Last week the Buffalo Bills, led by coach Dick Jauron, finished 7-9 for the third straight season. The team has not enjoyed much success since Marv Levy stepped down following the 1997 season, with the team's record being 81-94 since his departure.
However, at the start of this season the team looked promising, starting the season 5-1. Then, like a typical Buffalo Bills season, they fell apart and finished at a disappointing 7-9. The decision should have been simple for Ralph Wilson and Co.: Fire Dick Jauron.
Despite being 5-1 and finishing with seven wins, the 2008 Buffalo Bills might have been the worst team to ever reach that number. Their best win came against a struggling San Diego Chargers team that snuck into the playoffs (albeit thanks to the Bills). They finished 0-6 in the division and have not defeated the Patriots since 2003.
The conservative approach that Dick Jauron took did not help the team at all. Sure, they had a statistically better season than last year, but they also played a much weaker schedule. It should have been clear following this season that something needed to be done.
Dick Jauron may be one of the most likable coaches in the NFL. The Bills' players continually talk about how much they like him and would hate to see him go. However, a likable coach does not win games. If they did, the Bills would have actually finished above .500 with Dick Jauron.
Instead, they miss out on the playoffs by a few games and get a middle of the pack draft pick, which will probably be used on a position the team does not need fixed.
There are several needs the Bills need to address outside of the coaching. First, the offensive line needs to step up their game. Two seasons ago, the Bills brought in Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker to compliment Jason Peters, who at one point was arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. The line was awful this season, even if it did include "Pro Bowl Lineman" Jason Peters (the weakest link, in my own opinion).
Secondly, the team needs a kicker who can actually kick a 50-yard field goal and is also reliable to make kicks in the clutch. Rian Lindell had a good run here, but his miss against Cleveland and the 25-yarder he knocked off the post this season beg for a change.
The Bills also need to pick up a legitimate tight end that can both block and catch. Robert Royal had a decent year when Trent Edwards could actually get the ball to him, but he is not the receiving threat that a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates can be.
The coaching is obvious. Anyone who watched the team this season should know how weak Dick Jauron is, and his failure was cemented into our heads last week against the Patriots and three weeks ago against the Jets. A coach needs to be confident in his players and confident in himself. After watching the team and watching Dick Jauron on the sidelines, it is clear to me that he has no confidence in anything but his own failure.
President-Elect Barack Obama has promised to bring change to the White House. As Bills fans, we can only hope that Ralph Wilson can bring change to One Bills Drive this offseason, or else we are looking at another sub-.500 season.