2009 will be make or break for Jauron (Associated Press)
In a move that should not surprise the vast majority of the Buffalo Bills' fan base, team owner Ralph Wilson and his "inner circle" of trusted confidants have decided to retain embattled head coach Dick Jauron for the 2009 NFL season.
The move to retain Jauron shouldn't surprise many, but that doesn't mean that Wilson's announcement is devoid of potentially shocking news. Jauron will retain a degree of say over personnel decisions and, more importantly, his coaching staff will likely remain completely intact as well - barring any of his assistants getting jobs elsewhere.
"I believe that this team, at this time, is better served by continuity in the coaching staff rather than a disruptive overhaul," Wilson claimed in Tuesday afternoon's press release. Jauron's coaching staff has been nearly as embattled as the head coach himself, yet it appears likely that offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and their respective staffs will be in Buffalo in 2009 as well. If retaining Jauron doesn't send a few Bills fans over the edge, that fact might. Even though Wilson made it clear that he shares fans' "
If this decision by Wilson and his confidants is anything, it's certainly bold. Casting public image aside and sacrificing PR points in making this decision, Buffalo's entire football operations group and coaching staff will now be squarely on the hot seat. Wilson did confirm that Jauron has a new three-year deal, but didn't confirm that it lasts through 2011; Schonert, Fewell and the majority of Buffalo's coaching staff are under contract through the end of next season. 2009 is now a "playoffs or bust" year in Buffalo - and if that goal isn't achieved, wholesale change is expected.
It's now on the players
Back on December 7, Wilson essentially gave his coaching staff an endorsement when he said "We haven't got the talent". That was a direct slight from Wilson to the young players on this team; however, he's changed his tone. Wilson said this today about his players:
"I believe in the last few years we have gotten close personnel wise and look forward to another strong draft, more assertive veteran leadership and continued improvement from our young quarterback."
Another strong draft implies that Wilson has liked previous drafts, all while claiming that his roster lacks talent. That logic doesn't exactly fly, but Wilson is right about two points: Buffalo needs more veteran leadership, and this team goes as Trent Edwards goes. There's no easier way to say it: if the Bills have a prayer of putting butts in the seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium next season, they're going to need to make some waves with player acquisitions this off-season. Expect the Bills to be aggressive in attempting to fix the issues on the roster.
Bills players have repeatedly made it clear that they fully supported Jauron returning as the head coach. It's time for them to prove why they're confident in his abilities. Whether it's guys currently on the roster or guys that are brought in in the coming months, there's more pressure than ever on Buffalo's players to produce for "their" head coach. And that's an important fact to note: Dick Jauron is very much his players' head coach. The fan base has no loyalty for the man. It's all on the players.
Say good-bye to consensus
We have heard whispers as recently as Tuesday morning that things were chaotic in Buffalo's front office during this two-day decision making process. "Lines were drawn" in Wilson's "inner circle", with some of Wilson's confidants campaigning to keep Jauron and others arguing for his dismissal. I, myself, have heard rumors of discord between decision-makers as far back as this past April.
The issues with Wilson's preferred consensus-building, "inner circle" approach to his front office structure became brutally apparent Tuesday evening. This was by far the most important decision the Bills as an organization have made since this structure was implemented, and right now, they're batting 1.000 in terms of having internal strife on key decisions.
Whether you agree with retaining Jauron or not, one thing is certain: consensus is gone. The "inner circle" rules all, and those who oppose it are tagging along, their frustrations festering. The coaching situation, even with a vote of confidence from Wilson, will remain a source of strife unless the Bills reach the playoffs in 2009. The Bills' decision-making structure is chaotic, folks, and it's going to disintegrate the more the group is put through key situations like this.
The absolute bottom line
Dick Jauron will coach the Buffalo Bills in 2009. Chances are high that his coaching staff will be retained. The front office obviously isn't changing, either. That's where the lack of change is likely to end. Expect big moves in personnel. Don't be surprised if you see some substantial schematic changes, too. The Bills still need to sell their product. Waves must be made, one way or another. To anticipate otherwise isn't unexpected, but it would represent the biggest failure of this front office yet.
Wilson needs to realize that this is an endorsement, and nothing more. Nothing is fixed with an endorsement. With his front office boiling, his fans irate and changes to be made - or else - Wilson has metaphorically fired nuclear bombs into the space-time continuum, with the nukes scheduled to land a calendar year from now. Only a playoff berth can safely blow the nukes out of the sky. If it doesn't happen, the fallout is going to be absolutely massive.