Bills open offseason with coaching staff purge
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The Buffalo Bills opened their offseason with a purge by firing interim coach Perry Fewell and the rest of his staff on Monday.
Though Fewell was dismissed, he is still a candidate for the team’s vacant head coaching job.
The Bills released an awkwardly worded statement, saying members of the team’s current coaching staff have been informed that their obligations for this season have been completed, and they now “have the opportunity to seek positions elsewhere.” The release said their status will then be determined by the Bills’ next head coach.
Despite how the Bills phrased the release, a person familiar with the team’s decisions told The Associated Press that the staff has been fired.
The shakeup came a day after the Bills (6-10) closed their season with a 30-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Days after firing head coach Dick Jauron in November, Bills owner Ralph Wilson had said no job was safe as he was preparing to revamp his entire front office once the season ended.
The overhaul started last week when national scout Buddy Nix was promoted to general manager, filling a spot that had been filled by the team’s chief operating officer Russ Brandon, who had no football background. Brandon was promoted to chief executive officer.
The Bills closed their 50th season by missing the playoffs for a 10th straight year, and capping a decade in which they enjoyed only one winning season – a 9-7 finish in 2004.
Fewell, the team’s defensive coordinator, finished with a 3-4 record as the interim coach.
Except for highly respected special teams coordinator Bobby April, most of the Bills assistants, including Fewell, had been hired by Jauron.
The timing of the shakeup comes as the Bills embark on their fifth coaching search since Hall of Famer Marv Levy retired after the 1997 season.
Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has been mentioned as a candidate. Several media outlets, including ESPN and The Buffalo News, have reported the Bills have spoken to Cowher.
Other potential candidates being mentioned for the job include Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, and New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
There’s likely to be others because Nix, upon taking over, said he would prefer to hire someone who has been a head coach.
Wilson, in November, told the AP that he was willing to spend as much money as possible to lure a top candidate.
The news of the dismissals came a few hours after Fewell addressed his players in a final team meeting. Players were only made available to the media before the meeting, and discussed the uncertainty regarding the team as they cleaned out their lockers.
“I’m anxious to see what happens. I know coach Perry did a great job with us,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “We all want to know what the situation is, who the head coach will be, what type of defense we’re going to run. There’s a lot of questions, but you have to stay patient.”
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was frustrated after finishing another losing season, but was hopeful about the team’s future.
“We come back here, it’ll all be new. It’ll be a fresh start,” Williams said.
The new coach will have several personnel decisions to make, starting at quarterback.
Trent Edwards, who opened the season as starter, was benched after Jauron was fired. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over and failed to spark a sputtering offense, though he did go 5-4 in games he had a majority of playing time.
Defensive end Aaron Schobel is contemplating retirement after completing his ninth year in Buffalo.
Then there’s receiver Terrell Owens, who becomes a free agent after completing a one-year, $6.5 million contract he signed with the Bills in March, days after being released by Dallas.
Owens, on Monday, reiterated that he hasn’t ruled out returning to Buffalo, but only with the right coach, at the right price, and if the Bills are interested.
“I think anything is possible, and I think for myself, just be patient, wait things out and weigh my options,” he said.
Though disappointed in the Bills losing season, Owens expressed no regrets about signing with Buffalo.
“I took a chance on the opportunity that the Bills really, really wanted me … and I just felt like I could fit in and be that added piece to get the team to the playoffs,” Owens said. “I never envisioned none of the things that happened this year … Those are some of the things that were definitely out of my control.”
The Bills’ troubles began even before the season started, when Jauron fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt.