Obviously the players should get most of the credit for the 34-10 stomping of the Seahawks on Sunday, but let's also give head coach, Dick Jauron, some of the credit. The team took a long and winding road to get to opening day, and the players remained un-scathed due, in large part, to Jauron. He is entering the last year of his contract and is proving with every decision that he is deserving of an extension.
I realize the season is only a week old, and I realize that the Bills' success against Seattle could be a fluke. However, barring a complete and total collapse, the Bills seem to be on the right track and have dramatically improved since Jauron's arrival in 2006. Even if the team goes 8-8, he has earned an extension.
When he came to One Bills Drive, the team was in a state of disarray with no real hope of going anywhere but downwards. Tom Donahoe and Mike Mularkey left the franchise with many problems and no real clear direction to make a definite playoff run. So, Ralph Wilson brought in Marv Levy to right the ship. Levy then hired fellow Ivy Leaguer, Jauron, who started from the beginning with the team.
Ridding the team of over-paid and under-performing veteran players like Lawyer Milloy and Troy Vincent, Jauron used the draft to slowly build up the talent. Donte Whitner, Marshawn Lynch, Ko Simpson, Fred Jackson-all are rising stars on the team, and all were drafted by Jauron. He now has a very young, and very talented team that has a lot of potential.
Not only were the players drafted for their talent, but also for their "high moral character". Jauron is big into character and team building, and he has done just that with the bunch he's brought in. The players seem as if they enjoy playing under their coach, and for their team instead of purely for themselves.
A great example of this is the unusually high attendance at the optional spring mini-camps that were held in May. Nearly every member of the team showed up to practice, even though it wasn't required. There aren't any Plaxico Burrisses on the team, and Jauron would like to keep it that way.
The notable absence at these team activities was, of course, Jason Peters. Peters decided to holdout all summer, and up until last Saturday. Instead of catering to only one players' needs and caving by offering the team's only Pro Bowler a new contract, Jauron and the front office stood firm in not negotiating.
He did what was best for the team, and it worked. Not only did he keep Peters in line, but Jauron he was also able to keep the locker room united during the incident. Holdouts can sometimes cause major riffs on teams, but not on Jauron's team.
Another high profile situation that Jauron kept under-wraps was the quarterback controversy that erupted last season after JP Losman was benched for rookie Trent Edwards. Jauron made his decision, stuck to it and, again, kept the locker room united and ready for the game on Sunday.
This Buffalo Bills team also endured a lot of controversy off the field this offseason, from Marshawn Lynch's hit-and-run accident, to James Hardy's domestic problems with his father. Both seem like after thoughts now, as Jauron was able to keep focus and stick to football. Even the Peters holdout seems not so bad anymore, and that isn't even a week old.
Last season should also be indicative of Jauron's ability to keep a team motivated and ready to play. The team started off 1-4, but turned things around and stayed in the playoff race until week 16 despite suffering a league-high 17 season-ending injuries. Add to that the emotional week 1 spinal injury suffered by Kevin Everett and many teams would have crumbled under the odds. Yet again, Jauron was able to rally his team and kept them playing at their potential.
The season is still young, but already you can tell the 2008 Buffalo Bills will be very different than the Bills of 2006 and 2007. He built up the team the way things are meant to be built, slow and steady. The pieces are all finally coming together, and that has always been Jauron's plan. Nothing too flashy or controversial, just do things the right way and you'll eventually see results.
While there are many contracts to look at extending this offseason, the Bills should be taking a good look at Jauron's as well. He has the team going down the right direction, and is the perfect fit for this young Buffalo team. He's done everything right so far to get the best possible results, and hopefully those results will come this season. Even if the team's record improves by only one game, Jauron is still worth keeping around a few more years to continue traveling down the road of improvement.