When the Buffalo Bills began the Dick Jauron era, hopes were high, but cautious. Now, on the eve of the 2009 season, many of the same hopes have become flat and cynical. Pessimissts predict a 4-12 season and an overhaul of the coaching staff. Bills optimists believe a 9-7 season, with a possible playoff berth, is realistic this year. But behind that optimism lies not a naive hope, but a serene preparedness. The optimistic fan comes up with a contingency plan for failure this year, and then stops worrying about what-ifs. With our contingency plan in the back of our minds, we should be free to be confident and interested in the season ahead. Certainty begets confidence, and confidence eliminates dread. FDR once said, "The only thing we have to fear is FEAR itself." This means that we can be hopeful as a fan base if we simply have an idea in our minds of what should happen if this year's goals of this year are not met.
Once we have settled on preparation for the worst, we can come back to the present more confident, relaxed Bills fans. After all, we will either win satisfyingly this year, or we will have a solid plan otherwise. With this in mind, let's ask ourselves those pessimisstic questions creatively. This FanPost uses a continuous train-of-thought pattern to do the beginning of the work for you. After the jump, we'll examine our fears, and take a look at the contingency plan, should things indeed get ugly this year.
1. Firstly, everything is speculation before it happens. Preparation is in, and results are pending. As this FanPost goes to press, it is fully possible for Buffalo to go 16-0 or 0-16. It won't happen realistically, but this notion goes to show that each game could, on its own, be a win or a loss. Therefore, unpredictable results makes worrying needless. The appropriate mindset is to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and wait and see before we pull any levers.
Q: So what exactly worries us about these Bills?
2. The roster is not the perceived problem. It is worth noting that virtually none of the vitriol is directed at the roster as a whole. Sure, some positions bear deserved scrutiny, quarterback being one of them. But as a unit, our roster is not perceived as needing an overhaul.
Q: If the roster isn't the main perceived issue, what else could be?
3. Our coaching staff is the perceived problem.
After all, which one of the following statements makes you hesitate with possible agreement?
"If we don’t make the playoffs Jauron/Fewell goes."
"If we don't make the playoffs Edwards/Lynch/(insert player[s]) goes."
The only man whose decision on these statements really matters is in his nineties. It is true that Ralph Wilson is an owner living on borrowed time. Wilson has shown indications of an aversion to change from his age when he chose to retain Jauron for a fourth year after three straight 7-9 campaigns. Three years ago, after firing Tom Donahoe, Wilson chose to retain questionably bungling coach Mike Mularkey while Marv Levy took the GM job (although Mularkey resigned of his own accord). Hence one could make the argument that Wilson is more hesitant to fire coaches and begin rebuilding at age 91. However, consider there is another side to the coin that might counteract the decision to retain Jauron for year 5. Impatience. At age 91, Wilson is perhaps reluctant to start over from scratch, but he is also likely more desperate to try things which will bring the Bills winning ways in his lifetime. Clearly the firing of Schonert wasn’t something RW was averse to. Could Schonert’s hot seat mean Jauron’s seat is hotter than some of us once thought? I believe so.
Q: Is Jauron really the man who should take the fall for poor coaching?
4. It's hard to imagine a scenario retaining Jauron if Buffalo miss the playoffs. The stumbling block which will ultimate doom Dick Jauron should the Bills fail for a tenth season will be the same question that Ronald Reagan used to doom Jimmy Carter in 1980. "Were you better off than you were four years ago?" Bringing back Jauron after no playoffs would mean convincing ourselves all over again into believing that the next year would finally be it. There is no avoiding the reality, and this reality begs the question: Why? Why weren't we that 'year away' from contending last year? No team in the NFL is mired so deep in muck, no injured squad so plagued, and no coaching staff so excused, that three years gone by can't launch a team into contention. Yet the Buffalo Bills of the Dick Jauron era have earned a reputation of being scrappy, mediocre, and having built the best house with the clay they have molded with. Unfortunately, the clay house has a ceiling, and Jauron's staff still can't break through it. Hence, Jauron puts up this year, or he is shut up.
5. If Jauron goes, the Bills will need a proven head coach from outside the organization.
The last time we brought in an outside face into our organization was Jauron four years ago. Since then, every coaching or managerial change we've done (as well as the installation of the Inner Circle itself right before Jauron) has been from in house. As it stands, Bills Nation is cleaning their guns, waiting for Jauron to fall so the infighting over the next coach can begin. If the Bills miss the playoffs, and our coaching position becomes vacant, hungry dogs with many perspectives will jump in to vouch for the coach that can get us back to the playoffs. Bobby April, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, and others already have camps. There will be some peacemakers, but also much infighting in the ranks regarding Jauron's replacement.
As a Buffalo Bills fan, how do you rate the coaching over the last four years? The results say that we need more than a promising assistant or young riser. Sure, Bobby April's supporters have a real case. BA has shown the leadership, creativity, and motivational skills to produce some of the best special teams units the NFL has seen in recent memory.
Q: What exactly does April bring to the head coaching position?
6. The only answer to give without being biased is that April is a question mark; he may succeed and he may fail. More importantly, April is a question mark at a time when Buffalo desperately needs an exclamation point, or at least a period. We need something close to proof of success, and with Fewell unlikely to inherit serious consideration, there are none inside this organization. Deduce. This means hiring a winner outside; not because April won't end up being a good coach, but because we don't know if he will. Meanwhile, the S.S. Playoffs continues to sink.
Q: Isn't there nothing such as a certain bet for righting the ship? How should the Bills think?
7. We must first and foremost seek proof of winning. Nothing is for certain with coaches, but what indicator is better than past behavior? It is the unquestionable best indication of future behavior. When you want to win, you hire the coach with the most potential. But when you must win, you hire someone who has shown that they can win. That is a key difference which Ralph Wilson desperately should adhere to. Buffalo is mired a ten-year playoff drought, which is code for: the Bills must win ASAP. Therefore, as the Bills look to leadership, they need proof over possibility. They need a head coach who has earned his stripes in the NFL at least half-convincingly over someone who might be the right man for the job.
Q: Can a weaker team like Buffalo really hire a big name coach like Shanahan or Cowher? Should we even try?
8. Buffalo should not sell itself short for any candidate. It is possible that Buffalo might not end up able to attract a Cowher or a Shanahan. However, admitting defeat by not even trying to get them puts Buffalo in a worse position than ever, because admitting such is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would show a belief that we didn't deserve the best coaches that the NFL has to offer. So should we fail to lure a coach of that caliber, it's too bad. It will be time to shrug it off, and take a look at other proven guys on the market looking for work. We deserve a good coach, and we can find one.
Now that we've taken some time to look in the dark places of our little Bills hearts, to examine our fears and whines, and to face them head on, our mindset towards the 2009 season can be one of relaxed optimism, and excitement. We can see the upside of down, and respond cheerfully to any questions of failure. As fans this sets us free to cheer twice as loud, and frown half as strongly. Go Bills! It's jolly well time we beat New England! May this train of thought never have to be actually considered! -Dyl