ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills didn't spend $20 million for this.
Gregg Williams paid the price for the Bills' flop this season,
losing his job as head coach.
Team president Tom Donahoe, calling this season a regression,
believed the only way for the Bills to move forward was with a new
coach. So Williams will not be rehired after completing his
three-year contract with a 17-31 record, 6-10 this season.
"We just didn't feel we had made enough progress this year,"
Donahoe said Monday. "We have regressed this year. And I just
didn't have the confidence going forward that we could get that
The record was particularly disappointing for a revamped team
Donahoe bolstered by spending about $20 million in bonus money this
offseason. After an encouraging 2-0 start, the Bills unraveled,
particularly on offense, and ended the season losing seven of the
last nine, capped by Saturday's 31-0 loss at New England.
Donahoe informed Williams of his decision during a meeting
"I regret that it didn't work out," Donahoe said. "I can't
say anything publicly bad about the guy except we didn't win enough
The Bills have four straight non-winning seasons, the longest
such stretch since 1982-87.
While referring to notes, Williams thanked Donahoe and team
owner Ralph Wilson for the coaching opportunity during a brief
"We weren't able to do as well as I thought this year, but Tom
has put the team in the right position," Williams said. "I'm
sorry I wasn't able to take it to the next level."
He wouldn't respond to reporters' questions.
Williams turned down a contract extension last spring. The
former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator became the Bills'
head coach in February 2001, replacing Wade Phillips.
After Williams coached a patchwork, salary cap-strapped squad to
a 3-13 record in his rookie season, the Bills were markedly
improved last year after trading with the Patriots for quarterback
Drew Bledsoe. They went 8-8 in 2002.
This season was a major step backward, and surprisingly so for a
team that opened the year with consecutive victories, including a
31-0 rout of New England in Week 1.
Williams' play-calling was second-guessed, and he and offensive
coordinator Kevin Gilbride drew criticism for a sputtering offense.
After establishing 10 franchise records a year ago, Bledsoe
endured the worst season of his 11-year career.
And it didn't help that Bledsoe was running the same
pass-oriented scheme without deep threat Peerless Price, who was
traded to Atlanta last March, and with No. 1 receiver Eric Moulds
limited for most of the season with a groin injury.
By the end of this season, several players, including cornerback
Antoine Winfield and running back Travis Henry, publicly questioned
the team's pass-first philosophy and failure to adjust to changes
Donahoe suggested he agreed with the players' criticisms.
"I don't know today that you can coach in the National Football
League if you cannot adjust to change," Donahoe said. "The
players change, circumstances change, and you have to be adjusting
all the time to that. We could've done a better job in some areas
of making those adjustments."
Williams was Donahoe's first major hire when the team president
took over following the 2000 season. Williams beat out two other
high-profile candidates, Marvin Lewis, and John Fox, who both had
successful 2003 seasons as head coaches.
Donahoe did not provide a timetable to complete his coaching
search. Among those considered candidates to replace Williams are
Jim Fassel, fired by the Giants, and Tom Coughlin, out of the NFL
for a year after being dismissed by the Jaguars.
Donahoe said the new coach will determine the status of the
assistant coaches who remain under contract.