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Ted Cottrell knew it was a long shot, but he clung to the slim chance that he might become the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

In the end, it wasn't to be as the job went to Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

It would be understandable if Cottrell were a little bitter about being passed over. But after being ignored for openings the previous two years, the Bills' former defensive coordinator was just happy to have been considered.

"There was a big improvement over what happened to me last year in that I was able to interview for three head coaching jobs, and I appreciated that," Cottrell said Thursday night by phone from New York, where he now works as the Jets' assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

"The only thing you work for is to get an opportunity. I've always said it's up to the owner and general manager to hire who they want to hire. But at least give qualified people an opportunity to come in and talk. Last year, that did not happen."

Indeed, Cottrell never got so much as a phone call from teams with head coaching openings last year despite the fact that the Bills had the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

The snub brought about questions about the league's poor record of hiring qualified African-American candidates, a charge Bills president and general manager Tom Donahoe made during his first press conference in Buffalo.

Cottrell doesn't think race had anything to do with the Bills' decision. In fact, he's optimistic that the exposure he and Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis received will give them a better shot at being head coaches in the near future.

"Usually in the past, when a unit had done well, we've all said, "Hey, that guy should be a viable candidate.' " Cottrell said. "When you do extremely well and nothing happens, then that's a problem. That's why I was hoping with our defense doing so well again that I would get a chance. I got three chances, and that should only help me next year and in coming years. At least my name is out there now. I got a chance to meet with different owners and talked to them. That can only help."

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