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Bills coaches winless in opening debuts

By Jerry Sullivan

As Tim Graham pointed out earlier on the blog, the Bills have a multitude of factors going against them in Sunday's season opener against the Patriots.

Here's one the Vegas boys didn't point out: No Bills head coach has ever won his season-opening debut. Doug Marrone is looking to be the first.

Bills coaches are 0-16 in their first crack on Opening Day. That's the equivalent of an entire winless season on the modern NFL calendar. It stretches from Buster Ramey's 27-3 loss at the AFC's old New York Titans in 1960 through Chan Gailey's 15-10 snoozer at home against the Jets in 2010.

Marv Levy won his first game as Bills head coach, beating the Steelers at Rich Stadium after succeeding Hank Bullough in November of 1986. But Marv lost his first season opener as Bills coach in '87, a 31-28 loss to the Jets at Rich Stadium. I counted Lou Saban twice. Saban lost his opening debut as Ralph Wilson's head man in 1962, and his opening game when he returned a decade later in '72.

What makes it even more amazing is that 12 of the 16 games were played in Buffalo. Between 1974 and 1988, the Bills opened every NFL season at home. Ralph Wilson must have had a little more pull back then.

Here's the entire hapless chronicle of Bills' head coaches in opening day debuts:

  • Buster Ramsey, lost 27-3 at New York Titans on Sept. 11, 1960
  • Lou Saban, lost 28-23 to Houston on Sept. 9, 1962 
  • Joe Collier, lost 27-7 at San Diego on Sept. 4, 1966
  • John Rauch, lost 16-7 to Boston on Sept. 8, 1968 
  • Harvey Johnson, lost 49-37 to Dallas on Sept. 19, 1971
  • Lou Saban, lost 41-24 to Jets on Sept. 17, 1972
  • Jim Ringo, lost 13-0 to MIami on Sept. 18, 1977
  • Chuck Knox, lost 28-17 to Pittsburgh on Sept. 3, 1978 
  • Kay Stephenson, lost 12-0 to Miami on Sept. 4, 1983
  • Hank Bullough, lost 28-24 to Jets on Sept. 7, 1986
  • Marv Levy, lost 31-28 to Jets on Sept. 13, 1987
  • Wade Phillips,  lost 16-14 at San Diego on Sept. 6, 1998
  • Gregg Williams, lost 24-6 to New Orleans on Sept. 9, 2001
  • Mike Mularkey, lost 13-10 to Jacksonville on Sept. 12, 2004
  • Dick Jauron, lost 19-17 at New England on Sept. 10, 2006
  • Chan Gailey, lost 15-10 to Miami on Sept. 12, 2010


Doug Marrone
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |