The first team offense's inability to score an offensive touchdown in a five-game preseason ultimately forced Dick Jauron's hand on Friday. Just 10 days before the season opener at New England Buffalo's head coach fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
"We've removed Turk Schonert and relieved him of his responsibilities as offensive coordinator," said Jauron. "We'll move forward as quickly and as well as we possibly can from here. It's nothing that we had planned on and was nothing enjoyable in any way shape or form. But that's what occurred."
Bills quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt has been selected to handle the play calling.
Last season Schonert helped improve Buffalo's offensive rankings, but they were marginal. From 2007 to 2008 the Bills went from 31st in total offense to 25th. Their rushing offense improved from 15th to 14th and their passing offense improved from 30th to 22nd. And their points per game averaged improved from 27th to 23rd.
The problem with those improvements is they weren't significant enough to lift Buffalo's attack out of the bottom third of the league, and when signs through the course of the preseason didn't indicate that the team's output would be any different, and perhaps worse, Jauron was faced with making a difficult choice.
Even though the regular season is fast approaching, Jauron did not take it into consideration when making this decision.
"I think that it's pretty obvious when you make a decision you know when you should do it," he said. "I wasn't thinking about firing him three days ago. I wasn't thinking about it two weeks ago. But when you start thinking about it I think you need to move on it and do something. So when I started thinking about it I gave it a good deal of thought and did it. Clearly I believe it's the right thing to do. It's just a decision I needed to make I felt and made it."
Buffalo's first team offense this preseason had 15 possessions when they were all on the field together as an 11-man unit. They managed just one field goal, nine punts and five turnovers.
The Bills number one attack crossed midfield just three times on those 15 series. It was unacceptable even in the preseason when game planning is simple and play calling is kept close to the vest to save the best plays for the regular season.
After the team's preseason loss at Pittsburgh the starters on offense maintained a resolute confidence that come the regular season they would be a productive unit that could move the football and score points.
"You're going to go through some highs and lows throughout the season and through the sport of football," said Trent Edwards earlier this week. "Obviously we're not going in the direction we want to go right now, but there's no reason why we can't go the direction that we want. We have the pieces here and that's the bottom line. That's why I'm so confident and I haven't lost any confidence at all because we have the same guys and the right guys that we need in the right place and it's a matter of getting it done now."
Despite the struggles offensively through the first four preseason games, Jauron chose only to play his starting offensive linemen and Derek Schouman in Thursday night's preseason finale.
"Our offensive line did, they're all playing different positions and some of them are brand new obviously," said Jauron after the Lions game. "Both of our guards they did play. They did start. We thought they needed some time together so we put them out there for a couple of series.
"We started preparing Trent for New England gave him all New England reps up to this game and we just decided it was better not to put him in there with no preparation for another opponent."
Having Van Pelt handling the play calling provides for as seamless a transition as possible. The offensive system is expected to remain intact with Van Pelt's play calling preferences expected to infuse a different twist to the offense's approach. Running game coordinator Eric Studesville's role remains unchanged.
"With Alex and Eric it's not like we're changing scheme," said Jauron. "We may be changing focus, we may be changing emphasis, but it's not like we're adding new things. They're used to the terminology. Everybody is on the same page. Hopefully it'll provide a jolt, hopefully a jolt forward and move us on."
Van Pelt is the seventh play caller for the Bills since 2000, with only Joe Pendry lasting more than two seasons as a coordinator for Buffalo (1998-2000). Van Pelt is still the quarterbacks coach, but now will also be doing the play calling.
The former Bills quarterback did the exact same thing in 2005 as quarterbacks coach for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe. He called all the plays for the Galaxy that season.
Whether he calls plays from the booth or down on the field remains to be seen.