Monday, January 04, 2010

Turn on the juice

The Buffalo Bills sure can make rooting for them a difficult experience.

Let's look (thankfully briefly) at the past year. The team's front office and coaching staff blew up the offensive line in the offseason, essentially starting over. Then the Bills installed a new, no-huddle offense that was almost guaranteed to confuse the rookies and newcomers on it, especially at first. As an added wrinkle, coach Dick Jauron fired his offensive coordinator on the eve of the season. Sure enough, it didn't work, and Jauron was fired in the middle of the season, which almost never works in football.

Yet, there seemed to be a silver lining. As I wrote in this space before, this was a pretty good year to be looking for a head coach. There were a variety of coaches with Super Bowl experience out in the marketplace. By making a decision on Jauron so early, the Bills guaranteed themselves a chance to talk to all of them earlier than most of the other teams in the league. It was no guarantee of success (ask Mike Shanahan about that), but at least the door was open.

The Bills also announced that they were going to hire a general manager to run the football operations. It was a chance to bring in some bright mind with a fresh perspective about how to revamp the entire operation and get off the treadmills of losing records. A bit of hope was in the air.

Some of the air came out of the hope balloon when the Bills announced they hired Buddy Nix as general manager. That's nothing against Nix. He's got a strong record in a variety of areas and learned from some good people. Besides, compared to the last guy in that job, he's a comparative younger at the age of 70.

But the search to fill that job was troubling. Apparently the Bills never talked seriously to anyone who worked outside of One Bills Drive, as John Guy was the only other person to be interviewed. That doesn't fill anyone with confidence that there will be change we can believe in, to coin a phrase.

Some of the glamour candidates don't appear to be interested in walking into Buffalo's head coaching job right now for one reason or another. Shanahan might regret not giving the Bills more consideration after a year or two of working for Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder, but that's another column.

We never know where the next great coach is coming from, of course, but at this point it looks as if the Bills only have one chance to hit a home run in the coaching search. That would be to hire Brian Billick.

You might remember Billick. He coached the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship a while back. Billick was the offensive coordinator behind some great Minnesota teams, but after he jumped to Baltimore, the Ravens became famous for a punishing defense. You have to like someone who can work with the material at hand. He lost his job after a season in which he admitted he took on too much responsibility when he tried to be his own offensive coordinator for a full season.

Anyone who saw the HBO's series on the Ravens, "Hard Knocks," knows that Billick is an extremely smart man who you'd rather have on your side than against you. Besides, he has a college background in journalism, wrote a good book, and once appeared on "The Match Game." I can relate to anyone who knows the news business and game shows.

I'm no NFL Insider, as they say on ESPN, but unless I'm missing something Billick sure looks like he should be coaching somewhere in the NFL. Ron Rivera or Jim Harbaugh or whoever might be a great coach some day, but the Bills need some juice right now. Billick might be the one guy who can provide it right now.

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