Note: with the Bills/Cowboys Monday Night extravaganza approaching, our Cowboys previews will begin this afternoon. For now, we wrap up our Quarter One report cards.
This has been one of the most insane, devastating and controversial beginnings to a football season that I have ever witnessed - and, just our luck, it's happened to the Bills. A rash of injuries (including soon to be 8 players on IR), an extremely difficult schedule and a young team have left the Bills at 1-3 after four weeks. Oh, yes - and now we might (emphasis on the word "might") have a quarterback controversy on our hands. Yet through it all, the Bills as a team have stuck together - a tribute to the coaching staff. But just how good have the Bills' coaches been? We'll give out grades to the Big Four coaches:
Head Coach Dick Jauron: B
With the youngest team in football getting younger and more unfamiliar with his schemata as injuries continue to pile up, you have to admire Jauron's ability to keep the team together - even when the team has only been a "team" for a few days. Yet there will always be aspects to Jauron's coaching style that will aggravate fans - his conservative style, his reserved sideline demeanor and his controversial decision-making. But I love his conservative style. I love that he is constantly cool, calm and collected. What I don't love is his decision-making - including his poor record on challenges and his favoritism for kicking the field goal. But Jauron brings a certain level of comfort and wisdom to the sideline, which is something a team (and a coaching staff to boot) needs at this critical juncture of development.
Off. Coord. Steve Fairchild: D
Coach Fairchild has been the brunt of a ton of criticism this past month - and he's deserved all of it. His offense, despite a good showing last week against the putrid Jets defense, has still only produced 34 points this year - by far the worst output in the league for teams that have played four games. His play-calling may finally be coming around a bit, but you know what? I'll be hesitant to give him much more respect until he starts getting a certain Mr. Lynch more involved in the passing attack. Use your personnel, Coach.
Def. Coord. Perry Fewell: C
Despite losing a total of six different starters defensively this season (including starters who were fill-ins for other starters at one point), the Bills defense has given up just 93 points - about 23 per game. Given the types of offenses we've faced - from run-oriented teams like Denver and Pittsburgh to high-powered, efficient passing offenses like the Patriots and Jets - it's pretty miraculous that that 23 points per game is that low. That's not an excuse, mind you - there are gaping holes in this defense, and there's a reason the unit is ranked next-to-last in the league in total yardage allowed. But this defense isn't ever going to dominate when the players are this inexperienced - but they can keep the Bills in games. That's a credit to Fewell, whose scheme works well. Once the talent gets better, we'll begin to see just how effective the Tampa-2 can be in Buffalo.
ST Coord. Bobby April: A
This man may just be my favorite coach in the entire NFL. He's blessed with the intelligence of a Dick Jauron, but has the fire of Bill Cowher in his belly. He's energetic, he's creative, and to top it all off, he has had the most consistently excellent special teams unit in the league over the last few years. The fact that he's gotten consistency out of his unit this year, when his lineups have been different literally every week, shows just how flexible he is as a coach. I'm telling you now, this man could be a head coach in the NFL - and if there ever comes a point where the Bills have an opening (please, football gods, don't let that happen), April should be a top candidate.