To watch Chan Gailey’s post-firing statement to the press in its entirety, click here:
- – - – - – -
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – “BUILDING A LEGACY.”
That’s the foot-high, wall-long message adorning a hallway that leads to the Buffalo Bills’ indoor practice field.
In reality, the message should read, “PERPETUALLY REBUILDING A LEGACY FROM SCRATCH.”
The sad-sack NFL franchise whacked yet another head coach on Monday, following another short, failed stint of a man not quite up to the job.
Chan Gailey is gone. So are all 18 of his assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt (right, with Gailey, in June.)
Who could be surprised?
The Bills fire a head coach about every three years here – almost as reliably as a periodical insect infestation.
You can’t make this up:
Gailey’s three-year record (16-32, .333) was worse than his predecessor Dick Jauron’s four-year record (27-37, .422), which was worse than his predecessor Mike Mularkey’s two-year record (14-18, .438), which was only marginally better than his predecessor Gregg Williams’ three-year record (17-31, .354) – all of whom haven’t come close to matching the 29-19 record (.604) of Wade Phillips – who was fired for not winning enough.
Phillips was the last head coach to take the Bills to the playoffs, after the 1999 season. Buffalo’s 13-year drought since is the longest in the NFL.
To be fair, standards and expectations in Buffalo were much higher when owner Ralph Wilson whacked Wade – the residue of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early ’90s.
Not one molecule of that residue remains. Well, other than some framed tributes on the hallway walls within One Bills Drive.
Expectations are lower now. Much.
Hell, if the next coach goes .500 after the three years he’s almost sure to get a fourth. A playoff berth might even warrant a parade, similar to the one that success-starved Torontonians put on for the Maple Leafs merely for reaching the Campbell Conference finals in 1993.
Gailey is a nice guy who knows offensive football forward and backward. And he worked his ass off to turn the club around, as defensive tackle Kyle Williams pointed out in praising Gailey moments after the news broke:
“There’s not been anybody else up here spending 100 hours a week trying to help me win, or make me a better football player,” Williams said.
Yet as Gailey himself told reporters in a brief, classy statement on Monday, it’s a production business. And he didn’t produce much other than more burst hope, more failed expectations.
Gailey’s Bills won only four of 24 games against teams that finished .500 or better, lost 14 of 18 games against their AFC East rivals, and were 5-19 on the road.
Beyond such statistics, while his pass-centric offence was creative schematically and earned public praise from such defensive-minded NFL head coaches as Pete Carroll, Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher, it was how Gailey misused personnel, called plays in the crunch and continually relied too much on a clearly struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick that drove everybody nuts.
This certainly is no shot at C.J. Spiller, but that the running back was still averaging more than six yards yards per carry entering Week 17 said only one thing – that Gailey wasn’t using him enough.
At one point a few weeks ago, Spiller was averaging a run of 20+ yards every 13 carries; but he averaged only 11 carries a game. Go figure.
For Bills fans, one of the most depressing things about a season that had contained so much hope four months ago is that it was all there for the taking. Outside of a few teams the AFC was terrible this year, and the Bills had more tomato cans on their schedule than most.
Yet the only clubs the Bills could defeat were ones of their own ilk, or worse – Kansas City (2-14), Cleveland (5-11), Arizona (5-11), Miami (7-9), Jacksonville (2-14) and the New York Jets (6-10).
In 2013 Buffalo’s schedule – by NFL rotation – is considerably more difficult. Four playoff teams visit: New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Atlanta, compared to only one this year, New England. And the Bills play at Pittsburgh, New Orleans and improving Tampa Bay.
But, even here, with a new head coach comes renewed hope.
Kinda like those huge blow-up Santas we see on lawns every December.
Shrinking the club’s requisite three-year cycle into 24 hours, the Bills reinflate hope and expectations to bulging capacity in the morning. Merry Christmas!
Then, inevitably, by dusk all the air has gone pffffft – leaving a rumpled, repulsive, rubber clump of nothing.
But by the next morning, someone has pumped it full again.
Happy New Year.