B U F F A L O, N.Y., Jan. 8, 2001 -- Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. WilsonJr. fired head coach Wade Phillips for refusing todismiss special teams coach Ronnie Jones, the team confirmedtoday.
Phillips’ firing Sunday night followed the Bills’ 8-8 season,the first time since 1997 they missed the playoffs. It also comeson the heels of the dismissal of General Manager John Butler lastmonth.
The Bills have not announced replacements for either Phillips orButler, though ex-Pittsburgh Steelers executive Tom Donahoe isconsidered the leading candidate for Butler’s job.
‘He’ll Go Down With the Ship’
Phillips’ firing with one year remaining on his contract was theresult of his refusal to release Jones, the target of frequentcriticism during the season, Wilson said in a statement.
“Buffalo special teams’ record was among the worst in theNational Football League last season,” he said. “I felt we needed a change and that my request was reasonable … I did not want torelease Wade but his refusal left me with no option.”
Phillips reportedly was in San Francisco today and unavailablefor immediate comment.
Bills’ defensive end Marcellus Wiley heard the rumors swirlthis morning and stopped by Ralph Wilson Stadium to offerPhillips his support, not knowing the coach was out of town.
“As everybody’s seeing, he’ll go down with the ship,” Wiley said. “It’s unfortunate that he had to lose his job. It was to no avail.”
Bills Went 29-19 in Three Seasons
Phillips and the Bills’ entire offense took much of the blamefor a series of Bills’ late-season losses: the Bills lost four oftheir last five games and missed the playoffs for only the thirdtime in 13 years.
Phillips and Wilson met at the owner’s home in Palm Beach, Fla.,last week. While Phillips refused to discuss their conversationafterward, Wilson was noncommittal when asked whether Phillipswould be back.
The Bills were 29-19 in three seasons under Phillips. Buffalowas knocked out of the playoffs in the first round in 1998 by theMiami Dolphins and in 1999 by the Tennessee Titans.
“Wade has done a good job for us, reaching the playoffs two outof the last three seasons,” Wilson’s statement said. “But I felt the dismissal of the special teams coach was imperative for theimprovement of our team.”
Father: NFL Coaching Is Tough Task
Bum Phillips, an ex-NFL head coach and Wade Phillips’ father,said he hadn’t heard of the firing and hadn’t spoken with his son.
“We got a weekly newspaper down here so I don’t hear it all,” Phillips said from his home in Goliad, Texas. “I haven’t talked to Wade. I figure that’s his business and he’ll take care of it.”
The elder Phillips said coaching in the NFL is a tough business.
“There ain’t but two kinds of coaches in the NFL,” Phillips said. “Them that’s been fired and them that’s going to be fired.”