalo was front and center in the sports world. The French Connection, with Rick Martin, Rene Robert, and Gil Perrault, was the dominating scoring line in hockey. It was a time where the Sabres reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, hosted one of the greatest all star games in recent memory, and handed the Moscow Dynamo a humiliating 12-6 loss, the worst loss inflicted on any Soviet hockey team in international competition. In the NBA, the Buffalo Braves had the league’s dominating scorer in Bob McAdoo, and league MVP. Dr Jack Ramsey came within 2 games of getting his team to the NBA finals. In Orchard Park, OJ Simpson was the NFL’s most exciting star.

The party was over in 1977. Bob McAdoo was traded off to the New York Knicks, and the floundering Braves were playing their last season before moving to San Diego to become the Clippers. The French Connection had continued success, but the Sabres endured mediocre playoff performances. And with the departure of Lou Saban last season, the Buffalo Bills and their meal ticket, OJ Simpson, were in a serious state of decline.

Jim Ringo had to reassemble the Bills defense. Trading one of his number one picks, he aquired DE Sherman White from the Cincinnati Bengals. With the other first rounder, DE Phil Dokes was picked. RB Curtis Brown was selected in the 3rd Rd, and a real gem, CB Charles Romes, was picked in Rd 12, the 309th pick overall. Shane Nelson came to the Bills a s a rookie free agent, and not only made the club- but was voted to the All Rookie team in the NFL after a 168 tackle season. WR Lou Piccone was acquired from the New York Jets.

Ringo continued to struggle to earn his first victory. After an 0-9 start to his coaching career, he began the 1977 campaign winless in September as well. Without a serious receiving threat outside of Bob Chandler, QB Joe Ferguson and the vaunted Bills ground attack struggled. Teams were stacking the line and bogging down thew 30 year old Simpson. It was a tactic that brought OJ into the world of mortals. Opening the year with losses to Miami, Denver, Baltimore, and the Jets, the Bills could only muster 39 points, just under 10 a game. Ringo was able to bring respectability to the defense. The defense was averaging almost a touchdown less against them per game. Unfortunately, so was the offense.

The monkey finally came off Jim Ringo’s back in one of the ugliest wins in team history. A respectable 3-1 Atlanta Falcon team came to town, and the Bills battled them to a stingy 3-0 victory. The victory gave Ringo little to celebrate. After a loss to Cleveland (24-16), the Bills traveled to Seattle on Halloween and were dismantled by the second year club 56-17. It was to be the last game in a Buffalo Bills uniform for OJ Simpson, as he was to be lost for the year to knee surgery.

Replacing the legend was unheralded second year player Roland Hooks, who had 162 career yards going into the game against the heavily favored New England Patriots. Hooks had the game of his life, stunning the home team Patriots for 155 yards as the Bills completed a 24-14 win.

The Bills would close out 1977 winning only 1 out of their remaining 6 games, 14-10 win over the listless New York Jets. After a 3-20 record, Jim Ringo was fired after his second season. Ralph Wilson secured the services of Chuck Knox, who compiled a 54-15-1 record and five consecutive division crowns with the LA Rams.

While only playing in 7 games, OJ Simpson led the team with a paltry (for his standards) 557 yards and no touchdowns. Roland Hooks filled in admirably, contributing 497 yards, and FB Jim Braxton bounced back from an injury riddled 1976 with 372 yards rushing. Braxton also was the Bill’s second best receiver, hauling in 43 catches for 461 yards., pitching in 2 TDs. Chandler was again the team’s top WR, with 60 receptions for 745 yards and 4 scores. TE Reuben Gant had his best season ever with 41 catches for 646 yards.

On Defense, Tony Greene continued to shine in the backfield as the safety made his first Pro Bowl off of a 9 interception effort. Second year CB Mario Clark pitched in with 7 grabs of his own. Keith Moody and Jon Kimbrough each contributed a punt return for a score. Guard Joe Delamielleure joined Greene and Chandler on a trip to the Pro Bowl.

1977 Buffalo Bills Statistics     1977 Team Results