There are five franchises that have played in multiple Super Bowls without a victory. Atlanta, Carolina and Cincinnati are 0-2. The Vikings and the Buffalo Bills share the scarlet Roman numeral of IV losses.
The Vikings' losses came over the eight seasons from 1969 to 1976. The Bills' losses came consecutively in the seasons from 1990 to 1993.
The first was the most startling for both teams and fan bases. The Vikings took an all-time great defense to New Orleans in January 1970 and lost 23-7 as 12½-point favorites to Kansas City. The Bills took a star-laden, quick-strike offense to Tampa in January 1991 and lost 20-19 as 6½-point favorites to the New York Giants.
The Bills and the Vikings have ardent fan bases. The Buffalo zealots have a bit more of an edge to them.
As an example: I was covering the AFC Championship Game in Buffalo on Jan. 20, 1991, when the Bills were playing host to the Los Angeles Raiders. On the eve of the Bills' 51-3 victory, I was in a cab from the airport and the driver gave me a forecast.
"If the Bills win, the fans will get those goalposts," he said. "Last week, the cops stopped them with dogs. If the Bills win tomorrow, they'll eat those dogs."
They blew out the Raiders, then lost to the boring Giants and their backup quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, in the Super Bowl.
"I couldn't believe we lost to the Giants," Harold Coller of nearby Perry, N.Y., said. "I was angry and our two oldest sons were crying."
One of those weepers was Matthew Coller, now a Twin Cities media member specializing in Vikings coverage.
"All last season, Matthew kept on warning me about Josh's lack of accuracy and turnovers," Harold, the lifelong Bills fan, said of Josh Allen, the Bills' current quarterback. "And I kept saying, 'He's better than you think.' "
The Bills replaced their latest collection of failed decision makers and brought in a tandem from Carolina in 2017: Brandon Beane, the Panthers' assistant GM, as general manager, and Sean McDermott, the Panthers' defensive coordinator, as head coach.
They scratched out a 9-7 playoff season, while also embarking on a quest for a quarterback with whom the Bills one day might win big.
Allen had been tucked away in Laramie, playing for coach Craig Bohl's Wyoming Cowboys. The word spread on the presence of a 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback with a rocket arm, and Allen entered the 2018 draft in competition with quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold to be the first pick.
Hours before the draft, some previous tweets with racial language by Allen from 2012 and 2013 surfaced. He didn't duck, said he was "young and dumb" and apologized profusely, and wound up going No. 7, after Mayfield (No. 1 to Cleveland) and Darnold (No. 3 to the Jets).
"Through that whole vetting process before the draft, we talked to all different clubs about Josh," Bohl said Tuesday. "The Bills had a different approach. With them, It was all about his DNA as a person, as a competitor.
"My message was, 'Josh is a developmental quarterback. But when he figures it out, he can be the best quarterback in this draft.' And the Bills saw it the same way."
Bohl was watching the draft in Laramie. "When Buffalo traded up to No. 7 to get Josh, I pounded the table and shouted, 'Great fit,' " Bohl said.
The Bills' original plan was to let Allen watch for most of his rookie season. He was on the field before the end of Game 1. And his numbers in 12 games (four missed with an elbow injury) as a confused rookie were abysmal: 52.8% completions, 10 TDs, 12 interceptions, QB rating of 67.9.
He did get his first win, 27-6, against the Vikings, in one of those now-traditional Zygidome stink-eroos.
Allen remained suspect as the Bills reached the playoffs in 2019: 58.8% completions, 20 TDs, nine interceptions, 14 fumbles (four lost) and an 85.3 QB rating.
The Bills decided to get him a big-time receiver, making the Stefon Diggs trade with the Vikings. The "when in doubt, throw toward Stef" approach worked out well for both parties.
Diggs: 127 catches, 1,535 yards. Allen: 69.2% completions, 4,544 yards, 37 TDs, 10 interceptions.
And all of this was followed last Saturday with the Bills' first playoff victory in 25 years, 27-24 over Indianapolis. Allen was 26 for 37 for 324 yards, and Diggs had six catches, 128 yards.
There was a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-10 that sent Allen sprinting to the end zone to exchange goofy grins with his career-building receiver.
His college coach was smiling in Laramie, too.
"I remember a scrimmage early in Josh's time with us," Bohl said. "We had a play that was designed to throw to the fullback in the right flat.
"Well, Josh bootlegs and throws a dart to the post and hits the receiver in stride. I shouted, 'What are you doing?'
"His response was, 'Favre says touchdowns first.' That's my comparison for the way he plays: Brett Favre."
It's an attitude that's beloved in blue-collar Buffalo.
"We don't mind it when Josh makes a mistake, because we know he's going to follow it up by doing something great," Harold Coller said. "We call it the 'Josh Allen Experience.' "
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