Itís official now. The Dick Jauron Era of Buffalo Bills football never happened. Or so you might believe by looking at the official team photo.
Before last Sundayís game in Buffalo, copies of the official team photo of the 2009 Bills were handed out to fans as they entered Ralph Wilson Stadium. Since these shots are normally made early in the season, itís not abnormal for a team photo to include personnel no longer with the team.
But itís a little weird for the photo not to include the head coach, even if he was fired just over two weeks ago. So, youíre thinking, maybe the picture was taken within the past two weeks. If thatís the case, then how did Xavier Oman, a player who was cut on Nov. 11, make it into the picture?
Nope, Jauron was photo-shopped out, wiped from existence like some old Soviet premier. In the original photo, he was there, in the middle of the second row, right next to owner Ralph Wilson.
In the photo handed out last weekend, rookie defensive back Jairus Byrd has taken his spot next to the owner.
While itís easy to make him disappear, Jauron wonít be replaced quite so easily. Or so quietly.
The football club is giving the impression theyíre going to try for a high-profile replacement and, perhaps to prove their commitment, they interviewed Mike Shanahan ó or perhaps he interviewed them ó for seven hours one day last week.
This week, Charlie Weis, the recently fired coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, has been mentioned prominently. Weis could come with his own quarterback, Brady Quinn, who played at Notre Dame and has all but worn out his welcome in Cleveland.
Longtime observers of the Buffalo football scene are forgiven if they regard these developments somewhat cynically. It has never been Wilsonís modus operandi to spend more money than is necessary, especially on a coach.
As the season progresses, Perry Fewell might be playing right into the ownerís hands. The Bills have played much better football under the fiery ex-defensive coordinator turned interim head coach.
Itís too late to think playoffs, but if the Bills continue to reflect Fewellís aggressive attitude, it might give Wilson a convenient (or inexpensive) alternative.
ďI spent 25 years as an assistant and at some point in time in your career you start taking notes and you start preparing for your opportunity,Ē Fewell said. ďThis is my opportunity. I didnít choose for it to come this way, but Iím making the most of my opportunity. Iím having a lot of fun, I promise you, and Iím enjoying the experience, and Iím gaining a lot of knowledge from this experience.Ē
Whatís more, he has plenty of support from within the Bills locker room.
ďI think heís certainly putting his personal aspect on it,Ē receiver Lee Evans said. ďHeís a little more emotional and he gets into it a little bit.
ďThe way he comes in, heís very passionate about it and wants us to work hard and we can rally behind that. Heís all about bringing everybody together and trying to win a football game. Thatís something that we can hang our hat on and rally behind.Ē
During games, Fewell is like a caged lion on the sidelines ó pacing, exhorting, yelling and, so far, making his case.
In the picture from which Jauron mysteriously disappeared, Fewell can be identified in the back.
This time next year, he could occupy a more prominent position, but he should be careful what he wishes for.