1961 Buffalo Bills season

1961 Buffalo Bills season
Head coach Buster Ramsey
Owner Ralph Wilson
Home field War Memorial Stadium
Record 6–8
Division place 4th Eastern
Playoff finish did not qualify

The 1961 Buffalo Bills season was the team's second year in the American Football League. The Bills played in the Eastern division, winning six games, losing eight, and missing the postseason.

The Bills didn't have a winning record at any point in the season; they played their final five games of the season on the road.

Season summary

The Bills had a problematic quarterback situation, with former Redskin M.C. Reynolds, second-year Bills QB Johnny Green and ex-Lion Warren Rabb all struggling at the passer position. None completed more than 46% of their passes, and only Reynolds had a winning record (2–1) and threw for more than 1,000 yards.[1]

Punter Billy Atkins led the league in punts, with 85; he also led the league with 44.5 yards per punt. Atkins also played safety for the Bills in 1961, and led the league with 10 interceptions, and was 2nd-Team All-AFL on defense.[2]

Middle linebacker Archie Matsos was 1st-Team All-AFL for the second consecutive year, as was defensive tackle Chuck McMurtry. Defensive tackle LaVerne Torczon was 2nd-Team All-AFL in 1961.[3]



1961 Buffalo Bills staff

Front Office

Head Coaches

Offensive Coaches


Defensive Coaches

AFL Draft

The Bills amassed a great deal of talent on their offensive line in the 1961 draft. Four of their first seven picks—Rice, Shaw, Barber and Bemiller, all offensive linemen—would go on to make at least one All-AFL team in the next five years. This draft would form the nucleus for the Bills' power running game over the next five years.

Rice was All-AFL as a rookie in 1961.

= All-AFL [4]
Round Player Position College
1 Ken Rice[5] Tackle Auburn
2 Billy Shaw[6] Tackle Georgia Tech
3 Art Baker Fullback Syracuse (from New York)
3 Tom Gilburg Tackle Syracuse
4 Stew Barber [7] Tackle Penn State
5 Norm Snead*[8]
6 Fred Brown Halfback Georgia
7 Albert Bemiller [9] Center Syracuse
8 Charles Linning Tackle Miami
9 William Majors Halfback Tennessee
10 Don Kern Halfback VMI
11 Roy Wall Halfback North Carolina
12 Floyd Powers Guard Mississippi State
13 Tom Causey Offensive end Louisiana Tech
14 Ron Kostelnik*[10] Tackle Cincinnati
15 Jerry Frye Offensive end South Carolina
16 Vincent Scott Offensive end Maryland
17 Wayne Wolff Tackle Wake Forest
18 John Bodkin Guard South Carolina
19 Charley Barnes Offensive end NE Louisiana State
20 Everett Cloud Halfback Maryland
21 Larry Vargo Offensive end Detroit
22 Charles Baker Tackle Tennessee
23 William Mack Halfback Notre Dame
24 Frank Jackunas Center Detroit
25 Jack Harbaugh Halfback Bowling Green
26 Lorenzo Stanford Tackle North Carolina A & I
27 Bob Allen Offensive end Wake Forest
28 Jason Harness Offensive end Michigan State
29 Mike Stock Halfback Northwestern
30 William Martin Halfback Minnesota


AFL Eastern Division
Houston Oilers 1031.7694–1–1513242W9
Boston Patriots 941.6922–3–1413313W4
New York Titans 770.5003–3301390L2
Buffalo Bills 680.4292–4294342L1

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

Game-by-game results

The 1961 preseason was notable for the Bills as they became the only AFL (or NFL) team to lose to a CFL team, and it was the last game between the CFL and AFL/NFL met in history.[11]


Week Date Opponent Result Stadium Attendance
August 8, 1961 Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) L 38–21 [12] Ivor Wynne Stadium 12,000

Regular season

Week Date Opponent Result Stadium Record Attendance
1 September 10, 1961 Denver Broncos L 22–10 War Memorial Stadium 0–1
2 September 17, 1961 New York Titans W 41–31 War Memorial Stadium 1–1
3 September 23, 1961 Boston Patriots L 23–21 War Memorial Stadium 1–2
4 September 30, 1961 San Diego Chargers L 19–11 War Memorial Stadium 1–3
5 October 8, 1961 at Houston Oilers W 22–12 Jeppesen Stadium 2–3
6 October 15, 1961 Dallas Texans W 27–24 War Memorial Stadium 3–3
7 October 22, 1961 at Boston Patriots L 52–21 Boston University Field 3–4
8 October 29, 1961 Houston Oilers L 28–16 War Memorial Stadium 3–5
9 November 5, 1961 Oakland Raiders L 31–22 War Memorial Stadium 3–6
10 November 12, 1961 at Dallas Texans W 30–20 Cotton Bowl 4–6
11 November 19, 1961 at Denver Broncos W 23–10 Bears Stadium 5–6
12 November 23, 1961 at New York Titans L 21–14 Polo Grounds 5–7
13 December 3, 1961 at Oakland Raiders W 26–21 Candlestick Park 6–7
14 December 10, 1961 at San Diego Chargers L 28–10 Balboa Stadium 6–8


  1. Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1961 Buffalo Bills
  2. Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1961 AFL Leaders and Leaderboards
  3. Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1961 AFL Pro Bowlers
  4. Players are identified as All-AFL if they were selected to the All-AFL at any time in their career.
  5. All-AFL 1961
  6. 8x AFL All-Star
  7. 5x AFL All-Star
  8. 4x NFL Pro Bowler for Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants || Quarterback || Wake Forest
  9. 1965 AFL All-Star
  10. Inducted into Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame (NFL) in 1989
  11. http://www.mmbolding.com/BSR/CFL-NFL_Hamilton_Tiger-Cats_vs_Buffalo_Bills_1961.htm
  12. NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 369
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