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Friday, September 4, 2009
Bills' firing of Schonert 'a major blowup'



Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Coach Dick Jauron was not pleased with how the offense was preparing and progressing.

Less than two weeks before the regular season, three NFL clubs were desperate enough to fire their offensive coordinators.

"It's alarming that in this league it's getting to where people are feeling pressure even after the preseason," former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel said. "You're kind of going, 'Wow. This season is going to be one wild ride.' "

ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Herm Edwards said he knows how anxious struggling teams can get, but said "you've never seen it like this."

The Buffalo Bills fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert on Friday, 10 days before opening their season against the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football."

Four days ago, the Kansas City Chiefs fired their offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Jeff Jagodzinski on Thursday.

"Somebody does it," Fassel said, "and then you might think 'Hell, our offense isn't doing anything either. They did something about it. Why don't we?' Hopefully, that's not a trend."

Dick Jauron replaced Schonert with quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt after the first-team offense failed to score a touchdown on any of its 16 preseason possessions.

Third-year quarterback Trent Edwards seemed to be wasting his time in exhibitions. Jauron admitted Thursday night Edwards wasn't prepared for them.

"I just didn't feel we were progressing, and I didn't get the sense that we were going to move forward," Jauron said.

Unlike the situations in Kansas City or Tampa Bay, the decision to remove Schonert wasn't made by a rookie head coach who wanted to get rid of a coordinator he hadn't worked with before.

Jauron is entering his ninth season as an NFL head coach. When he took over the Bills in 2006, he hired Schonert to be his quarterbacks coach. Jauron elevated him to offensive coordinator last year, giving Jauron plenty of background information to formulate an opinion on Schonert months before training camp.

Then, the day before teams must trim their rosters down to 53 players, the Turk came calling for Schonert: Bring your playbook. You know, the one you put together for us.

"As head coach, your job is to get your staff right," Fassel said. "That's a major, major, major, major, major blowup."

Like a doctor being asked to explain the diagnosis of someone who's not his patient, Fassel declined to speak specifically about Schonert's dismissal.

But Fassel did offer general opinions about the decision to fire a coordinator so close to the start of a season.

"There's a belief when moves like this happen that the guy walks out of the building with all of their ills and problems," Fassel said. "But when you fire a guy that quick, that means you made a huge mistake of hiring him.

"The biggest thing for a head coach is to get the right guys in the right spots. You have to look at yourself as a coach and say 'I made a bad decision. This one is on me big-time.' That sometimes escapes the story: Wait a minute! Who hired you? Who set this up?

"That's a major faux pas."

Fassel coached the Giants for seven years, guiding them to the playoffs three times and the NFC championship in 2000. He now coaches the United Football League franchise in Las Vegas. His quarterback will be Trent Edwards' former backup, J.P. Losman.

Fassel added, however, a dramatic coordinator switch could have positive impact on a team.

"Sometimes it will give you a lift," Fassel said. "At the end of the day, we're only human. It's possible this could get everybody to come together when they were looking for somebody to blame. Sometimes it scares the players, who think 'I might be the next one to go.'

"A move like this has a tendency to wake everybody up, get out the smelling salts and 'Hey, we better wake up here.' "