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Jerry Sullivan: Bills make right move on Rick Dennison

The Bills have employed a dozen offensive coordinators since the start of the 2000 season. None lasted more than two years during that time. At some point, each took his turn as the least popular man in town, which is to be expected when any fan who can successfully open a can of beer feels he could do the job better.

Some were better than others. Kevin Gilbride went on to win two Super Bowls as OC with the Giants. Tom Clements won a Super Bowl coaching quarterbacks in Green Bay and later became the OC. Alex Van Pelt had success for four years as the Packers' QB coach before getting fired last week.

It's true, Rick Dennison was operating at a disadvantage from the start with Tyrod Taylor. Still, he was a mediocrity as a coordinator, a man who took a limited but functional offense and made it worse. His firing on Friday was as warranted as it was unsurprising. The Bills can and must do better.

Dennison wasn't Sean McDermott's first or second choice when he took the Bills job last January. It was understandable. Dennison had been a figurehead OC under Gary Kubiak at Houston and Denver. It became clear this season that he didn't possess original or inventive ideas about running an NFL offense.

He didn't take advantage of Taylor's greatest strength, which was rolling out and making plays on the move. Dennison altered the blocking schemes for a running game that had led the NFL in rushing yards and average two years in a row.

Dennison modified the attack after the bye, using more of the old blocking schemes and putting in more read options for Taylor. But he had set them back by violating a fundamental coaching tenet that says you put players in a position to succeed.

How Tyrod Taylor performed under each offensive coordinator

The worst example came in last Sunday's wild-card loss in Jacksonville, when he dialed up a run-pass option for Taylor on first-and-goal at the 1. Taylor threw a fade for Kelvin Benjamin, who pushed off Jalen Ramsey, one of the top cornerbacks in the game, and was called for interference.

That call might have cost the Bills a chance to win in their first playoff game in 18 years. McDermott, who rarely says a disparaging word about a player or coach, said he would like that call back and didn't defend Dennison in Tuesday's season-ending news conference.

Sure enough, Dennison is gone. There's no lack of candidates, including two men who worked with McDermott and Beane in Carolina — Rod Chudzinski and Mike Shula. McCoy is available. So are Darrell Bevell, Van Pelt and Ben McAdoo.

If one of the former Panthers guys is the best choice, fine. But they can't let cronyism get in the way. The Bills need to hire an OC who can groom their next franchise QB, who will likely come in the draft. It's a very big hire. After Dennison, they can surely do better.

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