When things can't possibly get any worse, a game like last Sunday comes along.
Its defense in shambles and its quarterback petrified, the Buffalo Bills waltzed into Miami with a chance at redemption. The Dolphins were the perfect prescription. Bruised and battered and soft in the secondary, the Fins were without their best two players.
Yet somehow, the Dick Jauron era managed to dig deeper into the depths of futility. There have been plenty of games like this in his three-plus years. The Toronto debacle, the three Monday Night meltdowns, the disaster in the Meadowlands. A fine Greatest Hits album is in the works.
But Sunday had to be the worst. Buffalo made an average team undergoing its own problems look like Lombardi's Packers. Each of Miami's 17 — yes, 17 — rushing first downs, each lookout block from an offensive line recklessly bandaged together and each horizontal checkdown from Trent Edwards reinforced everything wrong with this team. Again and again and again.
A loss next week to the even lowlier, even more maligned Cleveland Browns could cue the angry mobs. A loss this weekend could be Jauron's Waterloo. Or it least it should. Precedents around the NFL have been set.
In Tampa Bay, a Super Bowl-winning coach was fired after two straight 9-7 seasons. In New York, a coach was canned after two winning seasons in three years. In Denver, a two-time Super Bowl champ was pink-slipped. In San Francisco, a coach was fired midseason in 2008 and now the team is contending for a division title.
In any other NFL city, Jauron would be gone by now. He'd be a defensive backs coach starting over again.
Instead, here in Buffalo, Jauron remains employed and in charge. After Buffalo's 38-10 loss in Miami, that's unacceptable. Wilson should give Jauron one more week. One week. A loss to the Browns is grounds for dismissal.
Oh, Wilson has trumpeted the importance of "continuity." But when continuity is droned out, uninspired, passive football, something must be done. You're cheating the players otherwise. Jauron's same mistakes keep flaring up. The pooch punts on fourth-and-short. The misuse of Fred Jackson. The cubicle passing game. In short, the complete lack of a killer's instinct. If players really do take on the identity of their coach — re: New York Jets — then the Bills are eternally stuck in second gear.
Midseason coaching changes aren't uncommon. They happen. Teams quit kidding themselves. They quit dragging their fan bases through the muck. New directions are embraced these days. Especially at head coach and quarterback.
So, no, this would not be a knee-jerk decision. Rather, Buffalo's angry fan base would embrace Wilson for forgetting about money for once. Last year, he gave Jauron a three-year, $9 million extension days before the team's epic implosion. For once, Wilson needs to cage his inner Montgomery Burns. Doing nothing mortgages a entire season. Why waste any talent this current core may have with a lame-duck coach? There are two electric wide receivers. Two dynamic running backs. And a defense that has actually shown signs of life through four games.
Delaying Jauron's firing delays the progress this team could make.
The season isn't lost yet. This schedule is full of winnable games. Maybe a new voice at top reinvigorates the Bills. It's worked for other teams. The San Francisco 49ers abruptly fired Mike Nolan for Mike Singletary last year and have been 8-5 since. That's right. Another team in equal, if not worse, shape than Buffalo is one Brett Favre miracle heave away from being undefeated this season.
While Singletary publicly demeaned his star tight end and pulled his pants down in the locker room, the 49ers whipped into shape last year. Now, they're a contender this year. All because management boldly switched gears midseason. Singletary literally changed the culture of the team overnight. A no-bull attitude trickled down immediately. That's what Buffalo needs.
This coming Sunday should be Jauron's last stand. A loss to Cleveland at home would even top last week's mirage.
The replacement doesn't have to be Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan right away. Not at all. An interim coach could inject some much-needed Singletary-flavored caffeine into this organization. There's proof everywhere that fresh starts work. Have the failed regime changes of Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams and Mike Mularkey blinded Wilson? Does he sincerely believe keeping a stay-the-course 58-79 coach is better than a fresh face? You hope not.
By all accounts, this is a contract extension gone awry. Wilson jumped the gun after Jauron beat a couple bad teams and now he's paying for it. He's giving out second chances at a quasi-liberal rate. Jauron could have been sent north to the airport after countless games the past two seasons.
Enough's enough. For the Bills' sake, this weekend should be the final second chance granted to Dick Jauron.
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