Limping to the starter's line
Dick Jauron (Getty Images)
Dick Jauron (Getty Images)
BFR Publisher
Posted Sep 4, 2009


The Bills fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert Friday... only 10 days before the season opener. Yes, the offense has struggled. A bold, surprising move by head coach Dick Jauron (left). The New England Patriots are right around the corner. Whether or not, it pays off is unknown. More so, the move simply shows how shaky Buffalo's foundation is, says BFR's Tyler Dunne.

So the preseason doesn’t mean anything? Tell that to Turk Schonert. After possibly the worst offensive showing in the team’s preseason history, heads rolled Friday.

Something had to be done. Trent Edwards’ first-team offense scored zero touchdowns in 15 possessions. That’s unacceptable, with or without No. 81.

The move was surprising. Yet it wasn’t. Buffalo’s 10-year search for scapegoats simply took a new, unfortunate turn to nowhere. The offense performed at a Billy Joe Hobert rate of confusion through August. So Dick Jauron axed Schonert.

He says the offense will be “more attacking.” Could be. But this move is more about doing something, anything to salvage his own job. The 'ol fire the coordinator before I get fired trick. Jauron’s own pink slip could come at any point this season. But for the time being, Schonert’s firing is yet another swift sucker punch to a team limping into the new season. A couple months ago — with the (artificial) glamour of Terrell Owens and a no-huddle offense laminating the team with promise — who would have thought things would get so bad so fast?

The hurry up implodes. The offensive coordinator is fired. And the head coach says the hurry up will stay. Come again? It’s nonsensical. Kind of like a president shoving a healthcare bill through legislation with widespread, venomous opposition. In 10 days, the Bills play New England on Monday Night Football and the foundation is already shaking. The direction of the offense is in flux. In September. These types of philosophical and hierarchical moves need to make in January. Not now.

Yet here we are, staring up at a 7-9 ceiling again. You’d like the Schonert firing to be a blaring wake-up call, a team-wide memo. Jobs — across the board — are on the line. Jauron. Edwards. Even Owens. They all have one year to impress, if that.

Panic can be channeled into dangerous energy. The team can spin a wretched preseason and eleventh-hour coaching change into an us-against-the-world wave of momentum. That’s probably a stretch, though. Edwards did little this preseason to prove he’ll springboard into the long-term answer. If Jauron is willing to fire his hand-picked, right-hand man, you have to think he’ll yank Edwards at a moment’s notice for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

This was the obvious message. One Ronaldinho-sized kick-in-the-rear to the entire team. Very, very un-Jauron like. Three years of droned out, yawning leadership took a sudden sharp turn Friday. In that sense, this is a tad encouraging.

A tad.

Schonert’s firing is more indicative of the state of the team than anything. The demise has been steady, painful and directionless. After a standings plunge for the ages (cough, eight losses in 10 games, cough), the Bills were marred by a flurry of run-ins with the law, including Marshawn Lynch and his three-game suspension. They failed to ink any elite free agents — whiffing on Laveranues Coles among others — settling on a team-killer nobody wanted. And then when the games finally began, the first-team offense failed to punch in any touchdowns.

You want to be excited. You want to somehow believe that this season will be different, that Terrell Owens is the instant swig of Monster energy drink this team needs. But I don’t see it. Even with a promising core of young talent (Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Maybin, Paul Posluszny), Buffalo lacks the rock-solid management up top.

Ralph Wilson — and his numbing, on-the-cheap ownership style — sure hasn’t helped. This team should have reset into rebuilding at least a year ago. There should be a new, brash head coach reinvigorating this team along a new, fresh three-year plan. Instead, Jauron’s Bills are like a two-wheel-drive car in the tailgate field by the stadium. Spinning their tires in the mud.

Four years ago, Alex Van Pelt was calling plays in the booth. Now, he’s calling plays on the sideline. Could be a marginal improvement over Schonert. Could backfire badly.

There’s a reason so many teams refuse to run the no-huddle offense. Jim Kelly was a rare, rare quarterback. You’re playing with fire. For most teams, the hurry up is too fast and too furious to effectively manage on a play-to-play basis over a 60-minute game. Back in early August, yours truly advocated the move.

But now when the Bills raid New England, their hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of a 10-day offensive coordinator calling the plays to a quarterback in a Greg Norman funk. Times sure changed quickly.

Somewhere, Bill Belichick is lounged in a leather chair next to a fireplace, cracking a menacing smile. The Bills are undefeated, but clearly in turmoil.

Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at thdunne@gmail.com.



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