Bills skid raises questions about Williams' status

Updated: October 16, 2003, 5:42 PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With a revamped roster and high expectations, Gregg Williams' status as the Buffalo Bills coach wasn't supposed to be in jeopardy entering the final year of his contract.

Williams now faces serious questions about the immediate future after losing three of their last four games.

"I'm angry about it. We haven't played up to our level," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said, defending the coaching staff. "When that happens, your coach is going to come under fire. And we do take that personally because it's a reflection on us."

"We are playing for Gregg," added defensive tackle Pat Williams. "It's our fault."

Even Gregg Williams isn't wincing when asked about his job security.

"In the National Football League, you coach as hard as you can every week and you play as hard as you can every week. That doesn't change," Williams said. "We've got to play better and we've got to coach better."

That Williams even responded to the question is a departure from his training camp edict, in which he informed reporters he wouldn't discuss his contract status.

Suddenly everyone is.

The promise of Buffalo's 2-0 start has been erased by a troubling skid in which the Bills (3-3) would've been on a four-game losing streak had they not rallied to beat Cincinnati 22-16 in overtime on Oct. 5.

The team followed that up with a 30-3 loss to the previously winless New York Jets. It was a game in which the Bills' offense continued to sputter, their defense sagged against the run and their special teams unraveled.

Things don't get any easier. Including this weekend's game against Washington (3-3), the Bills' final 10 opponents currently have a combined record of 35-20.

Following the loss to the Jets, Bills' owner Ralph Wilson criticized the team for "sleepwalking" and lacking emotion in its last three games.

Wilson's level of frustration is understandable. He paid nearly $20 million in bonuses in the offseason on free-agent additions such as linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey, fullback Sam Gash and safety Lawyer Milloy.

Bills president Tom Donahoe has declined to comment on Williams' status since he said last spring that this season would serve as a measure of the coach's ability.

Coaches are rarely dismissed in the middle of the season. The Bills didi it two years in a row -- Kay Stephenson was fired four games into the 1985 campaign and his replacement, Hank Bullough, lasted nine games into 1986 before being replaced by Marv Levy.

Levy took the Bills to four straight Super Bowls and was voted into the Hall of Fame.

Williams was a surprise pick when Donahoe hired him to take over in February 2001. Formerly the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator, Williams beat out John Fox, who's in his second year as Carolina's coach, and Marvin Lewis, in his first year as Cincinnati's coach.

The Bills went 3-13 in Williams' first year, no surprise considering it was a patchwork roster facing severe salary cap limitations. After acquiring Bledsoe in a trade with New England prior to last season, Buffalo responded with an encouraging 8-8 finish.

This season began with Bledsoe and several others making vows that anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment.

Six games into the season, they're having difficulty figuring out what's gone wrong.

"That's the big mystery. No one really knows," Gash said. "The last three weeks were the last three weeks. We're not going to talk about it anymore."

Cornerback Antoine Winfield provided one curious answer.

Asked who was to blame -- players or coaches -- for the team's struggles, Winfield responded: "It's a combination of both. I think we could split it 50-50."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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