1986 Buffalo Bills season
Head Coach Hank Bullough (2-7)
Marv Levy (2-5)
Home Field Rich Stadium
Record 4-12
Place 4th in AFC East
Playoff Finish Did Not Qualify
Previous Season Next Season
1985 1987

The 1986 Buffalo Bills season was the 27th season for the club and its 17th in the National Football League (NFL).

Although the Bills were only 2–6 at the midway point of the season, their games were much more competitive than in years past. (Only two of their losses in the first eight games were by more than a touchdown.) Still, after a 6-point Week Nine loss to Tampa Bay, the Bills fired coach Hank Bullough, and hired former Kansas City coach Marv Levy from outside the organization, an unusual mid-season tactic. (Levy had been out of coaching since being the head man with the USFL's Chicago Blitz in 1984.) Levy would win his first game with the Bills against Pittsburgh in Week Ten, and one more game against Kansas City in Week Thirteen, finishing with a 2–5 record in his first half-season as head coach.[1]


At the end of the 1985 season, the Bills' future was in serious jeopardy; two consecutive seasons in which the team had finished 2–14 had driven attendance at Rich Stadium to less than 30,000 fans per game. 1985 first overall draft pick Bruce Smith, while he had a respectable rookie season, underperformed compared to expectations and was admittedly not putting his whole heart into the game of football. Quarterback Jim Kelly, whom the team had drafted in the first round of the 1983 draft as their franchise quarterback of the future, still refused to play in Buffalo and was prepared to play the 1986 season as a member of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League; the Generals' soon-to-be-displaced quarterback, Doug Flutie, who would become a Bill much later in his career, also rejected the team's overtures and stayed in the USFL.[2] These rejections forced the Bills to sign Art Schlichter, a notorious compulsive gambler who had flamed out with the Indianapolis Colts, as their backup plan; Schlichter was to compete with Frank Reich, whom the Bills drafted the previous year, for the starting position.

Buffalo's fortunes underwent a drastic improvement before the season. On July 29, 1986, the USFL received only a nominal judgment in its antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, leaving the league without much-needed capital and forcing the end of its operations. With no other options, Kelly then signed with the Bills amid much fanfare, and Schlichter was released. The signing (along with those of fellow USFL refugees Ray Bentley and Kent Hull) doubled the team's home attendance.[3]

NFL draftEdit

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University of Iowa running back Ronnie Harmon played for the Bills for four seasons.[4] Vanderbilt's Will Wolford played offensive tackle for the Bills for seven years, and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1990 and 1992.[5] Linebacker Mark Pike played his entire 13-year career with the Bills, mostly as a special teams star; he is the NFL's all-time leader in tackles on special teams, with 283. Tight end Butch Rolle played for the Bills for 6 years, and at one point had a streak of ten consecutive receptions for touchdowns.

1986 Buffalo Bills draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 16 Ronnie Harmon * RB Iowa
1 20 Will Wolford * OT Vanderbilt
3 77 Leonard Burton C South Carolina
5 111 Carl Byrum RB Mississippi Valley State
7 168 Bob Williams TE Penn State
7 178 Mark Pike LB Georgia Tech
7 180 Butch Rolle TE Michigan State
8 202 Tony Furjanic LB Notre Dame
9 222 Reggie Bynum WR Oregon State
10 251 Guy Tefatiller DT Illinois
11 278 Tony Garbarczyk DT Wake Forest
11 282 Billy Witt DE North Alabama
12 313 Brian McClure QB Bowling Green
12 331 Derek Christian LB West Virginia
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career



1986 Buffalo Bills roster
Front Office'
  • President – Ralph Wilson
  • Vice President of Administration/General Manager – Bill Polian
  • Vice President of Football Operations – Hank Bullough
  • Director of Player Personnel – Norm Pollom
  • Assistant Director of Player Personnel – Bob Ferguson
  • Administrative Assistant to the Head Coach – Jim Valek

Coaching Staff

Offensive coches

Defensive coaches

  • Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers – Herb Paterra
  • Defensive Line – Ted Cottrell
  • Outside Linebackers – Ardell Wiegandt
  • Defensive Backfield – Dick Moseley

'Special Teams

  • Special Teams – Elijah Pitts

Strength & Conitioning


1986 Buffalo Bills roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Defensive Backs (cont'd)

Special Teams

* Note: Rookies in italics
* IR-On Injured reserve


  1. Levy would go on to coach the Bills for the subsequent eleven full seasons, before retiring after the 1997 season.
  3. [Neft, David S.; Cohen, Richard M.; and Korch, Rich The Sports Encyclopedia: Pro Football, 12th Edition, p. 526, Martin's Press, August 1994, Template:ISBN
  4. Harmon made the Pro Bowl with the San Diego Chargers in 1992.
  5. Wolford made a third Pro Bowl with Indianapolis.
  6. 1986 Buffalo Bills Media Guide. pp. 5–25. 

External inksEdit

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