Can Perry Fewell win in Buffalo?
The firing of Dick Jauron still stings today inside the Buffalo Bills’ football complex in Orchard Park. It will be an adjustment to get back to work, to game plan for the Jags this Sunday and to sit in that team meeting room without the head coach.
I talked to people in the Bills’ organization Tuesday, and no one wanted to see Dick go because he was a players’ coach, and he was a coach who treated everyone in the entire building with respect. But as I wrote yesterday, all that matters in this business is wins and losses. It is the “business of winning.”
And now that job is being turned over to Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who — as our own Michael Lombardi wrote this morning — will have to walk into that team meeting room and take control. Not an easy task to do with one day of preparation.
The question is simple: Can he do it? Can he take control of this team and win games down the stretch under the watch of owner Ralph Wilson?
I know Perry from my time in Buffalo. He’s the complete opposite of Dick — the more reserved, business-like coach that we all know. Perry has no problem getting in the face of his players or calling them out.
You see, Fewell is a “run to the ball” coach like most of the Tampa 2 coaching tree that has built a defense requiring quickness and high effort from every player on every play. The first time we took the practice field under him in his first season in Buffalo in ’06, it became a track meet of sorts. It was pretty simple — run to the ball or don’t play. Start the day with a “pursuit drill,” which consist of running from the line of the scrimmage to the goal line at top speed (and if you let up before the goal line, you had hell to pay), and never strop throughout practice.
But does that style work as a head coach?
Fewell came from Chicago under Lovie Smith, and although Lovie has always been laid back in his approach to coaching, his beliefs are still the same, as are the principals of the defense. But Lovie didn’t take over in the middle of the season, right after a coaching change, in a town that desperately wants a winner.
For Perry, it has to. Yes, he can clash with some of his defensive players from time to time, but as a head coach, that can’t happen. He has to convince not only his defensive players, but the guys on offense as well —and that includes Terrell Owens.
His first big move will be to announce a starting quarterback this week, after Trent Edwards was pulled in his return to action against the Titans on Sunday.
And that’s just it. He’s walking into a mess, really. A team that’s lost in a way, and a team that needs leadership today. Forget about the offseason, and forget about the big names that are on the coaching market, because for Fewell to have any success, he’ll have to sell his players on the belief he can do this.
I would love to see it happen for Perry, but it’s going to be tough. Buffalo needs a winner. It’s a fantastic football town, and a place that no opposing team wants to head to after Halloween.
But after yesterday’s events, it needs leadership and it needs wins. Because just like Jauron, that’s all Perry is going to be judged on — wins and losses.
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