1989 Buffalo Bills season
|1989 Buffalo Bills season|
|Head coach||Marv Levy|
|General manager||Bill Polian|
|Home field||Rich Stadium|
|Division place||1st AFC East|
|Playoff finish||L AFC Divisional|
The 1989 Buffalo Bills season was the 30th season for the team and the 20th season in the National Football League. The Bills finished in first place in the AFC East and finished the National Football League's 1989 season with a record of 9 wins and 7 losses. Although Buffalo won the division and qualified for the postseason, their record was a drop off from their 12-4 mark in 1988.
Bickering Bills 
The team was nicknamed the Bickering Bills because of a rash of internal conflicts within the team. During a Monday Night loss to the Denver Broncos, Jim Kelly could be seen yelling at wide receiver Chris Burkett; it would be Burkett's last game with the team, as he was released shortly after the game.
Kelly was injured in a Week Five blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts, and subsequently blamed his offensive line's blocking—notably offensive tackle Howard Ballard—for contributing to his injury.
In the week leading up to a Week Eight matchup with Miami, assistant coaches Tom Bresnahan and Nick Nicolau got into a fistfight while the two were reviewing game film.
The biggest blowup occurred when starting running back Thurman Thomas, asking to address Jim Kelly's criticism of the offense—and the pass-catching ability of running back Ronnie Harmon in particular—criticized Kelly himself on a Rochester, NY television show. When asked what position the Bills could upgrade at, Thomas replied, "Quarterback." Thomas claimed at first that it was a joke, but later, when appearing on Paul Maguire's Budweiser Sportsline show, he stated that the team didn't appreciate Kelly's public criticism, and that Kelly should elevate his own level of play.
NFL Draft 
Lacking a first- or second-round pick in the 1989 draft, the Bills were able to pick wide receiver Don Beebe, a third-round pick from small Chadron State, who would be a productive wide receiver for the team for six seasons. Beebe would achieve something akin to folk hero status in Buffalo, when, in Super Bowl XXVII, as the Bills were being soundly defeated by Dallas, Beebe chased down Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett, stripped the ball from his hands and saved what would have been a sure touchdown.
The Bills also drafted future two-sport athlete Brian Jordan in the 7th round. Though the Bills cut him before the 1989 season began, Jordan would go on to play three productive seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, and fifteen seasons as a Major League Baseball outfielder.
|82||Don Beebe||Wide Receiver||Chadron State|
|109||John Kolesar||Wide Receiver||Michigan|
|137||Michael Andrews||Defensive Back||Alcorn State|
|164||Sean Doctor||Tight End||Marshall|
|173||Brian Jordan||Defensive Back||Richmond|
|193||Chris Hale||Defensive Back||USC|
|Supp||Brett Young||Defensive Back||Oregon|
|249||Pat Rabold||Defensive Tackle||Wyoming|
|276||Carlo Cheattom||Defensive Back||Auburn|
|1989 Buffalo Bills staff|
Special Teams Coaches
Strength and Conditioning
|1989 Buffalo Bills roster|
Rookies in italics
Regular season 
Before the season, future Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith was offered a large contract by Denver (US$7.5 million over five years), one that the Bills chose to match to retain Smith. In 1989, Smith became the Bills' all-time sack leader when he reached his 52nd sack; he would end his 19-year career with 200, the most of any NFL player all-time.
Despite the internal strife the Bills experienced, they had some memorable wins. The Bills started the season with a last-second victory at Miami. With 0:02 left on the clock, quarterback Jim Kelly dropped back to pass, but ran the ball in to the end zone as time expired, securing a 27–24 win.
In Week Six, the Bills hosted the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, with backup quarterback Frank Reich subbing for an injured Jim Kelly. With 77 seconds remaining, Reich started a drive from the Buffalo 36 yard line. The Bills drove down the field, with Reich passing the winning touchdown to Andre Reed with :16 left.
In Week Thirteen, on Monday Night Football, the Bills lost to the Seattle Seahawks 17–16, which included Seahawk Steve Largent running in a botched extra point attempt for ultimately the 1-point difference.
What ensued was the Bills losing three games in a row, before securing the AFC East title with a shutout road win over the New York Jets.
|1||September 10, 1989||at Miami Dolphins||W 27–24||1–0||Joe Robbie Stadium||
|2||September 18, 1989||Denver Broncos||L 14–28||1–1||Rich Stadium||
|3||September 24, 1989||at Houston Oilers||W 47–41||2–1||Houston Astrodome||
|4||October 1, 1989||New England Patriots||W 31–10||3–1||Rich Stadium||
|5||October 8, 1989||at Indianapolis Colts||L 14–37||3–2||Hoosier Dome||
|6||October 16, 1989||Los Angeles Rams||W 23–20||4–2||Rich Stadium||
|7||October 22, 1989||New York Jets||W 34–3||5–2||Rich Stadium||
|8||October 29, 1989||Miami Dolphins||W 31–17||6–2||Rich Stadium||
|9||November 5, 1989||at Atlanta Falcons||L 28–30||6–3||Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium||
|10||November 12, 1989||Indianapolis Colts||W 30–7||7–3||Rich Stadium||
|11||November 19, 1989||at New England Patriots||L 24–33||7–4||Sullivan Stadium||
|12||November 26, 1989||Cincinnati Bengals||W 24–7||8–4||Rich Stadium||
|13||December 4, 1989||at Seattle Seahawks||L 16–17||8–5||Kingdome||
|14||December 10, 1989||New Orleans Saints||L 19–22||8–6||Rich Stadium||
|15||December 17, 1989||at San Francisco 49ers||L 10–21||8–7||Candlestick Park||
|16||December 23, 1989||at New York Jets||W 37–0||9–7||The Meadowlands||
|New England Patriots||5||11||0||.313||4–4||5–7||297||391||L3|
|New York Jets||4||12||0||.250||2–6||3–9||253||411||L3|
AFC Divisional Playoff 
Buffalo Bills (9-7) at Cleveland Browns (9-6-1)
In a shootout, Browns linebacker Clay Matthews intercepted Bills quarterback Jim Kelly at the Cleveland 1-yard line with 3 seconds remaining to preserve a 34–30 victory. Kelly threw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns while Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Browns receiver Webster Slaughter had the best postseason performance of his career with 3 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Buffalo scored first with wide receiver Andre Reed's 72-yard touchdown reception. But Cleveland struck back with a 45-yard field goal by Matt Bahr and a 52-yard touchdown pass from Kosar to Slaughter. Kelly's 33-yard touchdown pass to James Lofton put the Bills back in the lead, 14–10, but Browns retook the lead with Ron Middleton's 3-yard catch shortly before the end of the first half.
On the opening drive of the second half, Kosar hooked up with Slaughter for another touchdown pass, this one 44-yards, to increase their lead to 24–14. Buffalo responded with a 6 yard touchdown catch by running back Thurman Thomas, who tied an NFL playoff record with 13 receptions for 150 yards. But Browns running back Eric Metcalf returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 31–21 lead by the end of the third quarter. After an exchange of field goals, Thomas caught a three yard touchdown pass. But the extra point failed, forcing the Bills to attempt to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on their final drive. With time running out, Kelly led the Bills to Cleveland's 11-yard line. But fullback Ronnie Harmon dropped a potential game winning catch in the end zone and Kelly was intercepted by Matthews on the next play.
Awards and records 
- Shane Conlan, Pro Bowl Selection
- Kent Hull, Pro Bowl Selection
- Bruce Smith, Pro Bowl Selection
- Thurman Thomas, Pro Bowl Selection
- Thurman Thomas, NFL Combined Yards from Scrimmage Leader
- Buffalo Rumblings: Worst Moments In Bills History, No. 22: Bickering Bills | Retrieved 30 December 2011
- Buffalo Rumblings: Top 50 All-Time Bills, No. 41: OT Howard Ballard | Retrieved 30 December 2011
- Thomas Is Above Criticism Now : Bills: Running back spoke out against Kelly last season, but he is still an important part of a now-happy family in Buffalo | Los Angeles Times, 18 January 1991 | Retrieved 30 December 2011
- Bickering Bills aim criticism at Kelly | Houston Chronicle 14 December 1989 | Retrieved 30 December 2011
- 1989 Buffalo Bills Media Guide. pp. 2–23. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
- BillsZone.com: 1989 Buffalo Bills – Bickering Bills | Retrieved 30 December 2011
- NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 292