The Dolphins-Bills rivalry was fun to be part of, but unfortunately for the bulk of my career we were ultimately on the losing side. Even though we were able to even things up during the course of the regular season, they always seemed to nip us in the playoffs when they were making that outrageous run to four straight Super Bowls. It was such a fun and intense rivalry. They were a division opponent and we always seemed to play games that mattered on national TV.
When we went to Buffalo you could feel such an intense hatred. I got my first taste of it when we traveled up to Buffalo my rookie year. We got to the hotel, ordered some room service and I turned on the news before meetings. I’m watching the Buffalo news and they’re going to different schools around the Buffalo area and they’re showing kids squishing the fish by putting fish in blenders. That was just shocking to me. I was thinking, “Wow, what is this all about?”
Richmond Webb and I were just joking about this. We’d go to Buffalo and they had this song about Bruce Smith called “Leader of the Sack,” and he was such a great player.
It was fun to be part of it because those games meant so much. It wasn’t just a football game. It was Dolphins-Bills for supremacy in the AFC East. Some years we won and some years we didn’t. You were challenged for record but you were also challenged on the field by the great players like the Bruce Smiths, the Darryl Talleys and the Cornelius Bennetts that you had to block. When we were on the sidelines we got to watch Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed and James Lofton and all the great guys they had there. It was an amazing time in football in the AFC East.
You think about all the Hall of Famers or Ring of Honor members from both teams that were on those fields during that time and it’s amazing. You had two Hall of Fame coaches in Don Shula and Marv Levy, two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, and whoever won those games had a great leg up not only in the playoffs but also for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Going on the road to Buffalo was like going nowhere else. We’d fly in on Saturday and Shula would always bring us to the stadium. People were already tailgating the day before. The parking lot was already packed and people had the signs up with “Squish The Fish” and “Dolphins Stink.” On game day the fans were really close to the sidelines at Rich Stadium. To me that just intensified the rivalry and if you weren’t ready for a Dolphins-Buffalo game there was something wrong with you.
We had some good snow games up in Buffalo and then the dramatic AFC Championship Game down here in Miami. The game that I will always remember was my rookie year and my first Dolphins-Bills game up in Buffalo at Rich Stadium. I had gone on a local sports talk show down here with Tim McKyer and we were talking tough, saying, “Buffalo’s not that good,” and stuff like that, figuring it was just going to stay down here.
Well, we were warming up during the pregame and the Bills are all waiting on us looking at me and I asked Richmond what was going on and he didn’t know. So I get up there for the first snap and Bruce Smith said, “We heard what you said and we’re going to bring it to you today, rookie.” They were lining up to get over me and give me hell that day, but luckily I played well and it was snowing, but they never let me forget that.
I remember wondering, how could they have heard that from a little TV show here in South Florida? I had made bulletin-board material before my first Dolphins-Bills game. They were actually mad. I knew then that this was a rivalry not to be taken lightly at all.