Landing big name already tough

Filling Dick Jauron's void with a high-profile coach is going to be difficult...

The Bills issued a statement last week that they would have no comment on reports regarding their search for a new head coach.

Smart move, because the rumor mill is churning after the firing of Dick Jauron.

It has been confirmed through several sources and media outlets that Bills general manager/chief operating officer Russ Brandon met with former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan earlier this week, a meeting that apparently lasted more than seven hours and went past midnight.

The sides could only agree that they would meet again, but that's a victory for the Bills, who host Miami on Sunday, since several other potential big-name candidates aren't interested or are lukewarm about exploring their opening.

Former Raiders and Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is off the market after signing a contract extension with ESPN that will be pay him as much to talk about football as he made coaching it.

Former Steelers boss Bill Cowher was contacted by the Bills but intimated he's not willing to talk yet. He prefers to see how the market plays out after this season ends and more jobs become available. Openings could surface in higher-profile markets like Dallas and Washington, or Carolina, where Cowher lives.

Former Green Bay and Seattle coach Mike Holmgren reportedly told Buffalo thanks but no thanks, and will pursue other opportunities that include more GM duties and not coaching.

Meanwhile, former Browns and Chiefs head Marty Schottenheimer took himself out of the running for a return to the NFL, saying in an interview on NFL Sirius Radio that he's happy in retirement. Schottenheimer is a former Bills linebacker who was seen as a good fit.

"I'll be very candid with you and say it's nice to think that people would consider you, but the reality of it is, that after 30 great years, I'm really not going to go back down that road again," Schottenheimer said.

Shanahan wants to go back down that road no problem. And he could command a $10 million a year salary.

Jauron, at $3 million to $3.5 million a year, was Buffalo's highest-paid coach ever. But beleaguered Bills owner Ralph Wilson, whose team will miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season, would be willing to meet Shanahan's pay range because Shanahan would also head up his football decision making in a GM capacity.

That would allow Brandon to concentrate on the business side of the team. Top personnel figures Tom Modrak and John Guy would not be retained.

Whatever Wilson spends for a new coach/GM will be on top of the $7 million he still owes Jauron over the next two years.

It is known that interim head coach Perry Fewell will be given a formal interview after the season, and other options include a second-tier of coaching candidates that include former Saints coach and Bills player Jim Haslett.

Shanahan won back-to-back Super Bowls in Denver in the late 1990s.

While the lines of communication will remain open into January, the Bills and Shanahan have to explore further if they are a good match.

Shanahan would need to know he has unlimited access to the owner's checkbook, or rebuilding Buffalo's roster won't be possible. But would Wilson give it to him? When Shanahan was fired in Denver, the Broncos were in a salary cap hole of nearly $30 million. The Bills have not had cap trouble since 2001.

As for Fewell, he's focusing on the task at hand, trying to block out reports that Buffalo is aggressively pursuing coaching candidates.

"Twenty-four hours a day, I'm consumed with the Buffalo Bills operations and I'm preparing for the Miami Dolphins," Fewell said. "Those outside influences don't bother me."

Players would like to see Fewell get a fair look.

"Without a doubt. I think a lot of guys respect him," running back Fred Jackson said. "A lot of guys are willing to play hard for him and they like what he brings to the table, so I definitely think he should be in the running."

SERIES HISTORY: 88th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series 52-34-1 after a 38-10 victory in Miami on Oct. 4. Miami rushed for 250 yards and QB Chan Henne won his NFL starting debut, throwing for 115 yards and a score. Miami is a win away from becoming the 10th team in the past 11 seasons to earn a sweep in the series. The Bills did it on six occasions in that stretch.

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