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Thursday, November 19, 2009
Root of Buffalo's problem easy to tackle

By Tim Graham

There was one specific problem that doomed Dick Jauron with the Buffalo Bills.

It wasn't installing the no-huddle offense. It wasn't signing Terrell Owens. It wasn't firing the offensive coordinator 10 days before the regular-season opener. It wasn't Leodis McKelvin's fumble or Roscoe Parrish's bobble.

Dick Jauron
Problems at offensive tackle helped lead to Dick Jauron's demise in Buffalo.
What sunk Jauron and led to his dismissal Tuesday can be directly attributed to the Bills' organizational approach at offensive tackle. Jauron certainly had a voice in how they handled it, but vice president of pro personnel John Guy had input and chief operating officer Russ Brandon signed off on it.

Fitting that Jauron was fired the same week "The Blind Side," a major motion picture about the life of Baltimore Ravens rookie tackle Michael Oher, will hit theaters.

The movie is based on the book by Michael Lewis, author of "Moneyball." Oher was the central character in Lewis' book, but the real subject of "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" was about how left tackle had evolved into the second most important position in football.

The problem in Buffalo is that they don't have a tackle. Or they've had too many. Either way, it has been a disaster.

What follows is a timeline of how the Bills went from having a respectable pair of tackles to the most abominable group in the NFL.

April 17: Unable or unwilling to negotiate a contract extension, the Bills trade two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles for draft picks.

April 25 and 26: Bills decline to select a tackle in the 2009 draft.

April 26: I asked Jauron what the Bills intend to do at tackle.

"We went into the draft having discussed that after the trade of Jason, saying 'Do we feel like we have to have a tackle?' And I think we all agreed ... we're not going to stray far from our grades just to take a tackle," Jauron said.

"We felt like we have guys that can play there. So there's no sense in passing up a guy we think is significantly better at another position just to feel like we've plugged a number in. We weren't going to do that."

Shortly after the draft: Jauron informs right tackle Langston Walker they are moving him to left tackle and right guard Brad Butler they are switching him to right tackle.

May 14: Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson observes "Buffalo might have the worst offensive tackles in the NFL."

Aug. 28: A team source tells me Demetrius Bell, despite a back injury, has overtaken Walker as the Bills' left tackle of choice. Bell is entering his second year and hasn't played in an NFL game.

Sept. 5: Bills cut tackle Kirk Chambers, who started four games in 2008.

Sept. 8: Bills cut Walker, re-sign Chambers. Jauron is asked if he overestimated Walker's ability.

"Probably," Jauron replies. "We clearly felt we could move him in, and he'd do the job. He just wasn't playing up to our expectations. So we felt like it was time to make that move."

Sept. 14: Bills start the season with Bell at left tackle and Butler at right tackle. Their entire opening-night offensive line has 47 career starts among them.

Sept. 20: Butler suffers a season-ending knee injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sept. 22: Rather than pursue veteran help such as Jon Runyan or Damion McIntosh, the Bills pluck rookie tackle Jamon Meredith off Green Bay Packers' practice squad.

Sept. 27: Jonathan Scott starts for Butler at right tackle against the New Orleans Saints. It's Scott's seventh career start in four seasons. ... Bell suffers a groin injury.

Oct. 4: Chambers, inactive the two previous games, starts at right tackle against the Miami Dolphins and gives up 2.5 sacks to first-year outside linebacker Cameron Wake. ... Scott starts at left tackle for Bell.

Oct. 18: Meredith makes his first NFL start at right tackle against the New York Jets.

Nov. 1: Meredith suffers a knee injury against the Houston Texans.

Nov. 15: Bell suffers a right knee injury against the Tennessee Titans. Rookie guard Andy Levitre finishes the game at left tackle.

Nov. 16: Through Week 10, Bell is the NFL's most penalized player regardless of position.

Nov. 17: Bills fire Jauron, name defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interim head coach.