Reports: Bills fire coaching staff

Updated: January 4, 2010, 5:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills cleared the way for their next head coach, informing their entire coaching staff to start looking elsewhere for jobs.

Interim head coach Perry Fewell was among those relieved of his duties on Monday, though the Bills said he is still a candidate and will be interviewed. Fewell is on a growing list of candidates likely to include former NFL head coaches Brian Billick, Marty Schottenheimer -- who hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility of returning to coaching -- and Bill Cowher.

The latest development came shortly after Fewell addressed his players in a final team meeting, and less than a day after the Bills (6-10) ended their season with a 30-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Bills announced in a statement that the team's current staff remains under contract but the coaches have been informed that their obligations for this season have been completed, and they now "have the opportunity to seek positions elsewhere." The release said their status will then be determined by the Bills' next head coach.

Despite how the Bills phrased the release, a person familiar with the team's decisions told The Associated Press that the staff was fired.

The house-cleaning did not come as a surprise after Bills owner Ralph Wilson said no job was safe as he was preparing to revamp his entire front office once the season ended. Wilson made those comments to The Associated Press in November, days after he fired Dick Jauron.

The overhaul started last week when national scout Buddy Nix was promoted to general manager, filling a spot that had been held by the team's chief operating officer Russ Brandon, who has no football background. Brandon was promoted to chief executive officer.

Bills players were expecting significant changes as they cleaned out their lockers before the team meeting.

"I'm anxious to see what happens," linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We all want to know what the situation is, who the head coach will be, what type of defense we're going to run. There's a lot of questions, but you have to stay patient."

Defensive end Chris Kelsay saw the possibility of a purge coming when he reported to training camp in late July, warning that jobs would be on the line if the team endured another losing season.

"It is what it is, I'll wait and see how things play out," Kelsay said on Monday. Now going through his fourth coaching change in his seven seasons in Buffalo, Kelsay hoped the team can finally find the right one.

"It's been too long, you've got to get it right eventually," Kelsay said. "Mr. Wilson says we need a little luck, we haven't had it."

The Bills closed their 50th season by missing the playoffs for a 10th straight year, capping a decade in which they enjoyed only one winning season -- a 9-7 finish in 2004.

Fewell, the team's defensive coordinator, finished with a 3-4 record.

Except for respected special teams coordinator Bobby April, most of the Bills assistants, including Fewell, had been hired by Jauron.

Nix said he prefers to hire someone with previous head coaching experience. It's also believed that the Bills are leaning toward an offensive-minded coach to spark a unit that's has ranked 26th or worst in yards gained in the NFL in each of the past seven seasons.

Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has been mentioned as a candidate. Several media outlets, including ESPN and The Buffalo News, have reported the Bills have spoken to Cowher.

However, a source close to the situation told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that it does not appear that Cowher will coach in the NFL next season.

Schottenheimer previously worked with Nix in San Diego, and also previously played for the Bills.

Though saying, "it's not likely" he'll return to coaching, Schottenheimer didn't entirely close the door on the possibility in a telephone interview with two reporters, including The Associated Press.

"I never make a decision until I must," said Schottenheimer. He added he's not been contacted by the Bills, but did leave Nix a congratulatory message for being promoted to GM.

Other potential candidates include Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, and Schottenheimer's son, Brian, the Jets offensive coordinator.

The new coach will have several personnel decisions to make, starting at quarterback.

Trent Edwards, who opened the season as starter, was benched after Jauron was fired. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over and failed to spark a sputtering offense, though he did go 5-4 in games he had a majority of playing time.

Defensive end Aaron Schobel is contemplating retirement after completing his ninth year in Buffalo.

Then there's receiver Terrell Owens, who becomes a free agent after completing a one-year, $6.5 million contract he signed with the Bills in March, days after being released by Dallas.

Owens, on Monday, reiterated that he hasn't ruled out returning to Buffalo, but only with the right coach, at the right price, and if the Bills are interested.

"I think anything is possible, and I think for myself, just be patient, wait things out and weigh my options," Owens said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.