The Buffalo Bills fired coach Kay Stephenson yesterday and replaced him with defensive coordinator Hank Bullough in a move that was more than predictable. It was inevitable.
The Bills are 0-4 this year and have won only two of their last 20 games. When Bullough was hired during the offseason by Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr., his longtime friend, the whispers began that the former head coach of the now-defunct Pittsburgh Maulers of the U.S. Football League would take over.
Neither was it surprising when San Diego announced the firing of defensive coordinator Tom Bass, who has been criticized in recent weeks by team owner Alex Spanos. Bass was replaced by Dave Adolph, a special defensive assistant who joined the Chargers this season after coaching the Cleveland Browns to the No. 1 defensive rating in the NFL last season.
Bass had been the Chargers' defensive coordinator since 1982. His defense ranked last in the NFL last season.
In four games this season, the Chargers have allowed 120 points, among the worst in the league.
Meanwhile, Bills owner Wilson explained his change in head coaches with the following statement: "I have made this move today because I consider it to be in the best interest of the Buffalo Bills football team. Kay Stephenson is a friend of mine and will remain a friend of mine, but we need to move in a new direction, and it can no longer wait.
"I have every confidence that Hank Bullough can provide the kind of leadership and has the coaching experience and knowledge to correct our course."
Dallas Cowboys President Tex Schramm, a member of the league rules committee, said yesterday that Texas Christian running back Kenneth Davis, a consensus all-America who was suspended after admitting he received illegal payments from a TCU booster, will not be allowed to play in the NFL this season.
Agent Mike Trope said Monday he was sending a formal notice to the NFL asking that the league hold a supplemental draft to take Davis.
Davis played in TCU's opener against Tulane before he and six other players admitted they had accepted illegal payments.
Davis has been in Los Angeles, and he said he hoped to be playing in the NFL within 10 days.
"Right now that could be wishful thinking," said Trope.
All of a sudden, much of the glamor has vanished from the lineup of quarterbacks in the AFC West.
How strange does this sound: Mark Herrmann is the starter in San Diego; a rookie named Rusty Hilger might start this week for the Los Angeles Raiders; and Seattle's Dave Krieg was so inefficient against Kansas City that he was replaced by rookie Gale Gilbert in a 21-point loss to the Chiefs last week.
Injury and inefficiency have picked the quarterbacks of this division nearly clean, seemingly leaving only Kansas City's Bill Kenney and Denver's John Elway unaffected.
San Diego's Dan Fouts (torn knee ligament) and the Raiders' Jim Plunkett (dislocated left shoulder -- again) are out for at least six weeks.
Marc Wilson is the backup to Plunkett, but he suffered a sprained ankle in a 35-20 victory over New England and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against first-place Kansas City, now 3-1. (All four of the other division teams are 2-2.)
Mike McCormack, Seattle's general manager, said, "A lot of divisions are three teams deep. Ours is five deep."
And what's wrong with Krieg, whose 32 touchdown passes rated second to Dan Marino's 48 last season? After going without an interception the first two weeks, he's thrown six in the last two games -- five to free safeties.
"It's probably a lack of concentration," McCormack said. "He's got to locate the free safety better. To give the ball up 12 times in two weeks is not like us."
It's bad enough that Dallas' Rafael Septien missed four of five field goal tries Sunday against Houston -- from 47, 33, 36 and 36 yards -- but it's worse that two hit the uprights. (Aren't the odds of making a field goal better than those of hitting an upright -- let alone twice?)
Names and numbers: For the second consecutive year, Raiders defensive end Lyle Alzado, 36, had considered retiring before the season. Even with rapidly declining skills, Alzado already has two quarterback sacks and one fumble recovery for a touchdown, his first score in a 15-year career . . .
In Buffalo, a defensive end on the other side of the spectrum -- Bruce Smith, No. 1 selection in the 1985 draft -- has been benched. Smith has had problems defending the run, so veteran Don Smith fills in, and the rookie plays only in passing situations . . .
Contract holdouts appear to have had opposite effects on Miami's Marino and Rams running back Eric Dickerson.
In three weeks since he was benched in a 26-23 loss at Houston, Marino has been accurate as ever. He has averaged 25 completions in 42 attempts for 325 yards and has thrown seven touchdown passes and one interception.
Dickerson started fast -- 150 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries in a victory over Seattle -- but now possibly is showing the effects of his 46-day holdout. He pulled a hamstring and was sidelined late in the second quarter Sunday in the Rams' victory over Atlanta . . .
And how troubled is the Philadelphia offense, having scored a league-low 35 points? All-pro receiver Mike Quick missed several plays of a game this season because of injury: He had astroTurf paint get in his eyes.