BREAKING: Leslie Frazier Steps Down as Bills DC
After six seasons as the Buffalo Bills’ Defensive Coordinator, and three as the Assistant Head Coach, Leslie Frazier has stepped away from football for one season. The move leaves the team without a DC, and with the 2023 coach hiring cycle already over, the Bills do not have options for any of the top candidates from this offseason. It creates a fresh new problem for the 2023 Bills to address.
The team announced Frazier’s intent to return to football in 2024, but they did not specify where.
It’s an important distinction.
You may remember the end of the 2014 season, when then-Head Coach Doug Marrone shocked the league by opting out of his contract, leaving the Bills unexpectedly leader-less. The situation is similar now, but this time the team has already lost out on the top available coaching candidates.
By waiting until the NFL Combine to announce this coaching change, the team suffers a real setback on the open market. All the top defensive candidates have already been hired, or settled into their previous roles for the upcoming NFL season.
Here are those already hired for new DC roles this offseason:
- Ejiro Evero – Panthers
- Jim Schwartz – Browns
- Nick Rallis – Cardinals
- Ryan Nielsen – Falcons
- Vance Joseph – Broncos
- Matt Burke – Texans
- Derrick Ansley – Chargers
- Vic Fangio – Dolphins
- Brian Flores – Vikings
- Joe Woods – Saints
- Steve Wilks – 49ers
The names on the list are notable, and many of them are worthy and coveted hires. But the Buffalo Bills no longer have any of these on the table.
Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane are addressing the media later today (Feb 28th, 2023), at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. It’s unclear if they plan to speak on Leslie Frazier’s replacement, but they are expected to touch on his departure.
Possible DC Candidates
Without Leslie Frazier, the defense is in desperate need of a Coordinator. One who can work with Sean McDermott on a defense that our Head Coach still ultimately leads. Who are the options?
Buffalo Bills Defensive Backs Coach, John Butler, is a good starting point in the DC search. He was on the table last season in the event of a Frazier removal, and has orchestrated one of the NFL’s best secondaries since joining the team in 2018. This season, he took over the title of Passing Game Coordinator, and may have shown enough to earn a chance at the must-desired DC job. His familarity and close work with Sean McDermott is helpful.
The second in-house option is a new one. Al Holcomb. It’s been three short weeks since Holcomb joined the Bills in a Senior Defensive Assistant role, and may have been the plan all along. If the team knew about Leslie Frazier’s upcoming departure, finding someone who coached alongside McDermott in the past would be a sensible and easy transition. Holcomb stood next to McDermott on the sidelines in Carolina, which should come as no surprise. He was also heavily mentioned in the Buffalo Bills own press release on Frazier’s departure.
There aren’t a great deal of options to choose from here, but there is one I like. Former Vikings HC Mike Zimmer. Zimmer is an experienced and qualified candidate, who just took an assistant and analyst role with Colorado for 2023. If the Bills open the door for a re-entry into the NFL, Zimmer may make the jump.
Another respectable option, though surprising, would be former Houston Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith. Smith got the short end of the stick in Houston, and his tenure was the only thing shorter. An experienced coach who won’t make rookie mistakes, Smith might just be good enough to mitigate this shocking new issue on defense.
All in all, the Buffalo Bills have been put into a tough spot by the indecision of Leslie Frazier. We can only hope they find the right replacement amongst the dregs of the NFL’s coaching staff. When Frazier returns in 2024, he won’t find his job in Buffalo waiting for him.
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