Now, the work begins

Buddy Nix has some very tough decisions ahead of him...

The Bills' 30-7 victory Sunday over the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts at snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium was a nice show of character and parting gift for interim coach Perry Fewell.

But it did little to soothe the overall disappointment of finishing a 10th consecutive season out of the playoffs, with a 6-10 record, nor will it prevent major moves from occurring this offseason.

One was already made with the hiring of Buddy Nix as general manager in charge of football operations on New Year's Eve. Nix is scheduled to meet with head coaching candidates over the next several weeks, starting with Fewell, who led the Bills to a 3-4 record after replacing Dick Jauron.

The team has started a dialogue with ex-Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher, and Marty Schottenheimer, whom Nix worked with while assistant GM in San Diego, is also considered to be high on Nix's short list.

Nix said finding a person with head coaching experience is a priority. Contrary to belief, he said, Buffalo is appealing to big-name coaches like Cowher.

"Coaches ... maybe it's ego, but they like to take a team that's down and build it into a winner," Nix said. "I think that will appeal to some guys and this fan base, it's phenomenal. You're not playing well and you still fill the stadium every week. That's appealing, so yeah, I think we can hire a good coach."

It's not expected to be Fewell, the Bills' four-year defensive coordinator, but he will be given a formal interview. Players rallied around Fewell, who despite facing a rash of injuries -- 21 players wound up on injured reserve -- continued to field a competitive team.

The Bills out-gained the Colts 403 yards to 157 in what became a battle of backups. The Colts sat 10 players and quarterback Peyton Manning played just three series.

"I think it says a lot about their character," Fewell said. "They could've given up a long time ago."

After naming a new head coach, the Bills' to-do list will be far from finished.

Nix plans an entire review of the team's pro and college scouting operation that has missed on numerous top draft picks and free agents under Tom Modrak and John Guy.

As for personnel, Nix said the new coach deserves a chance to review the quarterbacks currently on the team to determine what direction to head in. The Bills haven't had a 300-yard passer in 54 consecutive games.

The club is also in need of line help for an offense that set a team record for fewest first downs (233) and linebackers for a defense that finished last against the run.

"It's going to be a busy offseason to say the least," wide receiver Lee Evans said.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Running back Fred Jackson rushed for a career-high 212 yards against the Colts to finish with 1,062 for the year. Jackson will head into 2010 as the clear No. 1 ball carrier and Marshawn Lynch could be traded if the Bills are interested in stock piling more draft picks.

Buffalo's secondary finished with 28 interceptions, the fifth best total in team history and most since 1964. Rookie Jairus Byrd led the team with nine and made the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Bills' offensive struggles started from the instant they traded Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia. The team started four different players at Peters' old position due to injury and performance issues and head into the off-season with a major hole to fill.

Poor line play contributed to quarterback Trent Edwards' fall. The third-year pro entered the season entrenched as the starter but injuries and a reluctance to get the ball deep to his receivers forced interim coach Perry Fewell to bench him for the second half of the year in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The signing of future Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens helped sell tickets but it didn't help the offense with its myriad problems.

Defensively, injuries ravaged the linebacker corps and secondary and Buffalo wound up last against the run. A total of 21 players wound up on injured reserve.


--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a season-high three touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Colts. He is 7-4 in his last 11 NFL starts and will be in the mix to become Buffalo's full-time starter in 2010.

--RB Fred Jackson ran for 212 yards in Sunday's win over the Colts, the seventh-highest single-game total in Bills history. He finished the season with 1,062 yards rushing.

--S Cary Harris intercepted two passes in Sunday's win over the Colts in place of Donte Whitner, who took ill and did not play.

--WR Josh Reed was scratched for Sunday's game due to an ankle injury.

--WR Terrell Owens, who caught four passes for 65 yards and a TD vs. the Colts, raised his career total to 14,959 yards, third most in NFL history and ahead of Tim Brown (14,934).

--LB Ryan Manalac was promoted from the practice squad in time for the season finale against Indianapolis, taking the place of Nic Harris, who went on injured reserve. Manalac, who played at Cincinnati, was in camp with the Bills last summer.

--OT Nick Hennessey was added to the 53-man roster for the season finale against Indianapolis. Hennessey, who played at Colgate, spent 15 weeks on the Bills practice squad.




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