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This Day in Bills History, Dec. 24: Saban comes down the chimney

Dec. 24, 1971 – The Bills had gone through another terrible season in 1971, finishing last in the overall standings. A sign of hope was needed that better times were coming.

Santa Claus came through with a Christmas Eve gift that was more than welcome for the football fans in Western New York. The Bills announced that Lou Saban was coming back to coach the team.

The Bills had played 12 seasons at that point in their history. Essentially, the only good ones came when Saban was the coach. The Bills went 36-17-3 in those years, a winning percentage of .679. No Buffalo Bills coach has ever had a better winning percentage in a stint as coach, and that includes Marv Levy.

Saban won titles in 1964 and 1965, and then jumped to the University of Maryland. He later coached the Denver Broncos.

It took Saban a year to figure out what he had and what he needed. But the team was a winner in 1973, and a playoff entrant in 1974.

The Bills have never made news on Dec. 25, so we'll take a day off too. Merry Christmas.

Budd Bailey is a retired sports reporter and editor at The Buffalo News. He is also the author of "Today in Buffalo Sports History." Learn more about the book here.

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