Mike Rodak | ESPN.com
Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon said Wednesday he will “review” the future of the team’s annual Toronto game after it lost for the fifth time Sunday in the six years they’ve played in Canada.
“There’s a full evaluation that will take place on all of our business, relative to what this series means and I’m going to look at it very closely,” Brandon told WGR 550 in Buffalo.
The Bills have played an annual game at the Rogers Centre since 2008. The team signed a new, five-year deal earlier this year, but asked Wednesday about whether the Bills could “get out” of the agreement, Brandon hinted at the possibility.
“I’m going to look at everything,” Brandon responded. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The Bills have viewed their game in Toronto as a way to “regionalize” their brand, but their overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday drew the smallest crowd (38,969) in the game’s six-year history.
“Toronto has been positive for us down here. We’ve had great growth in the Southern Ontario marketplace over the last five years back here at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That has been a big positive,” Brandon said. “[But] it has been a challenged market there and certainly has not translated into enough wins for us there.”
By playing one of their home games in Toronto, the Bills play just seven games per season at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Brandon said Wednesday that selling out the 40-year-old venue has been difficult this season.
“It’s also about being viable. That’s one of the things that we’ve talked about for many years here. Look at it from the standpoint from where we’ve been on the ticket side. We’ve taken a game out of the market that has essentially taken 70,000 seats out of our market, and we’ve truly only sold out two of our home games,” Brandon said. “We’ve manufactured sellouts in the other four or five. We’re trying to find ways to obviously keep this team viable and we’ve done a very good job at and this [Toronto] series has obviously contributed to that.”
Four of the six Toronto games have been played in December, when the Bills — who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 — have typically been out of the playoff hunt.
“We’ve got to put ourselves in a position where we’re selling games out no matter what. I want to play and I know our fans want to play deep December games here at Ralph Wilson [Stadium],” Brandon said. “And we obviously want to have every seat in this stadium sold. Sellouts drive your business. They drive all aspects of your business.”
The 4-8 Bills will play their final home game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Dec. 22, and Brandon said Wednesday that 20,000 tickets remain for that game.
“I don’t feel good about it,” he said. “That’s a long way to go in two weeks.”
- Previously covered the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com
- Providence College graduate