It’s tough to look back at the Buffalo Bills of the 1980s — especially the late 1980s — without seeing the team through the prism of the successes of the 1990s.
Fans were excited and hopeful, but it’s fair to say that as the 1980s came to a close, there wasn’t a single Bills fan predicting the Bills would end the next four seasons in the Super Bowl.
There were five Hall of Famers on the 1989 squad, and all were instrumental in the Super Bowl years, but neither Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed nor James Lofton were even mentioned in talk about the Bills’ Player of the Decade.
The choice of Fred Smerlas makes sense. The gritty, tough, funny, “Buffalo kinda guy” who anchored the team’s defense for the entire decade was certainly worthy of the honor. It’s just that knowing what I know about the unprecedented way the team was about to explode, the undeniably great Fred Smerlas wasn’t my first thought.
"The 1980s served up a gritty sandwich to the Buffalo Bills. Crunchy and toasty on the outside, but the filling was difficult to digest.
"It began in tumultuous joy on a sweaty September afternoon at Rich Stadium. Down came the goalposts, twisted like abstract sculpture during the celebration of the first Buffalo victory over the Miami Dolphins since 1969."