The Bills officially named Chan Gailey their next head coach on Tuesday.
Gailey was introduced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He becomes the team's fifth head coach hired in the last 10 years.
Gailey served as the head coach of the Cowboys from 1998-99, compiling a 18-14 record and reaching the playoffs both seasons. He also coached Georgia Tech from 2002-07, leading it to six bowl appearances, and spent time as offensive coordinator with the Broncos, Dolphins and Chiefs. He was let go by Kansas City prior to the '09 season.
Gailey, 58, brings an offensive mind to a team that struggled on that side of the ball last season, finishing 30th in the league. His success offensively is unquestioned, as NFL teams he's coached have made the playoffs in 11 of his 15 seasons.
The Bills had previously talked to Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, former interim head coach Perry Fewell and Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier about their coaching vacancy, being rebuffed by numerous other candidates. Cowher heavily recommended Gailey, which in part led to his hiring.
The PFW spin
Chan Gailey might not have been the Bills' first choice as their next head coach — in fact, he was well down their list based on the number of candidates contacted before him — but he fit the team's criteria almost to a tee. GM Buddy Nix clearly stated that he valued experience as much as anything, and he also wanted a head coach with an offensive background who had developed quality quarterbacks. Gailey brings just those things to a franchise in dire need of a boost.
"He met more of the criteria than I ever thought we could find," said Nix about his new coach on Tuesday.
Ultimately, Gailey picked the Bills as much as they picked him. Whether it was Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Brian Scottenheimer, Ron Rivera or Jim Harbaugh, Buffalo had major issues finding anyone who was even interested in the job, mainly due to the many questions surrounding the future of the franchise. Leslie Frazier would have been a fine choice and showed definite interest in the job, but his lack of head-coaching experience and offensive insights likely did him in. That left Gailey as the only candidate who fit the Bills franchise and genuinely wanted to coach them — and it ultimately led to his hiring.
Gailey's case certainly wasn't hurt by Cowher's recommendation of him. When the former Steelers head coach met with the Bills last month, he reportedly gave high praise to Gailey and recommended that the Bills give him strong consideration. Cowher became a fan of Gailey's when the two coached together in Pittsburgh from 1994-97, and it's likely that Cowher would have brought Gailey along with him had he returned to coaching this season. Considering how much respect owner Ralph Wilson has for Cowher, he took his advice seriously and chose the 58-year-old as his new head man.
If it's offense the Bills wanted from their head coach, they landed someone who should be able to help them in that area right away. Gailey has gone into difficult situations before and succeeded, helping the Dolphins transition from Dan Marino to Jay Fiedler and, most recently, designing a scheme with the Chiefs in 2008 that allowed them to be effective with few weapons and Tyler Thigpen at quarterback. He'll have his work cut out for him in Buffalo, which has major questions at quarterback, wide receiver and along the offensive line. One of Gailey's top priorities needs to be identifying his QB of the future and installing a game plan that will help him succeed.
During his introductory press conference, Gailey said he was on the same page as Nix in their idea of what the direction the Bills should be headed, also laying out what he thought were keys to running a football team. "I believe in fundamentals, teaching fundamentals and being fundamentally sound," he said, adding that toughness, discipline, organization, accountability and character were other integral elements. Buffalo certainly could use a dose of each of those.
Much like the hire of Nix as GM, Gailey's selection was a safe choice by Wilson and the Bills, as he's a proven commodity as both a head coach and offensive mind. However, just as they did with Nix, the fans of the club are likely to frown upon this hire, especially after Wilson set his sights so high early on in the search. While Gailey may have won at his previous stops, he's not quite the dynamic personality Buffalo's loyal following was hoping for, after having suffered through the Dick Jauron era. In the end, though, the team's options were limited.
It has been a decade since the Bills last made the postseason, and it could be at least a couple more years before they return to being serious contenders. While Gailey might not speed up that process, he'll earn the respect of the fan base if he can at least make an incompetent offense respectable in 2010, allowing Buffalo to compete in most games. That would be a major improvement over where the organization was this past season, when moving the ball seemed like an arduous task.
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