It's been a heck of a week for the Bills and their fans. With that nip of winter in the November air it seems that Hades had a light frost and thus was the demise of Dick Jauron as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
To be honest, I wasnít sure I was going to see the day when Jauron was removed as coach. Rational people had been predicting his firing from the second half of last season all the way through last week, but the obvious move never came. In looking at Jauronís record Ė losing 8 of his final 10 games in 2008, going 0-6 in the division last season, losing the last 8 home games, failure to beat a winning team plus a myriad of mind-boggling nearly impossible losses the bar was set pretty low. So low, that I began to ask myself what Jauron would really have to do to lose his job given his past performance Ė say he hated chicken wings? Advocate single payer healthcare? Kill someone?Somewhere the 3,679,856th straw fell onto the camelís back. While fans have often felt the Bills were the laughingstock of the league, there was an actual physical manifestation of this when an octogenarian fruitcake gleefully flipped the team the bird in front of thousands of cheering fans. When Bud Adams feels he can openly mock your franchise and fans things have gotten ugly Ė no need to wait for Al Davis to moon you from his owners box to make some changes.
By all accounts Dick Jauron is a nice guy who was liked and respected by his players. Itís a shame that his tenure in Buffalo was so unsuccessful, but the fact of the matter is that he wasnít getting the job done as head coach. With a fan base that lost it patience years ago even a franchise as dysfunctional as the Bills couldnít keep a guy at the helm just because he was well-liked.
So the Perry Fewell era began and while there were positives to Sundayís game, the result was much the same as it has been Ė another loss to a beatable team, another loss in the 4th quarter, another slew of injuries. Iím not going to comment much on the game because quite frankly, it doesnít mean much Ė the Bills arenít going to magically transform into a winning team overnight, the team isnít going to the playoffs and Perry Fewell will not be the head coach next season.
At this point in time excitement about watching the Bills means looking at the front office, not the team on game days. What will become of the Buffalo Bills? How deep will the organizational changes go? Who will lead the front office? Who will be head coach?
The Bills have been silent as to the moves they are contemplating and to whom they are talking. If you believe the various media reports it appears that the team has been in contact with a number of high profile former coaches Ė John Gruden, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer as coaching candidates with possibly a greater role as a general manager.
Buffalo certainly needs an infusion of football people in the front office Ė the current regime has failed the franchise for a decade and has resulted in a team with a startling lack of talent on both sides of the ball. If front office changes are coming, and all indications are that they will be, they should logically be made before any coaching and player personnel changes are made. The new front office personnel need to be given the freedom to make the changes they see fit down the line.
So the question now becomes, can Buffalo land one of the big names available as coach or GM/coach? It could be an uphill battle.
In a decade the Bills have dug themselves into a very deep hole. Losing has been as much of a tradition in Buffalo over the past 10 seasons as winning was in the early 1990s. The team hasnít had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly and arguably has no franchise players at any position. A number of players are locked into contracts that pay them far more than they are worth and young talent has been allowed to walk out the door while drafts have often been questionable. Thatís a lot of damage that needs to be addressed.
If you look at the NFL this season youíll see that there are a number of teams that are as bad or even worse than the Bills and these teams will also be looking to bring in new personnel in the front office and on the sidelines. By starting their search now the Bills may get a jump start on the process, but many believe the top coach/GM candidates will wait to see all available offers before making a commitment to an organization.
I love Western New York. I grew up there. I think it is one of the best places on earth to live. People are great Ė real honest to goodness people who are generally friendly and helpful to their neighbors. The cost of living is affordable. People complain about the weather, but it's not nearly as bad as itís made out to be (and when it gets rough it builds character). Unfortunately, unless youíve lived in Buffalo it is hard to see what a great place it is. Jim Kelly never wanted to be in Buffalo, now youíd never get him to leave. Buffalo is a small market town Ė itís not New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Itís not even Houston, Charlotte or St. Louis. It can be a tough sell to someone who wants their next gig to be a big time gig in a big time place.
If Buffalo is going to land a Mike Shanahan or a Bill Cowher they are going to have to overcome the current state of the franchise and the lack of a big market and about the only way they are going to do that is by offering money and/or power over the organization. They are probably going to have to offer substantially more money and/or power than other organizations to land their man. Ralph Wilson has indicated that he is ready to open his wallet (some reports are talking about salary in the $10 million a year range) and possibly control of the organization, but the question is really going to be whether ANY amount of money/power can successfully sell the Buffalo Bills as the best opportunity. If early reactions are any indication, the Bills could be in trouble Ė John Gruden reportedly rebuffed the Bills and elected to stay with Monday Night Football and Bill Cowher reportedly does not want to even talk until after the season (not exactly jumping at the Bills job).
In all honesty, I donít see the Bills landing any of their top candidates Ė there is simply too much competition and too many potentially better opportunities for those in high demand. The challenge will become finding one of the second tier candidates who will be a fit and make the right football decisions to start to get Buffalo back on track. Thatís a tall order for an owner set in his ways and a front office staff that has a poor track record of making good personnel decisions, but if youíre still a Buffalo fan after all these years you probably still have some of that hope within your heart that brighter days are ahead. For the sake of Bills Nation, keep hope alive.