Bills coach Dick Jauron will return next season after team owner Ralph Wilson decided a shake up wasn't necessary despite a third consecutive 7-9 finish that left unhappy fans demanding change.
While acknowledging the fans' dissatisfaction, Wilson said the ``team played hard all year long and there are many positives to build on.''
The Bills owner announced he had decided to retain Jauron and the entire coaching staff after meeting with the coach Tuesday at Wilson's home in suburban Detroit.
``I believe that this team, at this time, is better served by continuity in the coaching staff rather than a disruptive overhaul,'' Wilson said in a three-paragraph statement released by the team.
Wilson warned that he will not be complacent in seeking improvements, saying in his discussions he identified several issues that need to be addressed.
Wilson didn't offer details, but noted his unhappiness with a sputtering offense that was limited to scoring two field goals in its three final home games - including a 13-0 season-ending loss to New England last weekend and a 16-3 loss to Miami in a Bills home game played at Toronto on Dec. 7.
Despite finishing with the same record as the 2007 team, the Bills showed improvement on both sides of the ball.
In quarterback Trent Edwards' first season as starter, the offense scored 10 more touchdowns and gained 4,882 yards - the most since 2002. On defense, the unit allowed nearly 600 fewer yards than last year and in seven games held opponents to 16 or fewer points.
Bills defensive end and co-captain Chris Kelsay said he is ``ecstatic'' that Jauron is still the coach.
I think I can speak on behalf of our entire team that that's what we wanted to see happen,'' Kelsay said.To see the team move forward without him, I think would've been a terrible thing, really.''
Wilson did not say whether Jauron received a contract extension beyond next season. Jauron had completed his initial three-year contract after this season, and kept his job despite the team losing eight of its final 10 games after a 5-1 start.
The decision to retain Jauron came with input from chief operating officer Russ Brandon and vice president and chief scout Tom Modrak, who will be receiving a larger say in the team's football-related decisions.
Jauron did not immediately return a phone message left for him by The Associated Press.
He becomes the first Bills coach to reach his fourth season since Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season.
Wade Phillips lasted three years before he was fired following the 2000 season. Gregg Williams wasn't rehired after three seasons. Mike Mularkey lasted two years before he resigned suddenly during a front-office upheaval following the 2005 season.
Continuity was important to Kelsay, who noted Jauron is his third head coach in six seasons in Buffalo.
It's like starting from square one again, so we wouldn't have the growth that we've had the last couple of years,'' Kelsay said.We can continue on from here and move forward and continue to improve.''
Wilson said he is confident the Bills are improving and said he has been encouraged by Edwards' development.
Jauron does have plenty of work to do in turning around a team that has missed the playoffs for nine straight years and faded badly after its hot start. The Bills went 0-6 against their AFC East rivals.
Jauron was the target of heavy criticism for the Bills meltdown, and was particularly faulted for the team's numerous on-field blunders. The Bills earned a reputation for botching scoring opportunities this season, including a blown chance at a field goal before time ran out in the first half against New England.
It was Levy's decision to hire Jauron in his first act as general manager after being lured out of retirement to succeed team president Tom Donahoe, who was fired following the 2005 season. Levy, a Harvard graduate, saw similarities in the Yale-educated Jauron, who earned a second shot at being a head coach after a five-year stint with the Chicago Bears, which ended with his dismissal following the 2003 season.
Levy stepped down following the 2007 season, citing a lack of interest in keeping a front-office job, while also expressing confidence that he had helped steer the Bills in the right direction.
With Chicago, Jauron went 35-46, including a playoff loss, and was the NFL's 2001 coach of the year following a 13-3 finish. He also went 1-4 as an interim coach in Detroit, closing out the 2005 season after Steve Mariucci's dismissal.