Bills-Shanahan summit savvy for both sides

Unless the Buffalo Bills wallop Mike Shanahan right out of his argyles next week and sign him straight away, there's a good chance each party will use the other as a means to an end.

Football insiders are skeptical Shanahan actually will be on the Bills' sideline in 2010, but their reported meeting next week serves a purpose for both sides. It won't be a waste of time.

As one of Shanahan's colleagues told me Thursday morning, the former Denver Broncos head coach likely will use his meeting with Buffalo as leverage for a more attractive opening.

Shanahan linking himself to the only current NFL opening theoretically will prompt increased interest from other teams who are considering a change. There's little incentive for Shanahan to sign with the Bills before seeing what else is out there. With a pair of Super Bowl rings, he has enough cachet to sit back and wait.

But don't think the Bills are being used as foils. They're already getting mileage out of being associated with Shanahan.

Merely meeting with him sends a message to a frustrated fan base that the Bills are serious about their coaching search. Bills fans have spent years screaming in vain for a head coach who's a proven winner. Dick Jauron's tenure wrought emotions ranging from anger to apathy.

NFL.com senior columnist Vic Carucci, citing an unnamed source, said Shanahan is Buffalo's top candidate, but Bill Cowher also is high on their wish list.

From Carucci's blog entry:

The Bills, the source said, are willing to offer whatever salary is necessary to land a high-end candidate such as Shanahan and would give him total control of the football operation, something Wilson has generally been opposed to doing in the past. Adding to the job’s attractiveness, according to the source, is the fact the team is in solid financial shape and not burdened by any dead salary-cap money.

The source said that, at 91 years old, Bills owner Ralph Wilson believes he's hiring his last head coach and "is going to do everything it takes to get it right."