The Buffalo Bills fired head coach Dick Jauron on Tuesday after a 3-6 start in which the offense has been one of the worst in the NFL.
Jauron was 24-33 since being hired by former general manager Marv Levy in 2006 to be head coach. He has two years remaining on his contract that will pay him a total of $6 million in 2009 and 2010.
"I really don't have anything to say," was all Jauron would say when reached on his cell phone by The Associated Press.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was named interim head coach on Tuesday afternoon, becoming the team's first black head coach. Fewell, who's never been a head coach at any level, will make his debut on Sunday when the Bills travel to play Jacksonville.
"I am announcing today that I am relieving Dick Jauron from his duties as our head coach, effective immediately," Bills owner Ralph Wilson said. "I have tremendous respect for Dick and thank him for all of his efforts during these past four years. While this was a very difficult decision, I felt that it is one that needed to be made at this time for the best interest of our team. We will now focus on moving forward and preparing for our game this week in Jacksonville."
Jauron was blindsided by the firing, an NFL source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Jauron traveled to Detroit on Monday to meet with Wilson; the last time he traveled to Detroit was last summer, when the team fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. Jauron and Wilson met Monday and again Tuesday.
The former head coach of the Chicago Bears, Jauron finishes with a 60-82 record as a head coach in the NFL. He was also an interim coach in Detroit in 2005.
Buffalo, which has not made the playoffs since 1999, has now gone through four coaches since the end of the 2000 season, when Wade Phillips was dismissed. Gregg Williams was not rehired after his three-year contract expired, while Mike Mularkey abruptly resigned after a front-office shakeup following the 2005 season.
Fewell shared a simple but blunt philosophy in taking over as the interim head coach.
"Play like hell and win," Fewell said.
That's the plan and also the challenge for Fewell, following the defensive coordinator's promotion. He has seven games left in the season to prove that he's capable of turning around a struggling team and a franchise that's now on its fifth coach in nine years and in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a 10th straight season.
Fewell showed he's smart enough to not make any guarantees, when asked to assess how much he can do to fix an offense that's sputtered for most of the season despite the presence of Terrell Owens.
"We are who we are," Fewell said, adding he'll wait until Wednesday to announce whether quarterback Trent Edwards or backup Ryan Fitzpatrick will start this weekend. "We have that identity. We're going to try to give a little spark, but we are who we are."
Under Jauron, the Bills couldn't get over the 7-9 mark. The team was 7-9 during his first three years. During the offseason, the Bills entered minicamps with optimism they could improve on offense. They signed Owens to take away coverage from Lee Evans, the team's No. 1 receiver.
Jauron and Schonert decided to go to a no-huddle offense. The team didn't huddle during the offseason or training camp. Before the season started, the Bills fired Schonert and handed the offensive coordinator job to Alex Van Pelt, who had been the quarterbacks coach.
The Bills are averaging 15.6 points a game this season. They haven't generated 300 yards of offense in eight of nine games this season, including their past seven. They also haven't had a quarterback generate 200 yards passing since Edwards had 230 yards in a 33-20 win over Tampa Bay in Week 2.
Defensive end Chris Kelsay was shocked to learn of the move happening this late in the season, but not entirely surprised. Kelsay was well aware before the start of the season that changes were in store if the Bills faltered.
"I think everybody understood this was a big year and there was lots at stake," Kelsay told the AP, adding he maintains his respect for Jauron. "I feel a little responsible for it, and most players do. I feel like I let him down because we, as players, are the ones to blame."
Jauron becomes the first NFL coach to be fired this season and first Bills coach to be fired midseason since Hank Bullough was fired nine games into the 1986 season and replaced by Levy.
Fewell has been the Bills' defensive coordinator since 2006.
"Perry has done a great job with our defense and has demonstrated excellent leadership skills as defensive coordinator," Wilson said in a statement. "Our players and staff have a lot of confidence in him and that is important as we look forward to these next seven games."
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.