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!

Bills History Current Bills Recommendations

Good Buffalo Bills Reads

Hey folks. Quick post here just to recommend some Bills-related reading. Most of these books (pictured above in a cool little widget from Amazon!) have been in my recent reading queue… I’m hoping to read Kevin Everett’s book soon, too.

Great stories from Bills history, good reads, and a fun way to help the off-season pass a bit more quickly!

Click on the book covers above to check out the books at Amazon. For your convenience, here’s a nice bulleted list, too.

  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Buffalo Bills: Heart-Pounding, Jaw-Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Buffalo Bills History – Scott Pitoniak
  • Stadium Stories: Buffalo Bills (Stadium Stories Series) – Sal Maiorana
  • Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Buffalo Bills Football (Game of My Life) – Sal Maiorana
  • Marv Levy: Where Else Would You Rather Be? – Marv Levy
  • Steve Tasker’s Tales from the Buffalo Bills – Steve Tasker & Scott Pitoniak
  • Standing Tall: The Kevin Everett Story – Sam Carchidi

Happy reading!

(Any recommendations? Leave ’em in the comments!)