Tomorrow, I’ll have my usual Tuesday game-management column. Dick Jauron takes center stage today.
Did the news that Jauron, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, was relieved of his duties surprise you? Hardly, but at least with the timing, the Bills can try and salvage some ray of hope for their incredibly loyal fan base. This is the fifth coach to be fired in season and the second in Buffalo. Monday, the Jets fired defensive line coach Kerry Locklin, which is strange behavior in the NFL. These kinds of firings normally happen at the conclusion of the season, not the halfway point. But let’s face it -- the NFL has been a little strange this year, especially when we see three coordinators fired before the start of the season.
Here’s what Bills owner Ralph Wilson said about the firing in a statement: “I am announcing today that I am relieving Dick Jauron from his duties as our head coach, effective immediately. I have tremendous respect for Dick and thank him for all of his efforts during these past four years. While this was a very difficult decision, I felt that it is one that needed to be made at this time for the best interest of our team. We will now focus on moving forward and preparing for our game this week in Jacksonville.”
Jauron was 24-33 in his four years in Buffalo, which is not good enough. But more alarming than the record is the fact this team has not made strides on or off the field to give its fans any sense of hope. As a team, the Bills have been feisty, hard working and smallish, but very competitive. They play hard, they play with passion, but they fall short in their ability to match up with the better teams in the NFL. They have breakdowns in three areas: players, coaching and scheme.
So why do this now? There was a prevailing feeling last February that when Jauron was faced with having to make changes to his staff, his reluctance to do so would result in his termination. Jauron did not accept the changes, but he kept his job with an ultimatum — turn it around or you’ll be gone. If Wilson was unhappy with the direction of the team last February, what did he hear from Jauron that convinced him to stay the course?
Nothing has changed from last February until now, expect that the Bills have gotten worse. Don’t blame Jauron for the problems; blame the people who thought this team could compete for an AFC East title with no left tackle, two rookies in the starting offensive line, no right tackle and, yes, no quarterback. Vince Lombardi couldn’t make this team effective. The Bills’ fundamental problems lie in their planning, not in the execution.
Buffalo is on lovely Lake Erie, which has been known to stimulate a few hostile weather changes and create some strong winds, so the type of team that represents the Bills has to be the biggest team in the NFL -- a team that can dominate physically and control both lines of scrimmage because there’s a good chance that half the games will be played in windy, foul weather and only the strong will survive. The Bills must build a size/speed/tough team that can play with intelligence on both sides. Yes, this sounds like a Bill Parcells kind of team, and that’s exactly what they need -- a Parcells type of team.
It’s the only way to go in Buffalo. The Bills have to be able to control the front on both offense and defense to consistently win in their own environment. Building a small, fast team is a nice idea that many have been copied in the league based on the success of the Bucs and Colts, but in Buffalo, this will not work. Jauron wanted a fast defense that could fly to the ball. They did try to get bigger, but it was too late because the foundation of the team had already been laid.
General manager Russ Brandon, who was running the marketing department before his transition to the football side, must develop a comprehensive plan for player procurement before they hire the next head coach. The front office must know what kind of team it needs to build, based on the elements, based on their opponents in the AFC and based on what it takes to win a Super Bowl in the NFL. It has to be detailed, taking into account all the factors that are involved in winning in the league today and tomorrow. Once that’s done, they can go out and find a coach who agrees with the Bills’ philosophy and can lead people. Not someone who can just call plays. The Bills need a head coach, not a play caller.
The Bills had no chance this year, and it has nothing to do with Terrell Owens being in their locker room. It had everything to do with how they built this team and what kind of team Jauron wanted to see on the field. I feel badly for Jauron – he’s a very nice man but not a team builder. Is Brandon? Bills fans better hope so.
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