Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dick Jauron Is Surprisingly Legit

Somehow, the Buffalo Bills have a winning record: five wins, four losses. Their head coach Dick Jauson is a big part of the reason why.

At first glance, that record seems unremarkable, especially when you consider that the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets - against whom three of the Bills' five wins have come - have a combined record of 1-17. But there's more. Two of the Bills' four losses - those against Denver and Dallas - came on last-second field goals, at the end of games during which the Bills never trailed. In other words, the Bills are exactly 0:02 away from being 7-2.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bills have suffered a string of injuries unlike any team in recent memory. After the first six weeks of the season, the Bills had ten players on injured reserve - meaning, in layman's terms, that they are out for the season. Kevin Everett, their back-up tight end, broke his neck in the season opener. During that same game, outside linebacker Coy Wire suffered a season-ending knee injury, safety Koe Simpson suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and cornerback Jason Webster broke his forearm. The next week, all-pro cornerback Terrence McGee bruised his ribs, starting wide receiver Peerless Price suffered a season-ending neck injury, and defensive captain Paul Posluszny broke his arm, ending his rookie season almost before it had begun. In week four, starting quarterback J.P. Losman sprained his knee, forcing him to miss four weeks, and just as soon as his back-up Trent Edwards finally started to look comfortable running the offense, Edwards sprained the wrist on his throwing hand. Despite their M.A.S.H. unit-like condition, the Bills are a tough beat, a legitimately salty home team who occasionally even put up a good fight on the road.

Nobody was sold on Jauron's coaching abilities before the season and, to be honest, there are still serious doubts about his conservative play-calling and late-game clock management. For instance, if the Bills had run the ball a little bit more in the fourth quarters of the Dallas and Denver games, the Bills might have another win or two. Having said all that, Jauron has done a tremendous job of keeping his team focused and motivated, and the way in which the team regrouped after their catastrophic September is truly admirable. The Bills have always looked ready to play, and though they won't win any style points this season, their games have always been competitive . . . well, with the exception of their loss to New England. He deserves to be a serious candidate for Coach of the Year.

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