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Jauron close to becoming Bills head coach

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Jan. 22, 2006) -- Former Chicago Bears coach Dick Jauron was in Buffalo and preparing to become the Bills head coach on Jan. 22, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

Reached on his cell phone, Jauron told the AP that he was in town but declined to comment, referring questions to the team.

A person with direct knowledge of the decision told the AP that Jauron arrived to finish up some details on his contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not yet been made.

A message left with Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold was not immediately returned.

Jauron went 35-46 in five seasons with the Bears and was the NFL Coach of the Year in 2001, following a 13-3 finish.

Jauron spent the past two years as the Lions defensive coordinator and finished last season as the team's interim coach after Steve Mariucci was fired in late November.

Jauron also was an assistant coach with Jacksonville and Green Bay.

When he accepts the job, Jauron will take over a Bills team that underachieved in going 5-11 last season and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year -- the Bills' longest drought since the NFL merger.

He replaces Mike Mularkey, who abruptly resigned on Jan. 13, a week after Bills owner Ralph Wilson announced his coach would be back for next season.

Jauron will become the Bills' fourth head coach since current GM and Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season.

Levy is back with the Bills, replacing team president and general manager Tom Donahoe, who was fired earlier this month.

Wilson and Levy interviewed five other candidates for the job in a weeklong search that focused mostly on those with previous head coaching experience. Among those also interviewed were former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman and former Houston coach Dom Capers.

Jauron and Sherman were considered the front-runners throughout the process.

Jauron was favored by Levy, who maintains a home in Chicago and worked as a Bears broadcaster during Jauron's tenure with the team. Like Levy, who attended Harvard, Jauron is also a former Ivy-leaguer, a graduate of Yale.

Wilson, meanwhile, was impressed by Sherman, who interviewed on Jan. 18, a day after Jauron. Of all the candidates, Sherman had pro personnel experience, having served as the Packers general manager before having that title stripped from him last year.

The Bills retained nine of Mularkey's assistants, a list that includes defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who previously has said that he doesn't expect to be back. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements was among five assistants released earlier this month.

Another issue revolves around the team's future quarterback, J.P. Losman.

The second of Buffalo's two 2004 first-round draft picks, Losman struggled, going 1-7 as first-year starter and eventually lost his job to veteran journeyman Kelly Holcomb.

Holcomb was 4-4 as a starter and by season's end had won the support of numerous Bills veterans, who openly suggested the team provide Holcomb a chance to compete with Losman for the No. 1 job next season.

The team must also determine whether to retain several players, particularly starting cornerback Nate Clements, who is eligible for free agency in March.

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