Will Perry Fewell resume his coordinator role?

Posted on January 2, 2010 by Patrick Moran

There’s a next-to-zero chance Perry Fewell’s transitory run at head coach continues beyond the season finale against Indianapolis.  For one, fans will never buy his interim tag being changed to permanent.  Keeping Fewell in charge of shot calling would be the same as Ralph Wilson pleading for season ticket sales to plummet. The team is just 2-4 under his leadership and in many ways has resembled the squad that went 24-33 under Dick Jauron.  The offense continued to be as wretched under Fewell as it’s ever been, while conservative game planning and foolhardy penalties continue to be the norm.

But that doesn’t mean Fewell’s tenure in Buffalo is completely over.  While general manager Buddy Nix said last Thursday he’d interview Fewell for the head coaching job when the season ends, we all know that’s little more than a formality.  Fewell won’t be the 2010 head coach, but it doesn’t automatically discard him from continuing on the staff.

Depending on who Nix tabs as the next head coach and particularly if it’s an offensive minded guy, there’s a realistic chance Fewell could recommence his role as defensive coordinator should he choose to.

Considering the anemic offense did them no favors, the Bills defense has been remarkably formidable in 2009.  The unit ranks just 21st in yards and is dead last against the run, but those numbers are partially overblown because they’ve been on the field more than any team in the league.

The defense has intercepted 26 passes, tied with New Orleans for second in the NFL and trailing Green Bay by just one.  It’s quite the turnaround after picking off just 10 in 2008.  Their 31 sacks in 2009 is already four more than they reached last year.

This was also done despite a devastating depletion of talent due to injuries.  When the Bills line up to face the Colts they’ll be doing so with starting linebackers Chris Draft and Jon Corto as well as Reggie Corner getting the nod at cornerback.  Kawika Mitchell went down for the season in week five.  Keith Ellison was third in the NFL with 68 tackles when his season ended at the midway point.  Paul Posluszny missed more than a month with a broken forearm. Donte Whitner missed five games with injuries.  Leodis McKelvin’s season lasted all of three games.  Terrence McGee battled injuries all year before finally succumbing to a bad shoulder.  Kyle Williams and even rookie sensation Jairus Byrd have been less than healthy.

The list goes on and on.  If you need to know how abysmal it is, Ryan Manalac and Josh Stamer will serve as the primary backup linebackers against the Colts.

So if any element of the squad deserves at least a fractional pass, it’s Fewell’s defense.

Bills fans who want anyone associated with the team, down the security guard and hot dog vendors replaced don’t want to hear it, but keeping Fewell on board to run the defense isn’t necessarily the worst thing that could happen.  There’s a lot this unit could build on.  If they can find themselves a stouter run stuffer in the middle and perhaps a linebacker, as well as the positive progression of Aaron Maybin, this defense could be very good, maybe even one of the best in football.

Mitchell may not be the Pro Bowler fans hoped for when he came from the New York Giants, but when healthy and compared to Draft or Corto he’s Lawrence Taylor.  The New England fumble was a black eye on McKelvin’s short season, but people quickly forget he was a physical home run hitter as a 2008 rookie.  He’s presence also puts the valuable Drayton Florence into a nickel role.  And of course as Byrd learns to tackle and take better angles he’ll be become a complete safety, and that’s scary in itself.

Assuming he even wants to be back, Fewell’s future may depend on who becomes the next head coach as Nix begins his search next week.  If the Bills were to land Bill Cowher or a defensive minded coach like a Ron Rivera, they’d want to put their own stamp on and Fewell would be moving on.  But if it’s an offensive intellect like Charlie Weis, Mike Martz, Jim Fassell or Brian Billick that gets the gig, they very well may want to keep Fewell aboard and worry about overhauling the other side of the ball.

Besides, Fewell is under contract and Wilson is branded as a guy not opposed to saving a penny or two.  In fact, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Nix’s instructed to try and find a coach willing to keep as much of the current assistant regime in tact as possible.

It’s the biggest reason why although I believe the Bills interest in Cowher and is legitimate, hiring him could potentially mean a complete house cleaning of the entire coaching staff, which is something I’m not sold on Wilson, a man who likes continuity, is willing to do.

So like it or not, don’t be shocked to see a condition of Nix’s hire have the retention of at least certain coaches. This is Buffalo we’re talking about.  Wilson may go as far to insist guys such as Fewell, Bobby April, George Catovaolos and Bob Sanders get the opportunity to remain on.  Prospectively that could hinder the Bills in their search.

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3 Comments on Will Perry Fewell resume his coordinator role?

  1. Matt

    Send Fewell far away from Buffalo! His Defenses have been awful! The Tampa 2 sticks unless you have the great players Tampa had in the late 90’s early 00’s…….Bye Bye Perry! If they keep this fool and hire one of those pathetic coaching candidates I have seen mentioned so far: Billick (ego the size of the sun), Rivera (not close to qualified or experienced on offense), Old Man Schottenheirmer (too old and too boring), kid Schottenheimer (his Jets O is terrible!).

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