If I’m Bills owner Ralph Wilson, I pull the plug on Dick Jauron now. I put fiery special teams coach Bobby April in as interim head coach and immediately begin negotiations with Bill Cowher. And, yes, I prepare to turn over a king’s ransom and complete control of football operations because if I do otherwise neither Cowher nor Mike Shanahan nor Jon Gruden nor any other big-name coach will be coming to Orchard Park and the Bills will continue to be stuck in this quagmire of mediocrity that has stymied them for nearly a decade.
Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
This has nothing to do with Jauron the person. He’s an honorable guy and the players love him. But this is a hyper-competitive, just-win-baby business and Jauron’s body of work (one winning season in 8 seasons and change with two different teams) is proof positive that he doesn’t have what it takes to be an NFL head coach.
Jauron’s conservative approach doesn’t cut it any more in a league where offenses and defenses are constantly on the attack. Football teams do, in fact, assume the personalities of their coaches, which may explain Trent Edwards’ penchant for checking down and playing it safe too often instead of taking the chances the really good quarterbacks take.
I called for this change after Buffalo suffered through its third consecutive 7-9 campaign in ‘08. But the Bills had painted themselves into a corner by jumping the gun after their 5-1 start and signing Jauron to a 3-year extension. It was a panic move because they foolishly believed if they made the playoffs NFL teams would be lining up in droves to sign the guy.
Well, you get what you pay for. And what Buffalo has is a coach with a 22-30 record heading into Sunday’s game against the winless Cleveland Browns.
Ralph doesn’t have a history of firing coaches in-season. In fact, the last time he made an in-season change was 22 years ago when he replaced Hank Bullough with Marv Levy. He lucked out on that one. But the time for “hoping’ some guy works out is over. Bills fans have suffered long enough. They’ve supported this team despite a stretch that has seen them post just one winning season this decade. And should they fail to make the playoffs this year (a likely scenario) it will mark the first time in the franchise’s half-century existence they went an entire decade without making the postseason.
The one time Ralph did spend big, big bucks for a highly sought-after coach was in 1978 when he signed Chuck Knox, who was coming off five consecutive divisional titles with the Los Angeles Rams. That’s what he needs to do now.
It will take more than an armor-car-full of greenbacks to secure Cowher, who helped make the Pittsburgh Steelers into Super Bowl champions and perennial playoff participants. He’ll demand to bring in his own personnel people (see you later, Tom Modrak and John Guy). And he’ll demand a commitment from Ralph to sign the players he’ll need to in order to change the Bills culture of losing.
Ralph told me on several occasions through the years that one of the keys to his success as an entrepreneur was his willingness to take calculated risks. He always said he liked going for it on fourth down. Well, it’s fourth-and-long, and he needs a big catch right now, and that catch’s name is Bill Cowher.
A nationally recognized sports columnist and best-selling author, Scott Pitoniak is pursuing new challenges after 35 years in the newspaper business. He hopes one day to write the great American novel and hit a baseball over the wall at Yankee Stadium. In the meantime, he runs his own website – ScottPitoniak.com – and blogs about sports and life’s other adventures.
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