The 2006 calendar year ushered in a lot of upheaval for the Buffalo Bills. A new general manager, a head coach resignation and a divided locker room. Marv Levy thought his first week on the job would be relatively smooth, but he was quickly entrusted with finding the club a new head coach.
It took him all of 16 days to find his man, Dick Jauron, who was hired as the 14th coach of the Bills a year ago today.
During the head coaching search Levy maintained that there were three things he wanted in a head coach. He had to be a teacher, he had to work well with others and he had to be a straight shooter with the players. For Levy, Jauron filled the bill.
"I hadn't worked with him previously, however I look at all the coaches in the league almost all the time and I had a high regard for his approach," Levy said. "He was coaching the Bears during the time I was living in Chicago and doing some Bears media work. I felt he had shown positive signs there in a very difficult situation when they didn't play any home games in 2002 due to the reconstruction of Soldier Field."
And about 10 years earlier Levy had looked to hire Jauron as an assistant.
"Back in 1992 or 1993 I tried to hire him as a defensive coordinator so I knew quite a bit about him."
That knowledge proved valuable as Jauron quickly united a Bills team that had a fractured psyche.
"He came into a situation with a team that had been down and he brought tremendous stability," Levy said. "The thing I've always said is that if a head coach is going to succeed the first thing he must do is put together a good coaching staff and I believe he's done that. The players have responded to what they recognize as good teaching, level-headedness and fair treatment. So I give him very high grades in his first year."
Levy admired the perseverance of Jauron and his staff through the very difficult trial and error period that comes with installing new offensive and defensive systems in year one.
"I think he and his staff has been able to define the direction in which they're headed," said Levy. "There's a philosophy that they teach and believe in. It's not totally inflexible, but the hustle mandate on defense is just one example of it."
Among the more important accomplishments by Jauron and his staff was definitively settling the quarterback position.
"Being able to put the quarterback controversy behind them and bringing along J.P. (Losman) was a big step forward," said Levy. "Even the guys backing him up are into the system, so the quarterback situation is much more solid than it was a year ago."
Jauron and his staff led the Bills through the most difficult schedule in the league in 2006 winning seven games while facing five division champions and six playoffs teams including the AFC and NFC conference champions.
"There were some very strong teams in there and we gave a lot of them a good run," said Levy. "We lost to Indianapolis by a point, San Diego was a three-point loss. The early loss to New England was by two points. Now there were wider margins in the second New England game and the Bears game obviously. It was difficult."
Levy says that is clearly an area where they need to fare better in year two. They not only need to compete with some of the league's better teams, but beat more of them as well.
"There is some improvement to be made against playoff teams," said Levy. "We were 1-7 against playoff teams this past season. So we have to be better than that going forward."
Overall, Levy believes his head coach has put Buffalo on the right track in his first year as head coach, and is hopeful Jauron and his staff can help the team take the next step in 2007.
"I'm very pleased with how he has done things," said Levy. "What he has reflected as a coach, a member of this organization and a person. It's a credit to the game of football. I'm very pleased with all aspects of that."