Jan 2, 2015 5:23 PM

AP Sources: Bills owners joining coaching search

The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are hitting the road to take part in the search for a coach.

And a stop in San Diego to interview Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich on Sunday is on the itinerary, a person familiar with the search process told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Bills have not outlined their plans to replace Doug Marrone, who abruptly stepped down Wednesday.

Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was already scheduled to be interviewed in Denver on Saturday.

A second person familiar with the process told the AP that the Pegulas will take part in the interviews. That way, the co-owners can familiarize themselves with the candidates and directly address questions regarding their vision for the franchise and its front-office hierarchy.

The Pegulas, who also own the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, are new to NFL. They bought the Bills for a league-record $1.4 billion in October from the estate of Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson, who died in March.

General manager Doug Whaley will conduct the interviews and President Russ Brandon will take part as an adviser.

The team has not put a cap on the number of candidates it will interview, or placed a timetable on hiring a coach.

The Bills are in the unusual position of embarking on their sixth coaching search in 14 years despite a 9-7 finish, which matched Buffalo's best record in a decade. The Bills, however, missed the playoffs to extend the NFL's longest active postseason drought to 15 years.

The team's chain of command was among the reasons Marrone exercised an opt-out clause in his contract, which came into effect with the change in ownership. The second-year coach, who will collect $4 million in salary he was due next season, was unsure whether the Pegulas were going to restructure their front office.

The Pegulas have proposed hiring a veteran presence to oversee the football operations.

Bill Polian, 72, was a candidate to fill the newly created role. But the Bills' former general manager informed the Pegulas on Thursday that Marrone's departure and quarterback Kyle Orton's retirement led to his decision to stay in his current role as an NFL TV and radio broadcaster.

That makes the coaching search the Bills' immediate priority.

Buffalo is one of four teams to express interest in Gase, who has spent the past two years overseeing a Peyton Manning-led offense that has been among the NFL's most potent attacks.

Gase is available to be interviewed in Denver during the Broncos' weekend off, before they prepare to host an AFC Divisional playoff game on Jan. 11. He cannot be hired until Denver is finished playing.

Reich is very familiar to Buffalo. The former quarterback spent his first 10 NFL seasons with the Bills, and served as a dependable backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

Reich was most memorably the starter in Buffalo's 41-38 overtime win over the Houston Oilers in an AFC wild-card playoff on Jan. 3, 1993. The Bills rallied from a 35-3 third-quarter deficit, which stands as the NFL's largest comeback.

Reich completed his second season with San Diego, and first as a coordinator. He oversaw a Philip Rivers-led attack that finished 18th in the NFL in yards gained and 17th in points.

Reich previously spent four seasons as an offensive assistant in Indianapolis, where he also worked with Manning. In 2012, Reich was a receivers coach with the Arizona Cardinals.

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is also considered a candidate. He joined the Bills a year ago after spending five seasons as the Detroit Lions head coach.


AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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