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Logos & Uniforms: Charging buffalo logo had unceremonious Bills debut in 1974

Four Super Bowl appearances, seven Pro Football Hall of Famers and 44 seasons.

That’s the fairly impressive resume the logo of the Buffalo Bills can boast. That charging blue buffalo with a single red line to depict speed, having graced the side of the team helmet: white, red, and back to white again, throughout these past five decades.

(James P. McCoy/News file photo)

Their simple standing red buffalo all alone on a white field (the poor animal seemingly begging to be picked off by a 19th century explorer) suddenly came to life during the summer of 1974, making a leap and turning blue during the offseason that year.

The new look made its first on-field appearance July 27, 1974, at Canton, Ohio, against the St. Louis Cardinals at the annual Hall of Fame Game. Its debut was overshadowed by the lack of, well, any established member of the Buffalo Bills actually suiting up for the game.

You can thank a player’s strike for that, a 6-week work stoppage that led to two teams made up of rookies and free agents taking the field to introduce the football world to the now well-known logo of the Bills. Once the stoppage was resolved and the Bills players we were more familiar with finally donned the new duds, they went on to clinch their first berth in the NFL playoffs. They looked good; they played good.

Logos & Uniforms: Origin of Bills nickname dates to AAFC, when railroad clerk received $500 prize for idea

A decade later, in 1984, the team opted to drop their white helmets in favor of red, eschewing over 20 years of wearing white. Why? At the time, the team said it was because there were too many clubs (four) in their five-team division – the Patriots, Colts, Dolphins, and themselves – who wore white, and it could needlessly be confusing to Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson to have to deal with that sea of white looking for an open receiver.

Well, the Bills went 2-14 that first year with the red, far worse than the 8-8 record the previous season. Ferguson and the Bills may have needed a little more than a fresh coat of red paint.

Bills fans know what happened next: Jim Kelly, Marv Levy, Thurman Thomas, and four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl from 1990 to '93. Would they have made any of those games if they stuck to the white helmets? We’ll never know, but the success that eventually came with the red wasn’t enough to save them from a string of unsuccessful seasons and a few threats to relocate to Toronto.

The red helmets were ousted as the team switched back to white helmets in 2011, the Bills' division still just as white (three-out-of-four) as it ever was.

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