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If Leslie Frazier leaves Buffalo Bills, promoting Bob Babich makes sense

He has experience, and he’s already on the staff and familiar with the personnel

With rumors swirling that Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been contacted about an interview for the vacant Indianapolis Colts head coaching job, there is a possibility that the Bills will be in the market for a new defensive coordinator. Given the timing of such a move, it puts the Bills in a difficult spot regarding hiring a replacement for Frazier with so many coaches already under contract elsewhere.

Most likely, the team would make a move to promote someone from within the organization. With that in mind, the most likely candidate to replace Frazier should he leave for the Colts would be current linebackers coach Bob Babich.

Babich has been a defensive coordinator twice before, filling the post with the Chicago Bears under head coach Lovie Smith from 2007-2009, and then with the Jacksonville Jaguars under head coach Gus Bradley from 2013-2015. If neither of those defenses conjures good feelings, it’s because neither team boasted a particularly strong stop unit during Babich’s time as defensive coordinator.

Bob Babich defenses

2007 Bears 2008 Bears 2009 Bears 2013 Jaguars 2014 Jaguars 2015 Jaguars
2007 Bears 2008 Bears 2009 Bears 2013 Jaguars 2014 Jaguars 2015 Jaguars
28th Yards 21st Yards 17th Yards 27th Yards 26th Yards 24th Yards
16th Points 16th Points 21st Points 28th Points 26th Points 31st Points
8th TO 2nd TO 12th TO 24th TO 24th TO 27th TO
24th Rush Yd 5th Rush Yd 23rd Rush Yd 29th Rush Yd 27th Rush Yd 15th Rush Yd
27th Pass Yd 30th Pass Yd 13th Pass Yd 25th Pass Yd 22nd Pass Yd 29th Pass Yd
All data courtesy of

The lackluster performance of Babich’s defenses begs the question, “How does it make sense to promote him?” For starters, the time of year is awful for hiring new coaches. Most of the assistants with whom head coach Sean McDermott would have any sort of familiarity have already been hired in other places. Bringing in an external candidate when discussions about the direction for next season have presumably already begun is difficult.

It’s also possible that Babich was not truly in charge of the defenses he ran in his other two stops as a coordinator. With Lovie Smith and Gus Bradley each having a background in defense, Babich may very well have been coordinator in name only, a la Dennis Thurman with Buffalo under Rex and Rob Ryan.

Babich would find himself in a familiar situation, then, working as defensive coordinator under a head coach with expertise on the defensive side of the ball. For McDermott, this arrangement makes sense because he can provide a greater deal of input on the side of the ball where he feels most comfortable and has the most knowledge.

If the Bills promote Babich this season, but find that they’d like to go in another direction for 2019, it’s even possible that Babich could remain on the staff while returning to his post as linebackers coach. He has already experienced that in his professional career, as he was demoted with the Bears after 2009, but he remained with the team from 2010-2012 while Rod Marinelli coordinated the defense. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Bears went from 17th in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed during the 2009 season to 9th in yards allowed and 4th in points allowed in 2010. Also not coincidentally, the Bears were without Brian Urlacher in 2009, and not only did he return for 2010, but they also added Julius Peppers.

If the Bills are to lose Frazier, and if they decide that an in-house candidate is the way to go in replacing him, then Babich is probably the guy. That doesn’t make it the right move, but it is certainly the easiest and most practical move to make. For now, however, it’s just a whole lot of “ifs.”