Coaching Staff Offseason Recommendations Transactions

Attention Russ Brandon: Off-Season Plan

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure that running a franchise in Madden ’08 is the same thing as running an actual NFL franchise, but they seem to have done a good job of adding enough of the pieces that it very closely parallels that experience. And, in that the Bills have languished in mediocrity for a decade or more now… wouldn’t you think they’d want some advice from a successful NFL owner/GM? I have managed to take the 2007 Buffalo Bills – a middle of the pack team – and turn them into the highest rated team, and a financially successful organization after just three seasons.

So, Russ, if you’re listening… here’s what I’d do.

Football Man at the Top
I really believe Russ Brandon has been good for the Bills, and will be good for the Bills. I think if he wants to keep the franchise moving forward, the first thing they have to do is bring in a “football guy” to make football decisions. Right now Tom Modrak and John Guy are making those decisions, and they are doing a 7-9 job of it. What I would do is bring in a guy who has proven to win wherever he has gone – and a guy who has been around – and put him at the top of the chain for football-related decisions. Not a business guy… that’s Brandon. A football guy.

My top pick? Mike Holmgren. He’s retiring in Seattle. Doesn’t want to coach for now. But he could perhaps be persuaded to continue earning a fat paycheck as the Head Direction Giver for the Bills, much like Bill Parcells in Miami. Turned them around in ONE SEASON. These Bills have much more talent than the Dolphins did last year.

Once Holmgren is here, he can evaluate the staff, the players, and maybe with a little pruning and a few additions… we’re right where the Dolphins are this year.

Russ… please… if you are listening… this is almost mandatory.

The JPs must go. They are both a cancer to this team. I didn’t know that about the larger JP until this past off season. But the way he handled his dispute with the Bills (which was interesting, in that he had THREE more years on his contract…) was just ridiculous, unprofessional, and revealed much about his character. Then the way he has played this year, coupled with his various public comments, and then sitting out the last two games… the man HAS to go.

QB JP is a free agent, and will be gone. But LT JP still has two years on his current contract. And, maybe his undeserved second invite to the Pro Bowl will actually benefit the Buffalo Bills.

Here’s the plan. Trade our “young, talented, two-time Pro Bowl LT” to one of the top three teams in the 2009 draft (Detroit, Kansas City, or St. Louis) and select Michael Oher or Andre Smith with that pick. Both these guys are super highly rated tackles in what is being called a rich offensive lineman draft class. Michael Oher should be amazing. He could easily equal (and hopefully exceed) what Peters did this season. So trade Peters for their top pick… straight up. They get a “proven”, Pro Bowl left tackle, and we get to dump Peters.

The Bills will have the #10 pick in this year’s draft. That’s a pretty good pick. If they do trade Peters for a top three pick, that would be two of the top ten picks in the 2009 draft. Theoretically… that’s amazing. And what they really, really need is a top-notch defensive lineman. A real play maker. Like a Bruce Smith. Oh, how we miss Bruce Smith. There seem to be some pretty good choices in this draft class, too. Athletic guys who can make things happen on the field. That’s what we need.

Also, we need to build depth. We should draft a decent QB prospect, as we’ll be losing one this off-season. (I have already said, I’d like to see University at Buffalo QB, Drew Willy as a Bill.) We also need to think about depth on both lines. Our middle round picks should be used for both lines, offensive and defensive. With the #10 pick (and hopefully a top three pick) the Bills could have three picks in the top 50. Maybe trade up with some lower round picks and get another high second round pick if that fits our needs. A few quality guys from this draft might be just what we need to break out of mediocrity!

Free Agent Signings: Defensive Play Makers!
A lot of people have their sites set on Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans. He is definitely a force, and a good player. But he is not the type of guy the Bills generally go after. In the news too often for the wrong reasons. However, there are a couple other guys who may be worth the Bills shelling out big bucks for.

Terrell Suggs is my top choice. He is a defensive end/linebacker who makes lots of plays. He could be much like Cornelius Bennett was for the Bills in the 1990s. Bennett was just all around great. All over the field, making big plays when we needed them, covering, tackling, and especially, getting pressure on the QB. Imagine a Bills team with a healthy Aaron Schobel, Marcus Stroud, one of those top DEs from the draft, Terrell Suggs, and the current playmakers, Poz, Mitchell, and the secondary. That is much improved right there.

Another guy they may take a look at is Julius Peppers. Peppers has always been a force on defense, though he is getting older, and perhaps losing a step. But if they can not get Suggs, I would think Peppers has enough left in him, teamed with some guys already on the field here, to make a difference for Buffalo.

Give Dick Jauron an Ultimatum
It is quite obvious that the players like to play for Dick Jauron. That’s a good thing. Should rally them to play their best football. But so far… that has only equaled 7 wins. Three years in a row. That’s not good enough. Russ, if you’re listening, you really need to say to Dick… this is it. You either make the playoffs, or we are going to bring in someone else who can. The NFL is a very short season. While good plays, and players who are happy are all good things… winning is really the bottom line. When a team has not made the playoffs for a decade… that’s really inexcusable. (Reference again the 2007-2008 Miami Dolphins… worst in the league to AFC East champs in ONE season.)

So, early in the off-season, let Jauron know that he is in fact playing for his job this next season. Whatever that means… hiring new assistants, letting them have more game day decision control, bringing in better players… whatever. The ultimatum is: playoffs, or pink slip.

That’ll Do It!
And, Mr. Brandon, if you are listening, and if you heed most or all of this wise counsel… our Buffalo Bills should be once again, not only competitive, but perhaps even champions.

Please do whatever it takes to get President Wilson to authorize these moves, and you’ll be the smartest GM in town.

Coaching Staff Offseason Recommendations

My Christmas List

About this time of year all around the world, boys and girls of all ages begin making their Christmas lists. They think long and hard about what they want Jolly Ol’ St. Nick to bring them under the tree or in their stockings. Some things come easy, some take more thought, but usually the list is full by the end of the process!

This year, Bills fans were treated to a 5-1 start, best since 1991 (a year in which we were also treated to our second-straight Super Bowl appearance) and that super start has definitely made the recent stretch where they have posted a 2-6 record even more pronounced and harder to bear.

So what do Bills fans want for Christmas? What’s on their Christmas list?

First and foremost, you’d have to think that since the season is technically still salvageable, Bills fans want to see four straight wins. Another quarter of the season where they are 4-0. And a win streak going into the playoffs usually spells success in the post season, too. So, beating all three division opponents, plus Denver out at Mile High… that would be tops for this Bills fan, and dare I say most Bills fans.

But some are taking a different approach.

Dick Jauron is in his third season as Bills head coach, and it’s really just time to “put up or shut up,” as they say. Jauron has only had one winning season in his career. It was a very good season: 13-3. But up-close observers say it was also helped along quite a bit by fortunate bounces and other lucky breaks. Losing bad in their only playoff game that year, and then tanking the next season would suggest they were right.

So now he has two 7-9 seasons with the Bills, and has taken a 4-0 start and managed to go 6-6 by week 13. What do those numbers mean for Jauron and his staff? I’d say they point toward an imminent coaching change.

I have been a big supporter of Dick Jauron. I really like his demeanor, even though most do not. I like the way he has changed the attitude of this team from an arrogant, self-centered bunch of guys to a team-first, hard-working, high character group of guys who love to play together, and are more like a family. I think that is important. And every report I hear is that the players love that, too.

But the question has become, is that enough? And unfortunately, I think after the Cleveland game in which the coaching staff decided to run three straight plays up the middle to settle for a 47-yard field goal (which sailed eerily wide right…) I realized what many have been trumpeting since Jauron was brought to Orchard Park in the first place: the man is just not a winning head coach.

Where do we go from here then? Is it time to rebuild? Time to offer another unproven (or just plain losing) coach the reins once more? Is it time to start over again??? In many ways, I don’t think it is, but if I could make the ideal Christmas list, it might look something like this…

Ralph Wilson Sells the Team to Jim Kelly & Friends

We don’t yet know who the funding source for Jim Kelly’s bid to buy the Bills might be, but the rumors persist that such a group exists. In fact, on Sunday Night Football a few weeks ago, Peter King actually mentioned that fact as though a plan were already in motion to make it so. Until that time, most reports had Wilson not selling the team until after he dies, so that would be a slight change.

To me, this is the key. The Bills have been around for nearly fifty years now, and most all of their head coaches have been second-level coaches. Almost never has a “big name” coach been brought in to run this team. Why? Partly because of the “small market” deal, where Wilson insists we just don’t bring in enough money. I’m sure that is true. But it must also be from the owner himself. It’s been his philosophy. Spend as little as possible, and hunt for the hidden gems. At times it works, but for the most part… it has not.

But, if Wilson were to sell the team to Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Sabres’ Owner Tom Golisano, and whomever else Jim can rustle up, the Bills might begin to take on a different shape. Jim was not a conservative player. He was a “gun slinger”. He always trusted his arm to get him out of anything. He was hard-headed, tough-nosed, and a gutsy leader of this blue collar team in a blue collar town. I have to believe he would bring many of those qualities to his role as majority owner of the team.

That would be #1 on my Christmas list.

Mike Holmgren

Nothing against Bills’ Chief Operating Officer, Russ Brandon, but he’s not a football GM. He is a business and marketing guy. And actually, he’s done a very good job. Bills season ticket base is second-highest in team history. The team has successfully “regionalized” and are hoping to further that with the 5-year Toronto Initiative. (First regular season game is this Sunday.)

But he’s not a football guy.

Most know that Mike Holmgren, currently the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach (and Executive VP of Football Operations… General Manager) is planning to retire from coaching at the end of this season. Another thing the Bills are sorely lacking at the moment is a good man at the top.

When Marv Levy decided to call it quits, the Bills lost their vision caster. I’m not sure Marv was doing much more than just being Marv-elous around the players, coaches, and staff around One Bills Drive. He certainly had a hand in bringing in the talent that is currently on this team (and pulling out the weeds from previous administrations) but he was definitely not the full role of the typical NFL General Manager.

Perhaps Mike Holmgren, a well-respected, long-time student of the game, would be willing to “retire” to a similar role with the Buffalo Bills? There is already a nucleus of talent. With a knowledge of the game, and of the league, and a track record of winning (won Super Bowl with Green Bay, got there with Seattle) it would make sense that he could do it again in Buffalo.

Look at what Bill Parcells has done for Miami in just one season. Perhaps Mike Holmgren could do something similar here with the Bills.

That’s item number two for my Christmas list.

Marty Schottenheimer

You’ve heard us say it on the show. You’ve heard Bills fans for a few years now mention his name here and there. You’ve just heard his name right alongside perennial playoff contenders for decades in the NFL. Everywhere Marty has gone, he has won. (He still has the “Can’t Win the Big Ones” monkey on his back, but perhaps that could change eventually? Given the right circumstances?)

Schottenheimer is still available. He hasn’t been snatched up yet. The Bills greatest struggles in recent years has been their offense. It doesn’t make sense when you have players like Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, Roscoe Parrish, and even Trent Edwards who has shown so much promise, despite this year’s mid-season slump. Perhaps such an offensive-minded coach could be the impetus we need to move to the next level?

(Yes, I know, Schottenheimer played LB with the Bills when he was here in the 60s, but he is known for offensive teams. And he’s also known for winning.)

That would be Christmas list item #3.

In the end, I’m not sure I’ll really get any of the items on my Christmas list. The Bills have been very consistent in their mediocrity through the years, and most of it starts with the owner, and the way he wants to run his team. Bringing in guys like Holmgren and Schottenheimer are not his typical style. But, you’re never too old to change, are you? Ralph just turned ninety, and perhaps he’d like to turn over a new leaf for his team’s 50th anniversary in two years…

Or, maybe we’ll just keep plugging along with the status quo for Buffalo Bills fans. Some good moments, several bad… and year after football year that end with no meaning… no playoffs… and no real excitement for what lies ahead.

Well this Christmas, I’m hoping for the best. Either we win all four remaining games and make the playoffs, or Ralph calls it quits, and Jim Kelly (and his team), Mike Holmgren, and Marty Schottenheimer come in for the trifecta and take the team to Super Bowl 44 or 45, just in time for the Bills 50th anniversary season.

That would be a Christmas present Bills fans would not soon forget!

Merry Christmas, everyone! And to all, a BILLS WIN!

Coaching Staff Games Players Pre-Season

Could This Be Jauron’s Second Winning Season?

Dave sent around an email to his BBR cohorts this past weekend upon returning from his vacation, and catching the Bills game on “tape” delay. To my genuine surprise, it was super positive! He even said if Peters comes back that the Bills are a playoff team!

Could it have simply been due to a great vacation, making the world look a bit rosier? Or could the Bills really be such a good team that even The Drake can see the upside?

I’m going with the latter!

I was (along with every Bills fan I’ve heard or read) quite impressed with the first team offense and defense. We mixed up the play calls, even opening with several passes that stretched the defense and opened up the running game. We had long sustained drives (even a 90 yarder!) that included converting third downs, and scoring red-zone TDs. We even had TEs catching TDs!

And the defense certainly held their own against a talented Pittsburgh offense. Their first score was really against our second-string guys. The first teamers got an INT, and held them to a punt, and were pitching a shut out!

Do I need to mention Leodis McKelvin? This guy looked fantastic before he returned that kickoff 95 yards for his first (unofficial) NFL TD!

Right now, exclamation points abound for hopeful, excited Bills fans. Our team could really be good this year!

One major positive aside from the great play of the starters is the quality depth that the Bills have assembled. Think about guys like Keith Ellison and John DiGiorgio, George Wilson, Ashton Youboty, Will James and even Leodis McKelvin. Our D-line includes rotation guys like (right now) John McCargo, Spencer Johson and Ryan Denney. And on offense, Dwayne Wright and Xavier Omon are pretty decent third and fourth string RBs!

Dick Jauron, Head Coach Buffalo BillsThe biggest question for this team is perhaps its head coach. I personally think Dick Jauron has done a fantastic job turning around this team in turmoil. Now it is a team with great potential. Moving Schonert to Offensive Coordinator looks like it may be a huge help, as well. The issue is not his personnel moves, it’s his record. He has only had ONE winning season. Ever.

Let’s hope (based on the team on paper, and what we saw from the starting units last week) that this is the year he gets his second winning season!

Coaching Staff Current Bills Draft Free Agency


With the NFL draft less than a week away, I was contemplating what would make this draft “successful” for the Buffalo Bills. The past two have been pretty great, actually. Names like Donte Whitner, Ko Simpson, John McCargo, Kyle Williams, have all been contributers. Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch, and Paul Posluszny could be franchise players. (And all from one draft!) Even Keith Ellison, Ashton Youboty, Brad Butler, Dwayne Wright, John Wendling, and Derek Schouman have already seen some success at the NFL level.

The Bills certainly draft well.

But part of the success of the past two drafts has been the needs at all of the positions those guys filled. This team has not made the playoffs in nine years, and was in need of a major overhaul – which has pretty much been accomplished. This team does not look anything like the team Marv Levy took over – along with new head coach Dick Jauron – in 2006.

So what would deem this upcoming draft a success? Better yet, what would qualify the upcoming season as a “success”?

I believe that in the eyes of Bills fans, the draft is quite secondary to the accomplishment of returning to the playoffs. Anything short of this is neither a success, nor perhaps even acceptable.

Dick Jauron has assembled his team. He has assembled his coaching staff. (Which hopefully will be markedly improved with the departure of the much-maligned Steve Fairchild.) He had a “successful” 2007 campaign when measured against the incredibly bad fortune his team faced, losing 17 players to season-ending injuries.

They even have a “softer” schedule in 2008 (based on teams’ 2007 records).

This season, the Bills will be successful if they make the playoffs. Anything short of that, while it may be fun and exciting along the way – with a few minor successes – would seem to fall very short of “success”. And, it may cost Jauron his job.

A few very solid moves in the free agency period have put the Bills in a better position heading into the draft. Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson add thickness to the Bills’ interior defensive line. Kawika Mitchell brings his athleticism and experience to a young LB core, as well as the experience of winning the most recent Super Bowl.

All good moves to solidify the Bills defense.

Most speculate that the Bills biggest remaining holes – presumably to be filled in the draft – are a second wide receiver, a game-breaking tight end, and cornerback. Opinions vary, of course, but from what I have read, there are not really great options (on the surface) at any of those positions. Many expect the Bills – who possess 10 draft picks in the 2008 draft – to wheel and deal to land some veteran talent via trades on draft weekend.

Whatever the Bills end up doing, whoever they end up adding to their team on Draft Weekend, the 2008 draft – and the 2008 season – will only be a success if the Bills can finally return to post-season play.

In the eyes of this Bills fan, anything short of that will be a failure.

Coaching Staff Current Bills Offseason

Steve Fairchild Leaves, Bills Fans Dream

Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator, Steve FairchildIt’s almost too good to be true. This year, Steve Fairchild has been much maligned for the Buffalo Bills’ offensive production – whether deserved or not – and many fans were calling for his head. Well, they got their wish… in a manner of speaking.

Instead of relying on the ever-faithful, ever-loyal Dick Jauron to make the tough decision of firing the mostly ineffective Fairchild in the offseason and moving on to someone else, the Bills offensive coordinator was wooed by another team to take their head coaching spot. For Bills fans, it couldn’t get any better.

Now that Fairchild has been offered perhaps his dream job – head coach of his college alma mater, Colorado State University – where will the Bills look to fill the vacancy? The Bills are reporting that Fairchild will likely remain with the Bills through the end of the season, and Steve Fairchild has confirmed that himself with a statement released today. But even if he should need to leave before that, they won’t fill the vacancy until after the season is over.

Frustrated Bills fans lament owner (and President) Ralph Wilson’s apparent unwillingness to spend money on coaches, with Buffalo not usually bringing in a top name – and top dollar – head coach, or other coaching staff. The Bills track record would seem to suggest that the Bills will promote from within, or hire a coach with little to no name recognition, but there are some big names out there being tossed around by excited Bills fans.

First, Marty Schottenheimer, the former San Diego head coach and former Buffalo Bills linebacker. He has always been an offensive-minded coach and many have been calling for Levy or Wilson to replace Jauron with Schottenheimer. Personally, I don’t know that Marty would be a good fit as offensive coordinator due to the very reason most fans want to bring him in. His “name recognition” would seem to overshadow Jauron as the head coach. Doesn’t seem to be the best fit.

Another “big name” being bantered around is Steve Mariucci, currently with the NFL Network. Steve was head coach in Detroit, and before that (and more successfully) with San Francisco. Definitely an offensive-minded coach, and would be an interesting choice. However, Mariucci may be waiting for a head coaching opportunity.

Those wishing to promote from within the organization have suggested shuffling around some of the offensive coaches, like Turk Schonert (QB coach) and Alex Van Pelt (offensive quality control). Either have been named (by fans) as possible candidates for the Offensive Coordinator spot. Admittedly I do not know much about Turk Schonert, so I don’t know what his qualifications would be, but as a former QB, and a former Bill… I wouldn’t mind seeing AVP promoted to the OC spot.

Others have thrown out former Buffalo Bills greats like Jim Kelly and James Lofton to take the offensive reins. Lofton is currently the WR coach at San Diego, and has been considered for some head coaching jobs in the NFL recently, including the opening for the Bills prior to Dick Jauron taking over that spot. Jim Kelly was essentially the offensive coordinator during the Bills’ Super Bowl years (calling his own plays on the field), so that selection would make sense – except that Kelly has often said he does not want to coach.

Finally, as we said on the Buffalo Bills Review a few weeks ago, I would like to recommend Rich Gannon. Gannon is currently a color commentator for CBS and just did a fantastic job analyzing the Bills offense and specifically their QB (Losman) during the game in Jacksonville. Gannon played QB for a long time in the NFL and led several very productive offenses. He would be an interesting choice for a “lesser known” coordinator, yet someone from the outside.

What the Bills really need to decide is who can assume the position and move the team forward. Right now, the team is moving forward, and they don’t want to take a step or two back with whoever they hire. Will it be someone from within, to minimize the learning of a new system? Or, since the offense has had an almost record-breaking level of futility this season, would bringing in a new coordinator with a new system actually be the better move to continue moving this team forward?

Whatever the Bills decide, the focus right now needs to remain on the final three games of the season. Starting with the game in Cleveland this week. The Bills are in an excellent position to advance to the post season for the first time since 1999.

It would be a shame to ruin that by thinking about next season’s offensive coordinator.

Fairchild Expected To Stay Through End of Season (
Bills Assistant Fairchild to Return to CSU as Coach (ESPN)
Statement from Steve Fairchild (