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Bills Make Coaching Staff Move; Will We See More?



We are almost two weeks removed from the end of the Buffalo Bills’ season, but yet we’ve only seen one coaching change. After another tough playoff loss and a big offseason in store, will we see more changes in the coming weeks?

The Bills lost in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, having failed to reach the AFC Championship Game in three out of those four years. Over their last three playoff losses, the Buffalo Bills have allowed 107 points and 1,403 total yards. And, taking it a step further, they blew a 16-point second-half lead against the Texans in the 2019 playoffs.

Statistically speaking, the Bills have had great defensive rankings over these last few years. But maybe this unit isn’t as dominant as the stats would suggest?

A lot of times over the last three years, the Bills have played teams with losing records, resulting in big, blow out wins. The starters didn’t even last through the fourth quarter in three out of the first five games this season because the game was so out of reach.

And then there’s the whole Josh Allen component of it. Allen can cover up a lot of mistakes, on both sides of the ball. Take the Saturday night Dolphins game for example; the Bills gave up 29 points and 405 yards to a warm-weather team playing in the snow. But we don’t even talk about that because Allen took the game over in the fourth quarter and the Bills clinched a playoff spot.

After four straight years of not being able to win the big game, I believe it’s time for a change, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Winning the division three straight years is fun and all, but we have bigger goals in mind.

Jim Salgado/Joe Danna

The news we’ve all been waiting for is whether or not Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott will retain defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Leslie Frazier. However, the only news we have gotten thus far is the firing of safeties coach Jim Salgado.

This morning, the team announced that they hired Joe Danna in his place.

As for Salgado, he had been with the Bills ever since McDermott took over in 2017. He was a defensive assistant from 2017-2019 before becoming the nickels coach from 2020-21. (He was a big reason why NCB Taron Johnson became one of the league’s best at the position.) This year, Salgado worked with the safeties before the Bills let him go.

This was a surprising move in my opinion, considering Salgado never worked with a consistent pair of safeties throughout the season. Between Micah Hyde going on IR after Week 2, Jordan Poyer hyperextending his elbow during training camp and then again during the season (not to mention playing on a torn meniscus), and then obviously the whole Damar Hamlin situation, it was a revolving door at the position.

Salgado was down to cycling through Jaquan Johnson, Cam Lewis, and Dean Marlowe. Johnson had a 51.4 PFF grade, Lewis was a converted cornerback after going undrafted out of UB, and Marlowe was acquired at the trade deadline. That’s nothing against those guys; I think it’s just unfair to Salgado considering all of the moving parts that he had to deal with.

Eric Washington

A coach who I do think deserves to get some more heat is senior defensive assistant and defensive line coach Eric Washington.

Before coming to Buffalo, Washington served as Carolina’s defensive line coach (2011-17) and defensive coordinator (2018-19). Washington has been Buffalo’s DL coach since 2020, and was promoted to a senior defensive assistant this past season.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that the defense has been underwhelming is the lack of growth and development from the defensive line. The Bills have put so much capital into their d-line; two first-round picks, two second-round picks (in back-to-back years may I add), a $120 million contract, and four other free agent signings. And where has it gotten them?

When Von Miller played this season, everything looked great. But Von is like Josh on the defensive side of the ball, covering up the blemishes. The Bills finished the regular season 5-0 without Miller and 15th in team sacks (40). But again, sometimes you have to look further than just the generic stats.

In addition, here are the regular season PFF grades for the Buffalo Bills’ defensive linemen:

As for the draft picks, DT Ed Oliver has shown flashes, but has failed to consistently be a game-changer. The most tackles he’s had in a season was 43 in his rookie season. The most sacks was 5.0 (also in his rookie season). And his highest PFF grade in his four-year career was a 70.9 in 2021. And let’s not forget — the Bills drafted Oliver ninth overall and will be paying him almost $10.8 million next season.

DE Greg Rousseau has good PFF grades and was tied with Miller for the team lead in sacks (8.0). However, he too hasn’t taken that next step like we thought he would. He had the chance to do so when Miller went out. Unfortunately, he only had 14 total tackles and just one sack over the team’s final five games (including playoffs).

Meanwhile, DEs A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham have both massively underwhelmed for second-round picks. In his three years, Epenesa has 44 total tackles, 9 sacks, and has never finished with a PFF grade above 65. Basham, on the other hand, has 37 tackles and 4.5 sacks in two years, with PFF grades of 62.2 and 66.4, respectively.

A lot of this falls back on Eric Washington for not being able to develop these four young pass rushers as we had hoped. The fact that the Bills have spent four top picks and not one of them has really popped off yet is a big concern. Maybe it’s a front office problem, but they had to have seen something in college that Washington has yet to bring out of them consistently.

Leslie Frazier

The biggest name on the defensive coaching staff, one who can shoulder the blame for the pass rush as well, is Leslie Frazier. As I said last week, I think it’s time for the Buffalo Bills to make a change and get a new voice before this defense plateaus. Frazier has been here with McDermott since 2017, and it appears as though he has maxed out.

Some people say that Frazier did a great job this year considering the Buffalo Bills’ record, stats, and injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Buffalo may have gone 14-4 this season and had the second-best scoring defense, but the standards are higher here. The one stat that I care about the most? Frazier and his defense have given up almost 36 points/game and 468 yards/game over their last three playoff losses. That is a huge problem.

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Frazier’s defense is his reluctance to get out of the soft zone coverage. This zone has a nickel base and a bend-but-don’t-break mentality.

This picture still makes me livid. Normally, you shouldn’t look at one picture and jump to conclusions, but we’ve seen this time and time again, like in Kansas City last year during 13 seconds.

After watching the first half of the Bengals-Chiefs game Sunday, I tweeted this.

The Chiefs were dialing up the pressure on QB Joe Burrow and the weakened Bengals offensive line all night, throwing different packages at them. Now granted, the Chiefs have better pass rushers (i.e. Chris Jones and Frank Clark) than the Bills do. But the point is, they figured out how to get home and weren’t afraid to make adjustments.

You can put that on Frazier for not mixing up his play calls and packages more. You can tie that back to Washington and say that he’s not giving Frazier the flexibility to make those calls. Or you can say that they’re both to blame. Either way, I think this defense needs a shake up.

Steve Wilks?

Here’s where is gets interesting. If the Buffalo Bills do decide to fire Leslie Frazier, who will they bring in?

The Bills may not want to fire Frazier due to the regular season stats, relationships, loyalty, etc. They might want to run it back and hope they don’t get hit with as many injuries next year. But if they want some continuity AND a new voice, Steve Wilks may be the guy. And based on the responses that I got, Twitter appears to think so as well.

Wilks was most recently the interim head coach in Carolina this season after the Panthers fired Matt Rhule. He may not want to go back to being an assistant/coordinator, but this could be a win-win for both sides considering their time spent together in Carolina.

Another important thing to think about here is the personnel. If the Bills are able to re-sign LB Tremaine Edmunds and S Jordan Poyer, then they might want to run it back with their core intact. However, if the Bills lose either of those two players, Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips, and have multiple new starters on defense next season, then that may be the time to bring in someone new, like Wilks.

Ken Dorsey

As for the offense, I don’t expect many changes after listening to McDermott and Beane at their end-of-the-season conferences. They both alluded to Dorsey growing in year two and how it’s their job to help him do so.

Maybe he can grow and learn from his mistakes. And maybe Beane can give him some more weapons to work with while also giving Allen a better offensive line. But regardless, Dorsey is going to have to make some massive improvements in 2023.

You can say the same thing with Dorsey as you can with Frazier; the Buffalo Bills had some of the top (offensive) stats in the league and won 14 games this year. But again, it goes further than just the box scores.

My tweet during the Bengals-Chiefs game was directed at Dorsey as well, not just Frazier. The Chiefs lost one of the best WRs in the NFL but yet they go back to the Super Bowl? Their starting running back gets hurt but yet every RB that they plug in seems to produce, whether he’s 30 years old (Jerick McKinnon) or a rookie (Isaiah Pacheco)? Their future HOF QB gets hurt (against Jacksonville) but 37-year old Chad Henne comes in and leads a 98-yard scoring drive?

Meanwhile, RB James Cook, RB Nyheim Hines, and WR Khalil Shakir combined for 36 receptions all season and were all massively underutilized in Buffalo. Cook averaged 5.7 yards/carry but only ran the ball 89 times; Hines had six rushes for -3 yards. WR Isaiah McKenzie is our version of Mecole Hardman (and Kadarius Toney), but yet the Bills never put him in motion or ran any jet sweeps or trick plays with him. Why is it so hard to figure out?

I know the Bills beat the Chiefs in the regular season, but watching them the other night really showed me the separation between the two teams. And it’s not that the Bills are that far behind talent wise. They have the players to make it work. Like I said in the tweet, this comes down to coaching. Dorsey and his staff need to use their players’ strengths to their advantage, putting them in the best situations to win football games.

Chad Hall/Mike Shula

Bills WR coach Chad Hall interviewed with the Baltimore Ravens the other day for their vacant OC position. Hall has helped WR Stefon Diggs record at least 1,225 receiving yards in three straight seasons.

While I don’t think he would be a candidate to replace Hall if he were to get the job, Mike Shula is a name on this coaching staff that we shouldn’t forget. Shula is the son of Don, the NFL’s winningest coach (347 wins). He was brought on to the Bills staff last year as a senior offensive assistant.

Shula brings with him over 30 years of coaching experience, and has been an offensive coordinator and QB coach for multiple teams (including Carolina when Beane and McDermott were there; he was there for Cam Newton’s MVP season in 2015). If the Bills were to ever move on from Dorsey or if current QB coach Joe Brady were to take a higher position elsewhere, Shula is a name to keep our eyes on.

For now, he may be able to get more involved in the offense next year. Hopefully he can use his experience to help Dorsey and his inexperience.


As more days pass, the less I think we’re going to see more changes. If Salgado/Danna are the only moves we see this offseason, I really don’t know if this team will be able to take the next step. The Buffalo Bills cannot afford to be passive while their window is open. I want them to be as aggressive this offseason as they were on offense all season long.

Featured Image: Adrian Kraus/Associated Press