Bills owner Wilson was a catalyst in offensive coordinator Schonert's firing

Ralph Wilson expects the Buffalo Bills to end their nine-year playoff drought this season.

To be more precise, the Bills' owner is demanding it.

That, to a large degree, explains why the Bills joined the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week in firing their offensive coordinator.

Although coach Dick Jauron said Friday's dismissal of Turk Schonert was "strictly my decision," multiple sources close to the Bills say Wilson heavily influenced the move. Jauron did acknowledge that Wilson was "certainly involved," but added that the owner told him the call was his to make and he made it.

Before Thursday night's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, a source said, Wilson had made it clear to Jauron that he was extremely unhappy with the poor showing by the offense through the Bills' first four outings. Buffalo's starting offense had produced only one field goal in 15 drives (not counting a two-play series to kill the clock at the end of the half of one game). It also had five turnovers and five sacks, with quarterback Trent Edwards showing signs of regression.

It was known throughout the organization that Wilson was embarrassed by the results of the Bills' radical switch to a full-time, no-huddle attack. Although Wilson was aware that most of the offensive starters (including Edwards) wouldn't be in the lineup to face Detroit, he pretty much had issued an ultimatum that if the offense struggled again, Schonert would be gone.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback and Gibran Hamdan taking his place in the second half, the Bills managed just two field goals in a 17-6 loss to the Lions.

Wilson's expectations for his team clearly have been elevated by last March's signing of wide receiver Terrell Owens, a move the owner also initiated, to a guaranteed one-year contract worth $6.5 million. During a July 21 chat on NFL.com, Wilson said he would "be disappointed if we don't make the playoffs this year. I think we've got a good chance."

Apparently, Wilson didn't believe that Owens' appearance in only one of five preseason games because of a toe injury was a plausible explanation for the Bills' offensive problems. Several players on the team also were known to be upset about how poorly the starting offense played in back-to-back games against Green Bay and Pittsburgh, and fingers were beginning to point in Schonert's direction.

Close observers of the team believed that, if the poor play continued, the earliest a coaching change might be made would be within the first three or four weeks of the season. And the most vulnerable member of the staff figured to be Jauron, who came close to losing his job after his third consecutive 7-9 finish last season.

Now it will be up to former quarterbacks coach and ex-Bills backup QB Alex Van Pelt to try to straighten out the offensive mess and perhaps help prevent another coaching shakeup.

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