Chan Gailey: destined to fail?


After four Super Bowl losses and a history of heartbreak, pessimism has been common among Buffalo Bills fans. The Bills disappointed again last season, which led to a search for new direction this off-season. The coaching staff was completely overhauled; interim head coach Perry Fewell and his coaching staff were replaced with fresh faces.

To football fans, new faces mean hope.  With change, fans embrace a new regime promising the possibility of a brighter future.  They begin citing buzzwords, like “rebuild” and claim that the team has the right plan in place to win.  Will we see fulfilled expectations of a revitalized Buffalo franchise that is capable of competing again?

Whether or not the Bills succeed will depend on Chan Gailey, their new head coach. If history and the external factors working against him are any indication, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

It could be a short stay in Buffalo for Gailey as he takes over a team that is talent-starved and lacks skill in key positions. Most notably, the Bills have holes at quarterback, wide receiver, and along the offence line. A switch in defence schemes could only complicate the situation further. As they’re competing in one of the best divisions in football, it would be nearly impossible for even a great coach to transform the Bills into a winning team.

Gailey likely ended up in his gloomy situation not by choice, but because it was the best position available given his résumé. In fact, Gailey may be one of the most significant factors undermining the Bills’ chances of success.

The Bills hired Gailey because of his experience as an offence coordinator.  The team hopes he’ll add a spark to an offence that has been anemic in recent years.  His body of work as an offence coach suggests this will not be the case.  Gaileys reputation is largely tied to his two seasons in Dallas in 1998 and 1999, where he took the Cowboys to playoff appearances but didn’t win any playoff games.

Since being fired in Dallas, Gailey has consistently failed to duplicate the powerful offence that he had with the Cowboys.  In his two NFL positions since that time, with the Chiefs and Dolphins, his offences ranked 26th and 24th in total yards.  With Kansas City in 2008, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley was so disappointed with Gailey’s offence that he revoked his play-calling responsibilities in the pre-season.

It wasn’t the first time that Gailey made headlines for his ineffectiveness. He was fired from Georgia Tech, with a $1-million contract buyout, after six years without a top 25 finish. Last year he was out of football: no NFL teams offered him a position as coordinator.

Does Gailey have what it takes to give Bills fans something to cheer about?  Considering his track record and the challenges the team faces, his odds seem slim at best.