The Buffalo Bills are wasting no time in shaking up their defensive coaching staff for the 2023 NFL season. After replacing longtime safeties coach Jim Salgado with Joe Danna, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweeted on Wednesday, February 8, that they will be adding Al Holcomb as their new senior defensive assistant.
While the idea of yet another Carolina sendoff heading to Buffalo will make most fans yawn, much of Bills Mafia was actually hoping the team would hire Steve Wilks, who served as the Panthers’ interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired earlier this year, but he was scooped up by the San Francisco 49ers last week.
Instead, the Bills scooped up Wilks’ right-hand man, Holcomb, who started out the 2022 NFL season as assistant head coach but finished as the Panthers’ interim defensive coordinator after Phil Snow got the boot alongside Rhule. Carolina’s defense allowed 3.4 fewer points per game under Holcomb’s guidance, per USA Today.
During Holcomb’s first stint with the Panthers between 2013 and 2017, he worked as the linebackers coach under then-defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott. While McDermott went on to become the head coach of the Bills, Holcomb became the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The 52-year-old left after one season to take on the same roles with the Cleveland Browns before returning to the Panthers in 2020.
WROC-TV’s Thad Brown wasn’t too impressed by Holcomb’s hire. “Like that the #Bills are bringing a new voice in on defense,” Brown tweeted, “Would like it better if that voice were a bit more of a departure from same line of defensive thinking.” Fans were much more critical.
One woman tweeted, “One of McDermott s biggest strengths is his loyalty. It’s also one of his biggest FAULTS,” while one man wrote, “This is just another yes man.” One fan tweeted, “Let’s go get the guys we couldn’t win the superbowl with… that’ll fix it all…”
However, Bills Mafia may soon warm up to Holcomb, who earned a Super Bowl during his tenure as a defensive quality coach with the New York Giants in 2011, as he recently received a huge compliment from current Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu. While speaking with The Charlotte Observer‘s Mike Kaye, “Al – I can say – is one of the best linebacker coaches in the league, as far as coverages, scheming it up and putting guys – finding their strengths in the defense,” Luvu said.
The Athletic’s Tim Graham asked Bills Mafia to be more patient. Graham tweeted, “Wasn’t that long ago Bills fans went bonkers over Rex Ryan adding never-before-coach Ed Reed to the staff, that the future HOFer would be transformative because he was ED REED! Gotta be a name .. Gotta be a name … Gotta be a name …”
Bills Fans are Still Begging Leslie Frazier to Be Fired
One of the biggest reasons fans can’t seem to get excited about Holcomb is due to the fact that Leslie Frazier is still on board as the team’s defensive coordinator. After allowing the Cincinnati Bengals to put 27 points in Buffalo’s loss in the AFC Divisional round, general manager Brandon Beane strongly insinuated during his end-of-year press conference that Frazier’s job is safe and he wouldn’t make rash decisions based on just one game.
“Should have fired Frazier and hired him and Wilks. Mcdermott isn’t interested in winning a SuperBowl,” one fan tweeted after seeing the Holcomb news, while another person asked, “Frazier is still our dc who cares?”
In an exclusive interview with Heavy Sports, Bills legend Fred Jackson shut down the harsh criticism toward Frazier, noting how it would be “totally unfair” to fire him or offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey after this rollercoaster of year.
“I have always said coaches get a lot of blame when that’s not necessarily where the blame should be placed,” Jackson said. “As players, it was always our job to protect our coaches. It was our job to overcome coaching so to speak. I think those guys did a tremendous job coaching this team. I think the coaching staff, along with the players, also had to deal with all these external things going on during the season and to be where everybody was as a unit and get to where they got in the season, I think is a testament to everybody in that organization.”
Holcomb Could Become Frazier’s Replacement
New York Upstate‘s Matt Parrino suggested that Holcomb, who also received interest from the Atlanta Falcons, could soon become Frazier’s replacement. “Holcomb’s addition to the staff could be about the future as much as it’s about the present,” Parrino wrote.
“Frazier turns 64 in April and his successor likely isn’t on the current Bills’ defensive staff. Perhaps McDermott could look outside of the organization when the Bills eventually look to replace Frazier, but Holcomb could be a natural fit now that he’s in-house.”