(Editor’s Note: In the fine tradition of holiday leftovers, We Want Marangi offers a double helping of Thanksgiving goodness in the form of these two items from 2012.)
(Originally posted Nov. 22, 2012)
The Bills haven’t played on Thanksgiving Day since 1994, but they were once an after-dinner staple.
Back in the American Football League days, the Bills made an annual late-season swing to the West Coast. This was partly to save on travel costs, and partly to avoid Buffalo weather in late November and December. Three straight AFL Championship Game appearances in the mid-1960s made the Bills attractive to network programmers, as well.
So it was that Buffalo took part in five Thanksgiving games over a six-year span. In 1968, the Bills took a miserable 1-10-1 record into Oakland, where the Raiders were rolling towards the playoffs and a shot at defending the AFL title they had won in 1967 behind Daryle Lamonica.
Having traded away Lamonica and with Jack Kemp and every other quarterback still on the roster sidelined with injuries, the Bills were left with Ed Rutkowski at quarterback.
We have written about this dark period in Bills history before, but it’s worth revisiting for a couple reasons.
For one, an extended highlight originally embedded in this post before someone got all copyright-y and had it yanked from YouTube, provided a nice taste of 1968, from the jazzy soundtrack to the shots of people dressed like grown-ups in the stands.
It also showed that, as much as times and fashions change, the Buffalo Bills do not. You can imagine your turkey-and-Genesee-laden ancestors settling in front of their 19-inch Philco and seeing the underdogs outplay the ominous Raiders for much of the afternoon.
Then they fall behind, only to rally to the brink of a stunning, nationally televised upset.
Finally, just six feet away from victory, they blow it, with their would-be hero fumbling the game away.
The defeat did help the Bills secure the draft rights to USC running back O.J. Simpson. And despite the fumble, leading Buffalo to a hollow moral victory with most of the area watching on television helped Rutkowski to a long career in local politics.
Since it’s a holiday, we’ll leave you to come up with your own cynical remarks about all that.
Thanksgiving, Marangi Style
Pete Gogolak (pictured) starred in two of the featured games. And this blog’s namesake played a prominent role in No. 5, Detroit’s 27-14 win over the Bills in 1976 at the Pontiac Superdome, when O.J. Simpson broke his own NFL single-game record by running for 273 yards.
Thanks to the bizarre workings of my brain, I remember watching that game. Even though I was eight, I remember thinking, “They’re not even trying to stop O.J.”
So the Lions sat back in a prevent defense and let O.J. eat up the yards and the clock. Head coach Jim Ringo apparently decided to give up on trying to win and focused on getting the purely superficial record for Simpson, who never had a problem putting himself ahead of the team. Either that, or Ringo, who had taken over when Lou Saban quit earlier in the season, could not bear to watch Marangi try to throw any longer.
I was really hoping to find the NFL Films highlights of this game, largely to see Marangi in action. No such luck, but the WWM research department will keep looking.