Sept. 15, 1968 – It didn’t take long to figure out that 1968 was going to be a long, long year for the Bills. In fact, Buffalo probably knew it before halftime of Week Two.
The Bills drew the Raiders at home for their home opener. George Atkinson returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring. The margin was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and 31-0 at halftime.
The Bills cut into the lead in the fourth quarter when Bob Cappadona scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run, but missed the two-point conversion. The Raiders’ Larry Todd then ran for two more scores to put the final count at 48-6. Oakland had 201 passing yards, while Buffalo finished with minus-19 yards.
Owner Ralph Wilson didn’t like what he saw. He fired head coach Joel Collier at a hotel later that night. Collier had been the defensive coordinator of the Bills’ championship teams, and he replaced Lou Saban as the team's head coach. Collier never had much of a chance, as he fell victim to an aging roster.
Harvey Johnson, the team’s personnel director, took over for Collier. It was the first of two stints for Johnson as the team's head coach, and neither are fondly remembered – although Johnson probably doesn't deserve much blame for that.
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.