The battlecry from GM Buddy Nix and company was they wanted an offensive minded coach with previous head coaching experience on his resume. The Bills believe they got the right guy for the job and Chan Gailey has Nix’s full confidence.
Is Gailey the right fit and the right man? Well, that question could be answered as early as next season if the Bills end their decade long playoff drought, or it may take a few years to get a definitive answer. But, there’s only two answers to the question: yes or no. The clock is offically ticking.
To his credit, Gailey’s resume seemed to match what the Bills were looking for. His body of work spoke loudly to Nix and owner Ralph Wilson. In 15 seasons in the NFL, as either a coordinator or a head coach, Gailey has been to the playoffs 11 times. Ironically, the Bills will be facing the prospect of missing the playoffs for the 11th straight time next season.
If you take away two Hall of Fame quarterbacks that Gailey has worked with, John Elway with Denver in 1989 & 1990 and Troy Aikman with Dallas in ‘98 & ‘99, Gailey has done a lot with very little when it comes to quarterbacks. The names aren’t flattering by any means. In Pittsburgh, Gailey worked with the likes of Mike Tomczak, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart.
In 2000 and 2001 during his time with the Miami Dolphins, he had Jay Fiedler, who as the helm in both seasons in which Gailey was in Miami. The Dolphins went 11-5 in both seasons and reached the playoffs in both years. In his most recent NFL gig, Gailey worked with the Kansas City Chiefs and turned Tyler Thigpen into a capable, serviceable quarterback in 2008.
Gailey has worked with all types of quarterbacks, but maybe his biggest impact on offense is in the running game. He’s run first to set up the pass guy, who wants to pound the rock and pound it successfully. Anyone remember Bobby Humphrey? He rushed for over 1,000 yards in the 2 years Gailey spent in Denver.
Jerome Bettis had his best years as a pro during Gailey’s tenure in the Steel City; in ‘96, Bettis rushed for 1,431 and in ‘97, Bettis enjoyed his best season in the NFL, rushing for 1,665 yards. Bettis combined for 18 touchdowns in ‘96 & ‘97. Emmitt Smith rushed for 1,332 yards in 1998 and 1,397 yards in ‘99, combining for 24 touchdowns in Gailey’s two seasons as head coach in Dallas.
His success in the running game presumably bodes well for Fred Jackson, who is coming off his first career 1,000 yard rushing season, and Marshawn Lynch, assuming he’s in Buffalo and not traded or released. But if Gailey is to replicate his successful rushing attack in Buffalo, his biggest challenge will be upgrading the offensive line.
As far as what he can expect at the quarterback position, well it’s probably a good thing Gailey has experience doing more with less because the Bills have a trio of quarterbacks who aren’t franchise material. Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm don’t scream starting quarterback, let alone the franchise.
It’s like what former Notre Dame and South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz used to say: “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none”. There won’t be a honeymoon period for Gailey in Buffalo. Here’s here, he’s the guy and he, along with Nix, better have their lunch pails backed and their boots tied tight because now the real work begins.