by Mario Granata and Paul Wanecski
Superstition is everywhere. Hotels are built without a 13th floor, players at a casino will ask for new dice if a someone rolls snake eyes, Turk Wendell would brush his teeth (among many other crazy things) between innings. But in sports, the most notable superstition lies in jersey numbers. This message is not really a warning but an advisement for Percy Harvin and his arrival to the Buffalo Bills. During this history lesson, the hope is to “inform” Mr. Harvin to decide against taking the #11 once he takes the field at One Bills Drive. Unless Buffalo is your final stop in your career, you might want to consider taking another number. As a personal message to you, Percy, class is in session.
Scott Norwood – (1985-1991)
This would be the beginning of the end of the ‘curse’ of the number 11 for the Bills. Now, while Norwood was a serviceable player in the NFL, his last two seasons for the Buffalo Bills is where the downfall began. (More notably 1990, but we won’t talk about that.) The moment that Norwood’s kick sailed just right of the goal post, was the start of a downward spiral for anyone who would don the #11 for years to come.
Closer's note: we would like you all to know that Bill Belichick was coaching against the Bills in this game. We KNEW that football Norwood kicked looked soft!). No Bills player would wear that number for 6 seasons.
Post Bills: Retired after the 1991 season.
Rob Johnson – (1998-2001)
Another name that lives in Bills lore is Rob Johnson. Now, this list could stop here, and you would have all the information you would want to NOT wear #11 while playing professionally in the 716, but there is more. Other than uttering the words ‘wide right’ to Bills fans, the second most horrifying moment that you can mention is ‘Music City Miracle’. Now, in many respects, the Titans, formerly the Oilers, received retribution for what happened to them in the playoffs in Orchard Park, however, it still stings. What might sting even more is that Johnson was able to receive a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2002 as a back up. Ugh.
Post Bills: After playing for Tampa in 2002, he was a member of Washington and Oakland before retiring after the 2003 season.
Drew Bledsoe – (2002-2004)
Without a doubt, the biggest name to play under center since Jim Kelly, Drew Bledsoe had a breakout 2002 season…and that was about it. Bledsoe managed a 23-25 record while completing less than 60% of his passes and never making the playoffs. While Bledsoe had a very successful career in many respects, the Bills acquired him from the Patriots. I’ll pause while you rinse the bad taste out of your mouth.
Post Bills: Started 22 games for Dallas in 2005 and 2006 before retiring after the 2006 season.
Roscoe Parrish – (2005-2011)
Parrish wore the #11 as many years as Norwood (7), and with the same amount of success. Parrish averaged a staggering 19 receptions a season and averaged 1 touchdown per season. It might shock a lot of Bills fans to think that he was a 2nd round pick, and weighing under 170, he didn’t last too long after he left the Bills.
Post Bills: Played for Tampa in 2012 as a kick and punt returner before retiring after the season.
TJ Graham (2012-2013)
Selected 69th overall out of NC State, Graham has another resume that would be tossed out if it crossed ANY desk in Canton. Playing only two season with the Bills, Graham compiled a total of 54 receptions for 3 touchdowns and only played out of necessity as the Bills receiving core was thin. He went to the Jets and was so impressive that the Jets traded for you, Percy, during the season. With names like Jeremy Kerley, Greg Salas and David Nelson ahead of Graham, it’s no shock that he only recorded 3 receptions. (Insert sarcastic comment here.)
Post Bills: Still a member of the Jets, with the newly acquired Brandon Marshall, Graham might be on the outs in New York. Hey, there’s always Tampa.
Marcus Thigpen (2014-Present)
Now, when Harvin joined the Bills, he could have easily asked Kerley for #11, but elected to go with #16 instead. We hope that trend continues in Buffalo, as Thigpen is on the bubble with Marquise Goodwin to even make the roster in 2015. With Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley on the roster and signed, #11 might open up again, but again, we would advise against picking it up…bad things follow.
Now, why do some signs point to Harvin selecting #11? Well, his first team, the Minnesota Vikings, he was #12, but when he travelled to Seattle, that was not an option. When he was then traded to the Jets, it was again out, as it was retired due to Joe Namath. Harvin faces the same problem here in Buffalo, as #12 belonged to Jim Kelly. Matt Cassel will probably have “dibs” on #16 as well as a number of the wide receivers on the Bills wearing teen numbers already, it seems more and more a possibility that Harvin will either wait for Thigpen to be released or offer him some cash for it, as it holds no sentimental value for Thigpen either.
So, if you care about your career, both in Buffalo and beyond, stay away from snake eyes, because bad things happen to #11’s for the Buffalo Bills.