I've got to say this right at the top: I fully embraced the likelihood that I'd be writing about the inevitability of Dick Jauron being fired as head coach of the Buffalo Bills at some point this season. After perhaps the second-worst loss of Jauron's 52-games-and-counting tenure as Bills head coach (nothing will ever top their 56-10 home loss to New England in '07), that likelihood has essentially become reality. Buffalo's 38-10 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins was that bad.
But I'd be lying if I said I thought I'd be writing this post after Week 4. I didn't want to address this hot-button issue until I felt that Jauron's firing was more eventuality than possibility. We, and the Bills, are now at that point.
Jauron's proverbial seat is hotter than any other NFL coach's right now. That's putting it lightly. Barring a miraculous turn of events that vaulted the Bills into the playoffs, Jauron is squarely in lame duck territory. We don't need to cover the why, because it's really fairly obvious.
Angst in the fan base is high - again, to put it lightly. The thirst for change in this organization is borderline unquenchable. But the reality of the current situation in Buffalo is this: despite the fact that a large portion of the fan base would rejoice to hear of what we'll refer to for the rest of the season as "the firing," it doesn't necessarily make sense to make such a move at this juncture.
Vision is essential to change
More often than not, change made for the sake of change - in football, at least - is done for short-term gain. If Jauron were handed his walking papers this morning, the Bills, as a team, would be the immediate beneficiaries of a few things - an immediate attitude change, an immediate energy boost (either good energy or bad energy), and certainly a spike in fan excitement level.
But let's face the facts, folks - in just four games this season, the Bills have displayed many of the same tendencies that put them well beyond a magical fix from attitude, energy and fan interest adjustments. They're woefully inexperienced in key areas; they're dealing with high quantities of injuries, most of them high in severity; and their on-field play is precisely the same as it has been in each of the past three 7-9 seasons under Jauron's watch.
No interim coach - whether realistic to imagine taking the reins or not - is going to solve Trent Edwards' quarterbacking woes, nor the offensive line's ridiculous inconsistency. They can't change systems or coaching personnel mid-season, either. It's on the players to prevent the season from reaching "beyond salvage" status; a change at head coach might have desirable short-term effects, but in the long term, what does it really accomplish? Change for the sake of change is a bad idea. Change with a vision for improvement? That's something to get behind.
Forget about the big names... for now
Bill Cowher. Mike Shanahan. Mike Holmgren. Jon Gruden. Tony Dungy. You've heard all of these names a million times over. Firing Jauron yesterday doesn't bring Buffalo any closer to hiring any one of these men as our next head coach.
Bringing in an outside hire mid-season rarely happens - and hasn't in quite some time - for several reasons. First and foremost, the Bills are moving towards being six months into offensive and defensive schemes and terminology that the new head coach would have little to no grasp of. The new hire would be inheriting coaches that, in most cases, they have little working knowledge of, no relationships with, and therefore no trust in. They'd inherit players that they'd only have half-formed opinions on - oh, and Terrell Owens. Their role for much of the remainder of the season would be to try to keep the sinking ship from sinking too quickly - or, more simply, to try to manage the unmanageable. Yes, there are upsides - player and coach evaluation chief among them - but you're still in a situation where you're literally playing games on a try-out basis, rather than trying to get players better (which, last I checked, is what coaching is all about when in a transitional phase). That's not progress, and available veteran coaches know it - otherwise, they'd be taking more offers, wouldn't they? There is zero appeal for a veteran head coach in entering a situation where you're unlikely to win games and unlikely to make better football players.
And that's all without mentioning the Rooney Rule.
Could the Bills conceivably make a run at one of these coaches? Well, laying aside your skepticism, yes, they could. But it's not going to happen in the middle of a season, nor should it (and it might not even be possible). There is a time and a place to court a coach like the five men mentioned above, and that time certainly is not now - not for this team, not for any team, and certainly not for those coaches.
So if Jauron were to be fired today, you'd be looking at an in-house promotion, with the only two legitimate options being Bobby April (Asst. Head Coach/Special Teams) and possibly defensive line coach Bob Sanders, who has coordinator experience. April would be the obvious choice - and he'd achieve those aforementioned short-term effects. But long-term, Bobby April is not the answer, folks, and he wouldn't be even if he guided the Bills to an unexpectedly strong finish.
If you're going to do something, do it the right way
Ultimately, no matter which way you look at it, the Buffalo Bills are in need of a face lift, and that face lift needs to start above the head coach. The front office needs some work, and while that's a topic for a different day, it holds some relevance in this discussion.
Change for the sake of change isn't the greatest idea, though that certainly doesn't preclude it from happening on the Bobby April front. When the change is made, it needs to come with the understanding that the franchise is heading in an entirely new direction from a football standpoint. This thing needs to be fixed carefully, in the correct fashion, and for the long haul. If firing Jauron and naming an in-house interim replacement is the first step in that process, then it'll happen, but the fact that it is the first step needs to be hammered home.
Patience, Bills fans. You're probably going to see a lot more crappy football this season no matter what happens. With a little more patience, we might see this thing fixed up the way it should have been fixed up all along - from the top down. If you're looking for short-term gratification, by all means, continue calling for Jauron's head - you're likely to get your wish at some point. Just understand that the "big fix" won't come immediately. Short-term satisfaction is just that: short term. If you're in the market for a big-name coach - or even a young, up-and-coming, energetic assistant on some other team's staff (which is where I'd lean, by the way) - you need to play the waiting game. That's very likely what Ralph Wilson is going to do - but either way, the change is coming, folks, whether it's through wins or the firing.