Afraid that the Bills' promotion of Turk Schonert to offensive coordinator won't change much in what was an anemic offensive philosophy in 2007? Think again. Schonert has yet to "walk the walk", as they say, but he and head coach Dick Jauron are certainly talking the talk after Wednesday's announcement.
While Schonert has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, he has some play-calling experience from his days in New Orleans as quarterback coach - and he certainly has plenty of great ideas on how to fix Buffalo's offense. Schonert has already decided that his first priority in the off-season will be to revamp the passing attack behind starting quarterback Trent Edwards. That could mean a serious upgrade in personnel, along with finding ways to get Marshawn Lynch involved as a receiver (the running back caught just 18 passes in his rookie season). He's also made a wise decision to smooth the transition from coordinator to coordinator by keeping much of the offensive terminology the same, preserving the early-career sanity of his young centerpieces, Edwards and Lynch. In fact, with running backs coach Eric Studesville getting the role of Running Game Coordinator, no aspect of the rushing attack is expected to change. Except, of course, the one area where change was welcome - Schonert plans to bring back the blocking fullback.
What may be the wisest decision that Jauron and Schonert have made to this point, however, is the fact that they haven't laid out an offensive attack yet. It's not a lack of preparation on their part - this is by design. During yesterday's news conference, Jauron was asked what would change offensively, and what the new offense was going to look like. His response was music to Bills fans' ears:
Under Steve Fairchild, the Bills often attempted to fit their players into his offensive attack. Despite the outside rushing prowess of Lynch and backup Fred Jackson, the Bills consistently ran up the middle. Edwards rarely left the pocket as a passer, despite his being fairly accurate and tough to sack on the move. There was no creativity to the attack, and as a result, what talent the Bills do have offensively was put to waste. But that's about to change.
The idea of fitting an offense around your talent isn't exactly novel, but it's something that a Bills offensive coordinator hasn't done in many years. A good example of this would be the demise of QB J.P. Losman - an athletic playmaker with a cannon arm and a flair for big plays on the move, Fairchild kept Losman in the pocket, forcing him to play out of his element. The result was Losman losing his starting job to Edwards, even after a promising 2006 season. If Schonert can back up his talk, we're not going to see Losman-like flops offensively in this organization anymore.
The bottom line is this: Jauron, Schonert and the rest of the offensive staff, as far as we can tell now, have the right plan going into this off-season. Build around what talent you eventually have. That's smart football. Where the pressure lies for Schonert, however, is delivering on the promises he's made to the fan base. His promises have created excitement - because it's easy to see that the Bills have the pieces to put together, at a very minimum, a competent, middle-of-the-pack offense. The goal is obviously higher - Schonert's made that clear - but now he's put the pressure squarely on his shoulders to come through. I like that about him. He's been aggressive right out of the gate. That change alone is a great start for Buffalo's new offensive guru.