Many fans expected, or were hoping, that Dick Jauron was going to be fired at the end of the 2008 season.
He was retained, and so was his coaching staff.
There is little doubt that Jauron and his coaching staff will be facing immense pressure in 2009 to get the Bills to the playoffs, or at least have a winning season.
These four coaches are going to be especially crucial for the Bills in 2009, but what do we know about them? Why have the Bills hopes for the playoffs been placed in the hands of these men? Are they capable hands?
By answering these questions, hopefully we can gain some insight on the direction the Bills are heading in 2009.
Turk Schonert, Offensive Coordinator- Schonert got his football career started at Stanford where he played from 1975-1979. John Elway was Schonert's backup during Elway's freshman year. Schonert went on to play in the NFL where he started only twelve games over a ten year career.
Schonert has had a fairly quiet coaching career in the NFL. He has been a quarterbacks coach for four other teams besides the Bills, coaching for Tampa Bay, Carolina, New York Giants, and New Orleans.
He was also the Bills quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000. With Schonert as their quarterback coach, Doug Flutie was the most successful, finishing ninth among NFL quarterbacks in passer rating in 2000.
Schonert has been given the task of overseeing Trent Edwards development. This is not the first time Schonert has groomed a young quarterback. Craig Erickson and Trent Dilfer both came into the league with Schonert as their quarterbacks coach. Chris Weinke also came into Carolina under Turk Schonert.
Out of those three quarterbacks, Craig Erickson had the best season. In 1994 he finished tenth in passer rating.
Turk Schonert is entering only his second season as an offensive coordinator. However, it is an extremely important year for Schonert. Buffalo has a lot of weapons on offense this season, and if the offense struggles, Schonert could come under fire, along with Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards.
There has been talk that the Bills could be going to a no-huddle offense. This might not be surprising, considering that Schonert coached under Sam Wyche in Tampa Bay. Wyche is considered to be the first coach to use the no-huddle offense as a regular offense and not just at the end of halves and games.
Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator- Perry Fewell is another coach who came to Buffalo with no NFL experience as a coordinator. Fewell was a standout defensive back at Lenoir-Rhyne College. After his college career he served as a defensive backs coach at the college level for thirteen years, making stops in North Carolina, Army, Kent State, and Vanderbilt.
In 1998 Fewell broke into the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his five seasons with Jacksonville, Fewell had one Pro Bowl safety in Carnell Lake, who made his last of five Pro Bowl appearances in 1999 with Fewell as his defensive backs coach.
In 2003, Fewell went to the St. Louis Rams where he coached under Lovie Smith who was then the defensive coordinator. Aeneas Williams made his last of eight Pro Bowl trips in 2003 with Fewell as his defensive backs coach. When Lovie Smith took the head coaching job in Chicago in 2005, Fewell went with him as a defensive backs coach.
Fewell came to Buffalo in 2006 as the defensive coordinator under Dick Jauron. Fewell no doubt picked up a lot of knowledge from Lovie Smith, who comes from the Tony Dungy school of the cover 2 or Tampa 2 defense as it is sometimes called. Buffalo uses a lot of cover 2 in its current defensive playbook.
Fewell may use a similar defense to the one that was great under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, but the results have not been similar. Buffalo has been average on the defensive side of the ball under Fewell. Fewell's system is based on coverage and pressure from the front four defensive lineman.
The secondary has struggled though, mainly due to the defensive line's struggle to get pressure on the quarterback. It is no wonder then that the Bills drafted a defensive end this year who is a pure pass rusher. Aaron Maybin probably will not have a huge impact this season, though Fewell may need him to be if the defense has a hard time.
Sean Kugler, Offensive Line Coach- Kugler is a local guy who was born and raised in Lockport, NY. He played college ball on the offensive line at Texas-El Paso from 1985-1989. From 1993-2000 he was the offensive line coach at his Alma mater.
From 2001-2005 Kugler was the offensive line coach for the Detroit Lions. It was in Detroit where Kugler crossed paths with Dick Jauron. Jauron was the teams defensive coordinator from 2004-2005, and was the interim head coach for the final five games of 2005.
In 2006, Kugler returned to college, joining the Boise State staff under Chris Petersen. Kugler was at Boise State the year they won the Fiesta Bowl, defeating Oklahoma on the final snap with a statue of liberty play.
In 2007, Kugler joined the Bills staff as an assistant under, then offensive line coach, Jim McNally. When McNally retired after 2007, Kugler was promoted to offensive line coach. He brought in, twenty year NFL veteran, Ray Brown to assist him.
Kugler may have the most important job this season. Buffalo has retooled the offensive line and drafted two offensive lineman on day one of the draft who could potentially start. Also, veterans, Langston Walker and Brad Butler, are likely to shift from their starting positions a year ago.
If the offensive line is not at least as good as last years unit, the Bills offense could be in trouble. The Bills skill positions on offense won't mean anything if Trent Edwards is on his back all season long. Worse yet, if the protection of Edwards breaks down enough times, Ryan Fitzpatrick could be the Bills starter by seasons end.
George Catavolos, Defensive Backs Coach- Catavolos was a defensive back at Purdue from 1964-1967. After college he coached at a number of different schools including Purdue, Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Catavolos brings a wealth of NFL coaching experience to the Bills. Over a twenty two year career he made stops in Indianapolis, Carolina, Washington, and Detroit. In his first two years with Carolina during the 1995 and 1996 seasons, the Panthers were tied for sixth and seventh in the NFL with 22 and 21 interceptions respectively.
Catavolos met up with Dick Jauron in Detroit for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. In 2005 the Lions were tied for seventh in the NFL with 19 interceptions.
Jauron brought Catavolos with him to Buffalo in 2006 as a defensive backs coach. Catavolos was instrumental in converting George Wilson from a wide receiver to a safety. Catavolos will face a similar challenge this year in converting rookie Jairus Byrd from a corner to a safety.
The Bills do not have a lot of experience in their secondary. Terrence McGee is the veteran of the group, along with with Donte Whitner, Bryan Scott, and Drayton Florence. Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner, Ashton Youboty, Dustin Fox, Carry Harris, Lankster Ellis, and Jairus Byrd have nine years of NFL experience combined.
Catavolos has his work cut out for him this summer.
These four coaches are important, but they still are only a part of the staff. The Bills success or failure this season will be due to the entire coaching staff and roster. However, Schonert, Fewell, Kugler, and Catavolos might be worth paying special attention to.