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Bills fire defensive line coach Karl Dunbar

The Buffalo Bills have fired defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.

"This was a difficult decision as Karl both played for me and then coached on my staff with two different teams, and I have a great deal of respect for him," Bills coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. "But I feel we needed to make a change and go in a different direction at this point in time and so I have informed Karl that I am relieving him of his duties. I want to take this opportunity to thank Karl and wish him the best of luck in the future."

Ryan's lingering decision on Dunbar led to the unusual timing of an assistant coach being fired in mid-March, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, adding that Dunbar's fate should have been decided immediately after the Bills' season ended Jan. 4.

Dunbar, 48, joined Buffalo last season after three seasons (2012-14) coaching the New York Jets' defensive line when Ryan was head coach.

The Bills' defense underperformed last season after leading the NFL in sacks (54) in 2014 and setting a franchise record in sacks (57) in 2013. The Bills finished with 21 sacks last season, second fewest in the league, and did not send a player to the Pro Bowl after having three players (Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus) elected to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014.

Second-year Bills defensive end Cedric Reed reacted to the news of Dunbar's firing Sunday evening, calling him a "great coach."

It is unclear who will replace Dunbar in coaching the defensive line. Rex Ryan hired his twin brother, former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, as an assistant head coach/defense earlier this offseason, while Rex Ryan's longtime associate and former college roommate, Jeff Weeks, served as the Bills' assistant defensive line coach last season.