Bills stick with Jauron, players pleased

Owner decides to keep Jauron, rather than rebuild with a new coach...

Bills owner Ralph Wilson has spoken. Continuity wins out over an overhaul.

That means he will honor the three-year contract extension he secretly -- and, some would argue, prematurely -- awarded head coach Dick Jauron back in October when the team shot out to a 5-1 start. The Bills stumbled and lost eight of their last 10 games.

After a meeting with Jauron at his suburban Detroit home on Tuesday and after consulting with chief operating officer Russ Brandon and lead personnel man Tom Modrak, Wilson announced his decision on Jauron in a three-paragraph statement.

It brought to an abrupt end speculation that the 90-year-old Wilson would eat Jauron's contract and dismiss Jauron, whose popularity among the fan base has plummeted after three consecutive 7-9 finishes pot-marked by horrendous fits of game-day blunders.

It also ended the New Year's week daydreaming by Bills fan that their team would hire someone from a growing list of former NFL coaches with winning track records, among them Bill Cowher, Brian Billick, Marty Schottenheimer, and now, Mike Shanahan.

"It is well known that I share many of the fans' dissatisfaction with our offensive game management," Wilson said. "That being said, I believe that this team, at this time, is better served by continuity in the coaching staff rather than a disruptive overhaul."

Wilson said he felt players performed hard for Jauron all season and that there "are many positives to build out. This is not to say that we will be complacent. In my discussions with Dick and our senior football people, the issues are recognized and I am confident they will be addressed."

Those issues run deep.

Facing one of their easiest schedules in years, the Bills went winless against their division, the AFC East, for the first time since 1976. They were 3-5 at home, just their second losing record at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the past 23 seasons.

Buffalo's offense could produce just two field goals in its final three home games, losses to San Francisco, Miami (in Toronto) and New England. Jauron's feeble clock management, timeout usage and erratic play-calling by his coordinator, Turk Schonert, all played a role in the club's epic collapse that extended Buffalo's playoff drought to nine seasons.

That all said, Buffalo statistically was an improved team.

Second-year quarterback Trent Edwards, who missed 2 1/2 games with a groin injury, led an offense that scored 10 more touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson emerged as a dynamic backfield duo, and the offense rolled up 4,882 yards, the most in six seasons. Overall, Buffalo's offensive ranking improved from 30th to 25th.

On defense, Jauron's specialty, the Bills made a huge leap. Fortified by the additions of free agents Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell, the Buffalo defense under coordinator Perry Fewell jumped from 31st in yards allowed to 14th. The pass rush was affected by the loss of defensive end Aaron Schobel to a foot injury for most of the year, but several young players emerged.

"I believe in the last few years we have gotten close personnel-wise and look forward to another strong draft, more assertive veteran leadership and continued improvement from our young quarterback," Wilson said.

By being retained at least a fourth year, Jauron becomes the first Bills coach since Marv Levy, who retired in 1997, to last more than three seasons. Wade Phillips and Gregg Williams lasted three and Mike Mularkey two before he quit the job after the 2005 season.

"I've been concerned about my future all of my life," Jauron said Sunday after the Bills' 13-0 loss to New England. "(This) isn't any different than any other time."

Jauron has had only one winning season in eight years as an NFL head coach. While fan reaction was strongly against his return, his players were overwhelmingly supportive.

"That's what we wanted to see," defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "To see the team move forward without him, I think would've been a terrible thing. ... We can continue on from here and move forward and continue to improve."

Added Mitchell, "This is my fourth head coach and ... I know he's a good one. He's a solid leader, he takes good care of us. Sure they (the coaches) make bad decisions, but we also make bad plays as players. We just have to be smarter as a team."

Wide receiver Lee Evans, who has been through three GMs, three offensive coordinators and two head coaches in his five seasons in Buffalo, said "continuity and consistency is the key to winning. I guess change is inevitable in this business, but the better you are as a unit, it shows.

"I think we have the people here to do it. We had the people here last year. Had we fared differently in our division (Buffalo was 4-2 against the AFC East in 2007), we'd be talking about a different season. It's very frustrating. We had games we could've won, and we let them go."

At least this time, they won't be letting their head coach go.

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