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Chance That Williams May Return
Musings on a variety of subjects surrounding the Bills
by Joe Chenelly
December 11, 2003

Bad news for Redskins fans was delivered with the Washington Post on Dec. 10. Redskins’ head coach Steve Spurrier, a coach as equally besieged as Gregg Williams, will keep his job for another season.

How long until Bills Daily has to deliver the same type of unbelievable report about Gregg Williams? I think the answer is a simple “never,” but I am starting to have my doubts.

The team is playing hard right now, which may be an important sign the players respect and want to keep their current coach. It did take several other notable coaches, including Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, a few years to get things rolling.

Donahoe has a scapegoat he can sacrifice to try and quell the storm that will follow if Williams is offered a contract extension. Of course, that dead man walking is offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. He has a history of being blamed for teams’ failures.

With just about everyone outside the club calling for sweeping coaching changes, Donahoe may choose to totally overhaul the offensive coaching staff. That would send a message that the front office believes all the 2003 woes are the fault of Gilbride and his staff.

I certainly don’t think Gilbride is the lone loser here, but his head on a platter along with a decent draft and a few more key free agent acquisitions, and I may be content for a bit.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Bills have a pretty good offensive coordinator waiting in the wings already. Les Steckel, the Bills current running backs coach, was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee during the Titan’s Super Bowl run in 1999. He also spent 1984 in Minnesota as the Viking’s head coach. While there are many benefits to promote from within, Steckel is certainly not a lock to move up if Williams stays.

A more viable option is for Williams and Donahoe to cash in some favors and reel in a top-notch offensive mind. Maybe someone who is a head coach this year but won’t be next year.

The mantra sure to be sung by the Bills’ PR department will be that the team is so close to really breaking through that there is no need to create the upheaval that accompanies a head coaching change.

This may be true, but the bottom line is clear. Sooner or later, a decision on when to cut our losses has to be made. If Ralph Wilson Jr. and Donahoe think it is too early, Williams may be on the Bills’ sidelines at least one more year.


HEAD COACH REPLACEMENTS

In response to more e-mail, I don’t think Dan Reeves or Marty Schottenheimer will come to Buffalo, unless they’re on the visiting side on of The Ralph. Both guys are seriously set in their ways and want a lot more control than Donahoe will give up. I’m not crazy about either guy’s style anyway.

There is no chance Marv Levy will coach the Bills again. I know it is a tough thing to understand. He is a very intelligent man. He knows the rigors of the NFL were too much for his body year ago. Why would he come back now? He is comfortable in the studio. Let him stay there.


PHILLIPS TO GET A THIRD SHOT?

With just three games left in the 2003 season, the Atlanta Falcons fired their now-former head coach Dan Reeves and replaced him with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Gregg Williams’ predecessor in Buffalo, Phillips is large and in-charge in Atlanta on an interim basis, according to the Falcons. One has to wonder if the dirty birds will make the same mistake Buffalo and Denver made. Before the Bills promoted him from defensive coordinator to head coach, he failed in the Mile High City after receiving the same promotion there. I guess some teams just refuse to learn from other teams’ mistakes. On that note, it looks like Schottenheimer may have finally learned a lesson no one else in the NFL has; he is sticking with Doug Flutie.


BUFFALO’S DEFENSE

There is not a better unit in the League, but Takeo Spikes and company have recently come under fire from sports writers decrying the NFL’s second-ranked defense as overrated.

I wholeheartedly disagree. If anything, the defense is underrated.

Considering that while facing the toughest schedule in the NFL this season, the Bills’ “D” has still compiled some very impressive statistics. Despite the fact that their offensive counterparts have provided opponents with prime field position countless times, they have still yielded an astoundingly low 15.4 points-per-game.

Criticism has been directed at one particular stat: takeaways. The Bills’ D has intercepted or recovered a fumble an NFL-low 14 times this year. But there is more to football than meets the statition’s eye.

Turnovers come when an opposing team has to take some chances. Teams haven’t been forced into taking offensive chances because the Bills’ offense hasn’t put many points up themselves. Buffalo ranks 27th in scoring (16.5 points per game). The few times the Bills did score a few touchdowns in a game, they Bills defense took full advantage and turned them into blowouts.

In a game which momentum can mean everything, the D has played strong through some very low times this season. Even when the D or special teams gets an interception or a blocked punt, the offense kills the momentum by going three and out or otherwise handing the ball back to the other side. It is nearly impossible to force another team into making mistakes when they have the momentum.

Jerry Gray, the Bills’ defensive coordinator, has done his part too. Just this past week against the Jets he showed the skill to adjust. After the New Jersey team was able to start the game by marching to a field goal, Gray quickly detected the Jets’ game plan and moved to counter. The only other Jets’ score came in the second half on another field goal after a decent kickoff return. All that even though the offense turned the ball over a couple of times.

Put this defense on a team with even a middle-of-the-pack offense, and Super Bowl talks would be realized. One-hundred percent of the Bills’ failures this season can be placed on the shoulders of the offense and coaching staff. The defense has nothing at all to be ashamed of.

Tom Donahoe’s work at putting together this defensive squad is an absolute success. The great news is that almost the entire defense is signed for the next few years. I have to think the offense should be fixed before that period of time elapses.


BOOO

Okay, the great Bruce Smith got his record. In actuality, I am happy because that record really is shared with Darryl Talley, Cornelius Bennett, Shane Conlan, Leonard Smith, Mark Kelso, Nate Odoms, Fred Smerlas, Phil Hansen, Leon Seals, Jeff Wright and many other former teammates who played their roles well while Bruce was the featured pass rusher. Oh yeah, Bruce also can thank Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Kent Hull, Jim Ritcher, Howard Ballard, Andre Reed, James Lofton, Steve Tasker and the rest of the K-Gun offense that use to score so much that the opposing offenses had to pass all the time to try and keep up.

I didn’t care much for the way Bruce acted on the field after getting the record-breaking sack. His teammates crowed around him to offer their congratulations, but he treated them like offensive linemen and rushed by so he could stand alone with his index finger extended where his adoring fans could get an unfettered look at him. He mugged for the camera like someone in New Jersey actually gave a damn.




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