After 21 regular season games, 8 wins and a heap of disappointment, Bills head coach Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild are beginning to understand what it's like to be the leaders of an underachieving football club in Buffalo. Now, on top of that lack of success, the pair is dealing with a quarterback controversy that could have potentially devastating effects on an already young, not-yet-mature locker room. Despite not having two full years on the job here in Buffalo, is it possible that the pair could find themselves jobless at the end of the season? In Buffalo, such drastic moves are not unprecedented.
Ever since the retirement of Bills legend Jim Kelly at the conclusion of the 1996 season, the Bills have been searching for his replacement. The list of candidates continues to grow to this day: Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Billy Joe Hobert, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, and now Trent Edwards have all had their shots, at varying levels of fairness, to be "the guy" in Buffalo.
Simply put, Buffalo specializes in quarterback controversies. It is not a coincidence that Buffalo's shuffling at quarterback is at the crux of the franchise's instability over the past decade - and it's no secret that the Bills have missed the playoffs all these years (their last appearance was in January of 2000) due to the revolving door at this all-important position.
The Losman/Edwards controversy that surrounds the Bills right now may have the biggest impact on Jauron and Fairchild's job security at the end of the season. Unless the winner of that controversy steps up and leads the Bills to an above-average second half performance, it's not a stretch to say that Jauron and Fairchild may be out of jobs in Buffalo. We, as Bills fans, have seen it too often - when quarterback eras end, so do coaching eras.
That Lovely Coaching Carousel
After the Kelly retirement (one year after, to be exact), then-coach and current-GM Marv Levy retired. Levy endured one season of Collins, Hobert annd Van Pelt tossing and called it quits. With the Johnson/Flutie era came Wade Phillips, two playoff berths and the most successful teams this franchise has seen since the Super Bowl years. Yet the controversy tore apart the locker room, and ultimately played a part in Phillips leaving the Bills.
Following Phillips was Gregg Williams, who continued the Johnson experiment for a year, acquired Drew Bledsoe and still lost his job after a regression from 8-8 to 5-11 under the veteran signal-caller. Bledsoe's third and final year in Buffalo was headed up by Mike Mularkey, whose decision to release Bledsoe and hand the reins to a far-too-green Losman ultimately caused a front office shuffle and cost Mularkey his job after just two seasons.
Basic rule: no Bills quarterback has lasted more than three seasons, and no head coach has either. Heading toward the end of his second season in Buffalo, it's not out of the question that Jauron, if he continues to field a struggling team this season, will be axed for a better offense and a more decisive field general.
Impatient Fan Base
Perhaps the most underrated cause of all the turmoil surrounding the franchise has been a relentless, controversy-driven sports media and an incredibly impatient fan base. It is within the rights of every Bills fan to voice their displeasure about players and coaches, but the vast amounts of negative attention surrounding the team is something that the media constantly picks up on. Media exists to sell itself; therefore, articles are written centered around what fans are already talking about. Hence the controversy, hence the media badgering that inevitably begins every year or two in Buffalo, and hence the mounting pressure on the current Bills regime.
I'm not saying it's fair for Fairchild and especially Jauron - in fact, it's not close to fair. It generally takes at least three years for a new GM and coach to import the players they want, install the schemes they want and get the team stable enough to start winning. Simply put, if Jauron makes the wrong decision on the Losman/Edwards front - however that shakes itself out - he may not get his chance at that third year. Even when the truth of it is that no matter who starts, they'll need that third year to develop whoever emerges as the starter. That is especially true for Fairchild and QB coach Turk Schonert. This team is still being molded and given an identity; yet the harsh reality is that Jauron could lose his job before he has a chance to give the team its identity. Because if the wrong decision is made - regardless of current opinions - and the team continues to lose football games, the pressure will reach a boiling point.
That is the sad reality of being a Bills fan. We complain about the turmoil, controversy and instability surrounding this franchise at an alarming rate - and it's picked up in recent weeks, to be sure - yet we never pause to think that we may actually be the problem.
So make me a promise, Bills fans. Tomorrow, we'll find out exactly where the future of this franchise lies, and what the plan of the current regime is. Regardless of how your opinions have formed over the last month or so, once the decision is made, roll with it. Understand that no matter who comes out as the starter, it's going to take far more than 11, or even 27, games to really figure out just how good this team is going to be. Sometimes, change is bad - and we've had enough of it over the past decade. So if, at year's end, you feel Jauron's decision was the wrong one, be patient. We don't need pressure in Buffalo anymore, folks. We need patience.