1997 Buffalo Bills season

1997 Buffalo Bills season
Head coach Marv Levy
General manager John Butler
Owner Ralph Wilson
Home field Rich Stadium
Record 6–10
Division place 4th AFC East
Playoff finish Did not qualify

The 1997 Buffalo Bills season was their 38th in the league. The team failed to improve upon their previous season's output of 10–6, instead falling to 6–10.[1] They missed the playoffs for only the second time in ten seasons. 1997 was Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy's final year as the team's head coach.

Todd Collins started at quarterback for the Bills in their first season in the post-Jim Kelly era. The Bills also signed Oakland's Billy Joe Hobert to challenge Collins for the starting job. Third-string quarterback Alex Van Pelt also saw playing time with three starts in Collins' absence.

Hobert's contract was terminated after Week Seven, in which Hobert was backing up an injured Collins, and after the game revealed to the media that he had not studied the playbook. Hobert was released the next day.[2]

One of the most memorable games in Buffalo Bills history occurred in Week Four against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts roared to a 26–0 lead in the second quarter, before the Bills went on a 37–3 run, ultimately taking the lead 37–29 with 1:15 remaining in the game. The Colts closed to within two, but missed a two-point conversion, giving Buffalo a two-point victory.[3] The game was the second-greatest regular season comeback in NFL history (second only to a 28-point comeback by the 1980 49ers), and the second greatest in team history (second to "The Comeback" in the 1992 playoffs.)[4]


Prior to the 1997 season, long-time quarterback (and future Hall of Famer) Jim Kelly announced his retirement from professional football. This left the Bills forced to find a different opening day starting quarterback for the first time since 1985. Third-year quarterback Todd Collins started the season, and the Bills signed former Raiders quarterback Billy Joe Hobert, whose contract was terminated after a Week Seven loss to New England.

NFL Draft

Main article: 1997 NFL Draft
= Pro Bowler [5]

One notable player that was not drafted by the Bills, but debuted for the team in 1997, was future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Pat Williams, who played with the team for eight seasons.

Round Pick Player Position School/Club Team
1 23 Antowain Smith Running back Houston
2 52 Marcellus Wiley[6] Defensive end Columbia
4 120 Jamie Nails Offensive lineman Florida A&M
5 153 Sean Woodson Defensive back Jackson State
6 185 Marcus Spriggs Guard Houston
7 226 Pat Fitzgerald Tight end Texas


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 August 31, 1997 Minnesota Vikings L 34–13
2 September 7, 1997 at New York Jets W 28–22
3 September 14, 1997 at Kansas City Chiefs L 22–16
4 September 21, 1997 Indianapolis Colts W 37–35
5 Bye
6 October 5, 1997 Detroit Lions W 22–13
7 October 12, 1997 at New England Patriots L 33–6
8 October 20, 1997 at Indianapolis Colts W 9–6
9 October 26, 1997 Denver Broncos L 23–20
10 November 2, 1997 Miami Dolphins W 9–6
11 November 9, 1997 New England Patriots L 31–10
12 November 17, 1997 at Miami Dolphins L 30–13
13 November 23, 1997 at Tennessee Oilers L 31–14
14 November 30, 1997 New York Jets W 20–10
15 December 7, 1997 at Chicago Bears L 20–3
16 December 14, 1997 Jacksonville Jaguars L 20–14
17 December 20, 1997 at Green Bay Packers L 31–21

Game summaries

Week 2

1 234Total
Bills 0 1477 28
Jets 3 1063 22



AFC East
(3) New England Patriots 1060.625369289W1
(6) Miami Dolphins 970.563339327L2
New York Jets 970.563348287L1
Buffalo Bills 6100.375255367L3
Indianapolis Colts 3130.188313401L1


  1. 1997 Buffalo Bills
  2. David Fleming, Breaking down the Bills' QB situation ESPN.com, September 23, 2010, "the infamous Billy Joe Hobert who promptly threw a pick on his first pass leading to a 33–6 blowout loss, after which Billy Joe admitted (awesomely, I might add) that he hadn't actually, you know, opened his playbook that week" | retrieved January 9, 2012
  3. Pro-Football-Reference.com: Indianapolis Colts 35 at Buffalo Bills 37, Sunday, September 21, 1997
  4. YouTube: Buffalo Bills NFL Primetime 8
  5. Players are identified as a Pro Bowler if they were selected for the Pro-Bowl at any time in their career.
  6. Made Pro Bowl with San Diego in 2001
  7. Pro-Football-Reference.com
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