Jauron's Bills pushing for post-season (Photo Source)
Any fan of the Buffalo Bills is uncomfortably aware of the shuffling that has gone on at quarterback since the retirement of the face of the franchise, Jim Kelly. No quarterback has gotten more than three years on the job since Kelly's retirement, and the lack of a consistent presence at the position is a big reason that the Bills haven't made the playoffs for close to a decade.
Not as many Bills fans are as quick to point out, however, that the Bills have the same problem at head coach. Marv Levy - yet another "best of" when it comes to the Bills franchise - retired in 1997, and since then, the Bills have cycled through head coaches nearly as quickly as quarterbacks. Wade Phillips coached for three seasons, from '98 to 2000; Gregg Williams got three more from 2001-2003; Mike Mularkey quit after two seasons, '04 and '05; and Dick Jauron has guided the franchise for the past two years, entering his third as the team's newest head coach.
Finding stability at the head coach position has been a problem equal to - if not greater - than the problem at quarterback. With Jauron on board, however, the team's front office and coaching staff seem to have found stability for the first time in recent memory. Jauron's teams have produced back-to-back 7-9 records, which when boiled right down to the elemental level, exceeded most fans' expectations considering the woeful lack of talent on those two teams. Now the team is better. Is Jauron on the hot seat if the 2008 Bills don't make significant improvement? Probably not. Here's why.
Heat from fan base unwarranted?
We all know what Jauron is and what he isn't. He's a calm, intelligent leader that gets the most out of his players because he's a great teacher. He's not had a lot of success at the NFL level, which can be attributed to many things - not just his coaching style. He's taken risks when it comes to his coaching staff (most recently his hiring of Turk Schonert as offensive coordinator), and a good number of them have not paid off.
Jauron seems to take a lot of flack from Buffalo's fan base simply because he's boring. Jauron is not entertaining. He's low-key, doesn't get animated, and isn't very thrilling to watch prowl a sideline. Bills fans are a different breed of fan - this fan base is far more "balls to the wall", for lack of a better descriptive term, than most NFL fan bases. Jauron's style doesn't mesh with the generally preferred style of the Bills fan base. It's led to a large amount of unpopularity for the Bills' head coach.
The most important thing that Jauron has done in his nearly three years on the job - amidst all of the (mostly warranted) controversy he's made on the field, including juggling quarterbacks in '07 and poor late-game strategy on a few occasions - is give the franchise direction. He, along with the front office he fits in with so snugly (more on that momentarily), have built this team the right way - with youth and vast amounts of potential. If things go well, the Bills should begin to reap the benefits of that strategy in Jauron's third season as coach.
The real reason Jauron isn't going anywhere
What most fans don't take into account when forming their internal opinion on whether Jauron is on the hot seat in 2008 is this: Jauron is a very intricate part of Buffalo's newly re-shuffled front office. The new regime took over this past January, and while they've faced some hardships (J.P. Losman and Jason Peters the chief instigators), they haven't made a poor decision to date. Russ Brandon, John Guy and Tom Modrak are the big names, but Jauron is the fourth (or fifth, if you count Ralph Wilson) piece of that puzzle. He's as much responsible for the direction of this franchise as Marv Levy or the current front office triumvirate. That's where Jauron has made his mark.
That's the reason Jauron isn't going anywhere any time soon, folks. He's part of a much bigger picture than what you're seeing on the field. He's part of the direction of the franchise - and that direction is still a positive one. There is undoubtedly pressure on Jauron this season to improve record-wise and push for the playoffs - the same pressure resides on the front office, the players, and everyone else right down to the drink vendors on game day. But don't make the mistake of believing that a disappointing season will spell the end of Jauron's tenure in Buffalo. Overall, he has been a positive and stabilizing force on this franchise.
This front office is too smart to fall back into poor habits - i.e., shuffling head coaches - simply because of one disappointing season. The fan base may not like it, but it's the case. Jauron's tenure in Buffalo will last past 2008, regardless of this year's outcome - and that's a good thing for this franchise.