Getting fired might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Sean Kugler.
The Buffalo Bills essentially dismissed their entire coaching staff two weeks ago, and that included Kugler, the offensive line coach who had to laugh to keep from crying amid a tragicomical series of events throughout the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Kugler to be their offensive line coach. Kugler goes from a mess of a franchise that hasn't gone to the playoffs in a decade to one of the NFL's classiest organizations one year removed from a Super Bowl victory.
"There's absolutely no question that he's the best football coach I've ever been around," Boise State head coach Chris Petersen told me last month. Kugler was Boise State's assistant head coach in 2006, when it was the NCAA's lone undefeated Division I-A team.
"He's unbelievable, and I think the work that he's doing right now speaks louder than anything else he's ever done."
The Bills' offensive-line woes weren't Kugler's fault. They traded his best player, Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, and didn't replace him. They cut his most experienced lineman, tackle Langston Walker, a week before the season began. His opening-night lineup had a combined 56 NFL starts among them.
Injuries hit Buffalo hard. By Week 6, Kugler's lineup shared 47 NFL starts. At the end of the year, six offensive linemen were on injured reserve. Five of them started at least one game. Only center Geoff Hangartner started all 16 games at his position.
Kugler, a Buffalo-area native, was hired by Dick Jauron. Buffalo fired Jauron in mid-November.
"This has been extreme," Kugler told me a week before Christmas. "I tell these guys, 'You're going to look back on it one year and laugh. That's all you can do. You just can't sit there and dwell on it. You have to keep grinding.' "