Jauron's fate remains in limbo (buffalobills.com)
The day after an NFL regular season reaches its conclusion is fondly referred to as "Black Monday" by the fan bases of mediocre NFL teams. Black Monday is the day in which changes are made. Coaches are fired, front offices are restructured, and hope is generally restored to some degree when said changes are made.
Today, it appears that the Buffalo Bills are standing pat.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron, 21-27 in his three seasons with the team, has found himself squarely on the hot seat after finishing the 2008 season on a 2-8 run. His job is in serious jeopardy despite the fact that he signed a three-year contract extension this past October. The decision to retain or fire Jauron has now escalated to a point beyond wins and losses, player reactions and in-game decisions - all of which can (theoretically) be debated. The decision on Jauron's future is now, in majority, an image issue - and that's a terrible spot for the Bills to be in.
On publicly backing Jauron
Many of you who are gracious enough to make this blog a daily stop of yours are aware of the fact that I have been rather outspoken in my defense of Jauron. Many of you have questioned my sanity. I am a firm believer that making any decision must be based on more than one factor. I'll defer to MARVelous, who explained far more eloquently than I ever could have why I'm a fan of Dick Jauron's:
I think the world of Dick Jauron. He is a class act. He never threw anyone under the bus... I truly believe he has a great work ethic and gets his players to work.
I'm in complete agreement. Dick Jauron is, in fact, a class act. It's repeated often, but it's not fully appreciated given the current climate the team finds itself in. Jauron is respected in this business because of his person, not his accomplishments (or lack thereof). He's had to deal with some rough situations as a head coach - Jerry Angelo in Chicago, good old Ralph Wilson here in Buffalo, and incredibly inconsistent quarterback play - and I remain irrevocably convinced that Jauron can be a successful head coach in this league. I have serious doubts, however, that Jauron can achieve that success in Buffalo - and between Jauron and the Buffalo Bills, my loyalties lie with the franchise.
Sending the right message
As I alluded to at the top, the decision on Jauron's future now transcends what he means to the organization. Black Monday is, by and large, a day for fan bases. Decisions are made quickly, and they generally serve the dual purpose of improving an organization and restoring fan morale.
Rarely have I seen the Bills' fan base so down on the team. At this point in time, to say that Bills fans are pining for change is putting it mildly. "Screaming until throats are bleeding" is probably a more accurate way to describe it. And, to continue to put things mildly, if Wilson doesn't fire Jauron, Bills fans will be distraught.
This is the off-season. This is the time of year when hope springs eternal for fans of even the most desolate of sports franchises. If the Bills don't fire Jauron, regardless of any other change made, the message from Wilson to the fans will be loud and clear: "We believe in this man; you don't. Luckily, we're smarter than you."
Clearly, that's not the right message to send at this point. There's only one message to send at this point: "We hear you, folks. Change is coming."
Jauron should go
My stance with Jauron has, all along, been along the lines of "don't make a change for the sake of change". I'm here today to admit that that particular stance was wrong. I still don't trust Buffalo's brain trust to get it right if, in fact, another change is made. I still love Dick Jauron - I'm obviously not thrilled with his on-field exploits, but still believe he's a good coach.
But in terms of fielding a winner, keeping Jauron likely isn't the best plan of attack - and not because of his misgivings, which again, we've covered ad nauseam. It's about moving forward. It's about, at the very least, looking like the Buffalo Bills' brain trust is trying to field a winner. Without that, we can't build a team. It's that simple.
So set aside all of the oft-repeated rationale for firing Jauron. This is now an image problem that the Buffalo Bills face. You can't fire the owner, and Wilson seems inexplicably married to his "council of elders" front office approach. So be it. I don't like it a bit, but so be it. Something has to change if this team is ever going to get better. So do I think Jauron should go? By default, yes - and I hate saying it. Image and fan consternation should never be a factor for making a decision for your football team's future, but Wilson and his "inner circle" have let this issue fester to the point that image is now the biggest factor in this most important of decisions. It's a sad situation, and whether it's fortunate or unfortunate in your mind, Dick Jauron should be the first casualty.