Donahoe backs coach; calls it `gut-check' time for Bills

Updated: October 29, 2003, 8:35 PM ET
ESPN

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tom Donahoe backed his oft-criticized coach Wednesday, calling the second half of the season a "gut-check period" for his slumping Buffalo Bills.

Insisting he'll make his evaluations at the end of the year, the team president expressed confidence that coach Gregg Williams, his staff and players can make a second-half run for the franchise's first playoff berth in four years.

"I think we're in a gut-check period for this team and this staff and this organization," Donahoe said. "And I'm confident we're going to come out of this and get this thing going in the right direction because I believe in the people that we have doing it."

As for those writing letters or circulating petitions calling for Williams' dismissal, Donahoe said: "Tell them to save the postage."

Donahoe's comments came during a half-hour interview with three Buffalo-area reporters, and during a troubled week for the sputtering Bills (4-4) and Williams in particular.

The Bills are in the midst of their bye week, regrouping after losing four of their last six, including Sunday's 38-5 loss at Kansas City. The poor performance against the Chiefs sparked a new round of questions and criticisms directed at Williams.

"Fire Williams now," wrote The Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan earlier this week. "Put the fans, the players and the coach out of their misery."

The Bills-controlled publication, Bills Digest, printed five letters knocking the team and coach.

Williams is in the third and final year of his contract. He's coaching a revamped team which added several high-priced free-agent players in the offseason, and was supposed to build on last year's 8-8 finish.

After opening the season with two impressive wins over New England and Jacksonville, the Bills have unraveled over a six-game stretch in which they've been outscored 131-74. Their offense isn't clicking and their bolstered defense, which features six new starters, has faltered.

Donahoe said he's unhappy with the team's performance so far.

"Nobody is satisfied with the record," he said. "We all believe we should be better than what we are, but we are what we are."

But that doesn't mean it's fair or time to begin making conclusions, he said.

"Everybody wants to define our team after eight games," he said. "A lot of these things are speculative and people's opinions right now. The team will be defined at the end of the season."

Asked if that meant he's had no discussions regarding Williams' status, Donahoe said: "I'm not going to talk about any individuals at the midpoint of the season."

"It's not fair to do it. We're 4-4, not 1-7," he added. "Our players, our coaches, we're together and we're working hard to get better."

Williams has refused to talk about his status other than to say: "What I do is I coach everyday as hard as I can."

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