The Buffalo Bills endured a sad loss this week when longtime-owner Ralph Wilson passed away at the age of 95. Wilson was instrumental in helping the shape the NFL as we know it today, as well as getting Buffalo a professional football team.
Under his ownership, the Bills advanced to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, and though they never won a championship, were regarded as one of the best NFL franchises.
Times have changed since then, and the Bills haven't been to the playoffs since the Music City Miracle. Losing has become common in Buffalo, and now that Wilson is gone, there's a dark cloud hovering over the future of the franchise.
In a column for the Buffalo News, Donn Esmonde writes that once the estate of Wilson sells the team, the Bills' future in Buffalo will likely not extend past 2022:
In other words, enjoy the Bills here while you can.
I like a long shot as much as the next guy. But let’s not kid ourselves. The economics of the NFL long ago whizzed past our smaller-market, economically stagnant burg. Such metropolises as Los Angeles, Toronto and even London are NFL-covetous – and vice-versa. With the team presumably getting sold to the highest bidder after Ralph Wilson’s estate is settled, the Bills’ future in Buffalo will likely not extend past the 2022 expiration of the 10-year lease. If it makes it past the one-time, 2019, cheap-buyout exit for the next owner.
"Long term, it’s fair to say the team is at risk of being moved," said Ted Fay, a sports management professor at SUNY Cortland. "Buffalo doesn’t make common sense as a business model."
It would be sad to see Buffalo lose their franchise, especially if it's to a state like California, where Los Angeles is poised to get an NFL franchise. California already has three NFL teams, while the Bills are the only team the state of New York holds.
That doesn't even account for the large Canadian following the Bills have being on the America-Canada border.