2009 - Another Overhaul
6-10 record, 4 of 4 in AFC East, 13 of 16 in AFC, 23 of 32 in NFL
Despite three straight 7-9 seasons, Bills head coach Dick Jauron was retained largely due to the contract extension he signed midway through the 2008 season, when the Bills were playing well. During free agency, the Bills added Geoff Hangartner to start at center and Ryan Fitzpatrick to back up incumbent quarterback Trent Edwards, replacing the departed J.P. Losman. Drayton Florence was also added to the squad to replace the departed Jabari Greer.
The Bills' biggest off-season acquisition, perhaps in the history of the franchise, was the signing of WR Terrell Owens. In the days leading up to the 2009 NFL Draft, Buffalo traded unhappy Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for 2009 first- and fourth-round draft picks, as well as a sixth-round pick in 2010. In the draft the Bills selected DE Aaron Maybin eleventh overall and OG/C Eric Wood with the pick acquired for Peters. In the second round the Bills selected DB Jairus Byrd and traded back into the round to obtain OG Andy Levitre. In later rounds, the Bills selected TE Shawn Nelson, LB/S Nic Harris, and DBs Cary Harris and Ellis Lankster.
The Bills began their rocky season with a preseason to match. Thanks to Bruce Smith and team owner Ralph Wilson, Jr.'s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the celebration of the 50th year anniversary of the AFL, the Bills were given an preseason tilt when they participated in the Hall of Fame game. After a disappointing preseason where the newly unveiled no-huddle offense was very limited in their ability to score points, head coach Dick Jauron fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, promoting QB coach and former Bills starting quarterback Alex Van Pelt. Largely from the buzz of the Terrell Owens signing and the AFL anniversary, the Bills secured an opening weekend prime time game on Monday Night Football against the Patriots. The Bills didn't trail in the game until a late kick return fumble by Leodis McKelvin led to a Tom Brady to Ben Watson touchdown pass, capping the Patriots furious comeback on a 25-24 Bills loss.
After beating up an inept Tampa Bay team in week 2 the Bills hosted the hot New Orleans Saints. The Bills defense stood strong for most of the game but the offense's inability to convert third downs and stay on the field led to a huge shift in time of possession. After entering ther fourth quarter down by only a field goal, the defense gave up 17 fourth quarter points in the loss. Despite playing two of the league's better teams close and beating an inferior opponent, many Bills fans viewed the week 4 game as a real litmus test. Chad Henne made his first career start for the Dolphins and the vaunted rushing attack of Miami ran all over the Bills defense to the tune of 250 yards in a blowout road loss for Buffalo. The Bills returned home at 1-3 with the offensively stagnant Browns coming to town in a winnable game. The Bills offense failed to show up that day and a late botched Roscoe Parrish punt return turned out to be the difference in a less-than-thrilling 6-3 home loss.
In the midst of the three-game losing streak, a fan group erected a sign in Buffalo imploring Ralph Wilson to fire Jauron and other front office personnel. The Bills traveled to the Meadowlands in week 5 to face the Jets and their rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Behind a rapidly deteriorating and injury-depleted line, Trent Edwards was knocked from the game with a concussion. Despite rushing for 318 yards Sanchez threw five interceptions, two to rookie Jairus Byrd including one in overtime, and New York committed 14 penalties for 96 yards. They also botched a long field goal attempt late in the game and with the Jet mistakes, the Bills eeked out a win, 16-13 in overtime. SIx picks was the most in a game in Bills' history.
The next week saw Fitzpatrick make his first start for Buffalo in Carolina. Jairus Byrd had two more interceptions and Fitzpatrick was efficient in another Bills win on the back of the pass defense. The following week the Bills were once again close in the fourth quarter but couldn't stop backup running back Ryan Moats in a loss to the Texans before the bye. It was at the bye that calls for Dick Jauron's job grew incredibly loud but no change was made. Trent Edwards returned to the starting lineup following the bye week and the Bills traveled to Tennessee to face the Titans. The score was tied heading into the fourth quarter but ten points by the Titans followed by an interception return for a TD got starter Edwards benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick (who would throw a pick-six himself).
After falling to 3-6 Bills head coach Dick Jauron was fired. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was promoted to interim head coach. In Fewell's first game the Bills played inspired football and led the Jaguars 15-10 but very late in the game David Garrard led a touchdown drive and added a two-point conversion to beat the Bills 18-15. In the game Ryan Fitzpatrick found Terrell Owens for a 98-yard touchdown, the longest in Bills history. Fewell earned his first win as head coach the next week after a 31-14 thumping of the Dolphins that was much closer than the final score indicates. The Bills Toronto Series continued a mere four days later on Thursday night football as the Bills made their NFL Network live game debut.
After another lackluster loss north of the border the Bills sat at 4-8 and guaranteed their fifth straight non-winning season. After rushing for 200 yards in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs the Bills hosted the New England Patriots. After giving up 6 sacks with their hodgepodge offensive line the Bills lost falling to 5-9 on the season clinching their fifth straight losing season. Against the Falcons in Week 16 the Bills were held to 40 rushing yards and were blown out by the Falcons, 31-3. The most interesting note about that game was it was Brian Brohm's first NFL start and marked the first time since the AFL that the Bills started three different quarterbacks in one non-strike year. In week 17, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts came to Buffalo with nothing to play for. In a snowstorm Manning played two series and the Bills thumped the Colts 30 to 7 giving the team their second win over a playoff-bound team (Jets). The Bills finished as the lone 6-10 team in the league.
The Bills offense was putrid once again coming in the bottom four in first downs, points, passing attempts, and rushing touchdowns. The lone bright spot was Fred Jackson. Jackson became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1000+ yards and have 1000+ kick return yards and led the league in all-purpose yards with 2516, also a Bills team record. Terrell Owens was the leading receiver but posted near career lows in receptions and yards. The passing defense under Perry Fewell was excellent led by rookie Pro Bowl selection Jairus Byrd. Byrd intercepted 9 balls, breaking the Bills' rookie record, and the team came in second in the league with 28 interceptions (almost three times the number from 2008). Byrd, the only Pro Bowl representative on the Bills, and Andy Levitre were both named to the Sporting News All-Rookie team. Aaron Schobel led the team with 10 sacks, his third double-digit season. The Bills rushing defense was atrocious, ranking in the bottom three in every significant statistic, and giving up 2500+ yards for the third time in team history. Brian Moorman was efficient and broke 40 yards net on his punts for the first time in his career (40.2).
Prior to the season, owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. and DE Bruce Smith were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 2009 season was the first year the Bills didn't add anyone to the Wall of Fame since 1991.
On December 31st the Bills promoted head national scout Buddy Nix to the General Manager position while elevated "GM" Russ Brandon to CEO. On January 19, 2010, the Nix and the Bills hired Chan Gailey to be their next head coach. Despite a coaching search with Super Bowl names such as Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, and Brian Billick, the team went with the former Dallas Cowboys and Georgia Tech head coach whose record as a top guy in the pros was two games over .500.