Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Firing Jauron first step on Bills road to recovery

I don’t expect immediate results at One Bills Drive now that Dick Jauron has been fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The team is a shambles, and it’s going to take time and bold moves to pick up the pieces.

Still, I applaud this in-season change by owner Ralph Wilson because it at least shows that he is listening to the legions of frustrated Bills fans who gave up on the overmatched Jauron after a third consecutive 7-9 finish last season.

Jauron leaves Buffalo with a 24-33 record – a dismal .421 winning percentage – and zero winning seasons and zero playoff appearances. He is, by all accounts, a decent man, but he never showed the leadership skills or the passion necessary to be a successful NFL head coach, either here or during his time with the Chicago Bears. He clearly didn’t have what it took to lift this moribund franchise out of the doldrums that has seen it go nearly a decade without a playoff appearance.

Given the lack of talent he was forced to work with, Fewell did a decent job with this defense. He might blossom into a decent head coach, but he isn’t the long-term answer to what ails the Bills.

Wilson needs to do something dramatic – something similar to what he did back in 1978 when he went out and hired the most successful coach available, Chuck Knox. It’s going to cost Wilson a lot of money, and it’s going to mean that he’s going to have to turn the keys to the franchise over to the new guy, the way he did 31 years ago. Knox, who was coming off five consecutive NFC West titles with the Los Angeles Rams, was named coach and vice-president of football operations, which meant he had control over drafts, trades and free-agent signings. In just three years, he wound up turning a team that had lost 23 of 28 games in the two seasons prior to his arrival into AFC East champions.

As I’ve written in this cyberspace before, I’d make an all-out push for Bill Cowher. Let him bring in his personnel evaluators to take over for Tom Modrak and John Guy. Let him bring in his own assistant coaches. Heck, let him bring his own chauffeur and chef if he wants. Let him do whatever he needs to do to change the culture of a locker room where losing has become acceptable, where accountability is lacking.

There are many talented program builders out there for Wilson to choose from – if not Cowher, then Mike Shanahan or Mike Holmgren or Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden. But the courtship needs to begin now, in earnest, because there are numerous other NFL dregs out there in dire need of architects of hope.

This change was long overdue. But it should be viewed as only the beginning. There are people out there who can turn this thing around. It’s up to Ralph to take the next big step. It’s going to take several million dollar bills to ensure that these Bills no longer are counterfeit.

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