ESPN and Football Outsiders give nod to Buffalo Bills’ past

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Aaron Schobel #94 of the Buffalo Bills rushes quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 27: Aaron Schobel #94 of the Buffalo Bills rushes quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 27, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images) /

ESPN and Football Outsiders recently put together a list of the top offenses, defenses and special teams over the past 30 years — with the Buffalo Bills featured in all three.

The Buffalo Bills boast a very rich history in the NFL, even dating back to the AFL days. With optimism running high at the moment, ESPN and Football Outsiders joined in when they put together three lists: top-30 offenses over the past 30 years, top-30 defenses over the past 30 years and top-30 special teams over the past 30 years.

The Buffalo Bills appeared 4 times throughout the three lists. The 2004 defense ranked the highest at No. 4. but that would be the only top-10 spot given. The 2004 special teams would rank 12th, the 2005 special teams would rank 11th and the 1990 offense came in at No. 22.

The lists were published in time to celebrate 30 years of the Football Outsiders’ DVOA, which is a analytic that takes every aspect of the game into consideration. As described by Aaron Schatz, the author of the lists, “the metric is built to balance a measurement of how well a team has played in the past with a forecast of how well a team will play in the future.”

With a statistic as complex as this, it’s nice to see the Buffalo Bills get some credit.

That 2004 defense, though.

It’s true, the Buffalo Bills have one of the best defenses — statistically — over the past 30 years of NFL action. It was the 2004 defense that brought the team one game away from a playoff spot. Unfortunately, that spot never came and the drought has extended to 17 years.

That’s not to discredit what that scary defense was able to do, which ranked first in the NFL that season despite a 9-7 overall record. With 39 takeaways and 45 sacks on the season, no team wanted to face up against Buffalo. Not to forget the 4.32 yards per play the team allowed.

Related Story: PFF gives nod to Buffalo Bills' rushing attack

To reminisce a little bit, here’s the defensive roster from that season (if I missed someone, put them in the comments):

DL: Sam Adams, Tim Anderson, Justin Bannan, Ryan Denney, Ron Edwards, Chris Kelsay, Aaron Schobel, Pat Williams

LB: Angelo Crowell, London Fletcher, Mario Haggan, Jeff Posey, Takeo Spikes, Josh Stamer

DB: Rashad Baker, Nate Clements, Jabari GreerTerrence McGee, Lawyer Milloy, Pierson Prioleau, Izell Reese, Kevin Thomas, Troy Vincent, Coy Wire

Here’s what Aaron Schatz had to say about the 2004 defense:

"“The Bills did this with a lineup that probably included no Hall of Famers, unless London Fletcher or Pat Williams sneaks in some day. The Bills would have entered the playoffs red-hot as long as they beat Pittsburgh in Week 17. The game was in Buffalo and the 14-1 Steelers were resting starters. The defense held Tommy Maddox to 120 passing yards but somehow let the Steelers hold onto the ball for nearly nine minutes with a 26-17 lead in the fourth quarter. The Steelers won 29-24, and the Bills missed their best chance at the postseason since the Music City Miracle.”"

Since the 2004 special team was also featured on the list, ranking 12th, I’ll include the kicker and punter — Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman — who are my favorite kicker and punter of all-time. That duo also ranked 11th on the special teams list for their performance in 2005, which also saw much of the same defensive players and much of the same help from Terrence McGee.

Here’s Aaron Schatz little excerpt on the special teams:

"“The Bills finished No. 1 in special-teams DVOA two straight seasons, powered primarily by kick returns from cornerback Terrence McGee. In 2004, he averaged 26.3 yards per return and scored three touchdowns. In 2005, he was even better: only one touchdown but 30.2 yards per return. That’s the second-best kick return season in our database. Punter Brian Moorman was the other star of Buffalo’s special teams and was selected first-team All-Pro after averaging 45.7 gross yards per punt in 2005,” Schatz explained."

As for the offense in 1990, Schatz couldn’t help but pinch every Buffalo Bills‘ fan right at the end of his little excerpt. After noting that the team led the NFL in offensive DVOA that season, he couldn’t help but recall what happened in the Super Bowl:

"“The Bills led the NFL in offensive DVOA for 1990, but they wouldn’t make this list if their postseason performance weren’t incorporated. They scored 44 points on the Miami Dolphins (eighth in defensive DVOA that year) and then demolished the Los Angeles Raiders (13th in defensive DVOA) 51-3. In the Super Bowl, of course, they scored only 19 points instead of 22,” Schatz writes."

All in all, it’s good to see the Buffalo Bills get some recognition during the dog days of the NFL offseason. As stated above, optimism is at a high point right now and it’s always good to look back at what this franchise has accomplished over the past 30 years.

Next: Coaches are impressed by WR Andre Holmes

Who was your favorite defensive player on that 2004 roster? Leave your thoughts below!