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A change is gonna come: Owner Wilson ready to revamp Bills

  • By Associated Press
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Firing coach Dick Jauron was just the start of a major overhaul that Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson is prepared to conduct this offseason in order to make his team a contender again.

Outlining his plans in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Wilson said he's open to going after a high-profile coach, is willing to hire a general manager with a football background and warned that no position on his team is safe.

"I tell you, we have a lot of work to do," Wilson said from his home in suburban Detroit. "We've got to revamp and take a look at the whole operation, and that's what we're going to do."

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A thorough evaluation of the entire organization will begin at the end of the season, according to Wilson.

"We're going to sit down and see where we stand and, I hate to use the term, but then we're going to go forward," Wilson said in his first extensive interview since Jauron was fired Tuesday and replaced by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who will finish the season as interim coach.

The Bills (3-6), who play at Jacksonville on Sunday, have been going backward for much of this decade and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a 10th consecutive year.

That's not how Wilson expected to celebrate the franchise's 50th season, in a year in which he and former Bills defensive end Bruce Smith were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Wilson's decision last December to retain Jauron for a fourth year -- and after three consecutive 7-9 finishes -- backfired when the Bills got off to a 1-4 start. After rebounding with two wins, the Bills unraveled in losing their past two games by a combined 72-27, the last straw a 41-17 loss at Tennessee last weekend.

"Dick's a great guy, a class guy," Wilson said. "But I thought it was time to make a change, and we did."

Though Fewell is a candidate for next season, Wilson said he's open to making a lucrative offer to land a high-profile coach.

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"It's not about money, it's about winning," Wilson said. "If it was about money, we wouldn't have brought in and paid for somebody we know was a great player."

Wilson was referring to the signing of wide receiver Terrell Owens to a one-year, $6.5 million contract in March after he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys.

"Anybody that says I'm cheap is looking down the wrong side of the street," Wilson said.

Though the Bills have been competitive in going after high-profile free agents and re-signing their star players, Wilson has been criticized for refusing to spend money to hire an established head coach. Jauron, who was making about $3 million per season, was believed to be the highest-paid coach in team history. However, some NFL coaches are making more than double that amount.

Wilson discounted reports the team is interested in interviewing Mike Shanahan, the former Denver Broncos coach.

"I don't know anything about him," Wilson said.

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Later in the day, the Bills issued a statement downplaying speculation regarding their coaching search, saying the team is focused on the final seven games of the season and "the efforts of coach Fewell, the coaching staff and our players."

Wilson's intention to revamp his front office could lead to the Bills' first major restructuring since 2006, when he fired team president Tom Donahoe. Wilson then reclaimed the president's title, appointed Russ Brandon, the team's marketing chief, as chief operating officer and brought in Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy to serve as general manager.

Levy stepped down after two years, and Brandon was awarded the GM title.

Brandon's job as COO is considered safe because Wilson said he'll play a role in the end-of-season evaluation. However, Brandon might have to relinquish his duties as general manager because Wilson said he's open to hiring a GM with a football background.

"We're going to revamp and look at every position we've got," Wilson said.

That's a considerable switch for an owner who last year said he had difficulty trusting outsiders because he felt betrayed by Donahoe. Unlike Levy, with whom Wilson was very familiar, Donahoe was hired in 2001 after building his reputation with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though Wilson wasn't specific, among Bills executives considered to be on the hot seat are chief scout Tom Modrak, pro personnel director John Guy and even potentially Jim Overdorf, the team's senior vice president of football administration. Overdorf, who maintains a behind-the-scenes role, has been responsible for overseeing the salary cap and handling contract negotiations, and he also has been involved in personnel decisions.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press


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