Responding to hecklers makes Gailey look small

Posted Aug. 25, 2010 @ 9:49 a.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

There is a lot of hatred and ill will being thrown around this week as training camps wind down and a preseason that is too long plods forward.

Tom Brady, in an interview Monday, said he hates the Jets. Jets head coach Rex Ryan fired back, saying the Jets hate Brady. Nothing surprising about that.

Some Bills fans, understandably, hate that their team hasn't made the playoffs since 1999 and that it almost certainly won't end that streak this season in a stacked division.

Bills head coach Chan Gailey isn't a big fan of hecklers. A group of teenagers apparently were heckling Buffalo's first-string quarterback, Trent Edwards, on Tuesday before Gailey confronted them after talking to his team at the end of practice at St. John Fisher College.

"If you dog one of us, you dog all of us," Gailey said in a stern voice that could be heard 20 yards away, according to observers on the scene. Gailey told players not to sign autographs for people sitting in that part of the stands.

My initial reaction to the dispute was surprise. People actually go to watch the Bills practice? Maybe if more of them went to the games there wouldn't be talk of the franchise relocating.

"They said some things during practice that were derogatory to a couple of our players," Gailey said. "And if you say something derogatory to one of us, you're saying it to all of us, so I told them don't sign it for that crew."

ESPN.com reported that these teenage hecklers told Edwards he should prepare to lose his job to third-string QB Brian Brohm. Other barbs were related to his haircut and for being a California native.

Genius stuff. If you're going to heckle Edwards, not mentioning this is unforgivable.

Edwards said he appreciated Gailey's efforts and did avoid the section where the jeers were coming from when he went to sign autographs. With that, the Bills' 19-day camp came to an end.

I get what Gailey was trying to do. He's in his first year in Buffalo, and when given a chance to stand up for your players in front of everyone, why not take advantage of the opportunity? I'm no fan of hecklers, either. They can be pretty annoying. But the head coach of the Buffalo Bills should not be exerting any energy worrying about or lecturing some teenagers. It makes him look small.

Edwards is 26 years old. I'm pretty sure he can handle a couple of weak jokes about his performance or appearance, but if he can't, then he needs to develop a thicker skin. If Gailey can't shrug off this kind of nonsense, then he needs to lighten up.

If you want the kids to be more respectful, go out and win more games this season. Pull off stunning upsets vs. the Patriots and Jets.

I'm not sure preventing those hecklers from getting autographs from a team that has finished above .500 once in the new millennium or a player who has a career touchdown-interception ratio of 24-25, as Edwards does, is going to be a message that makes a major impact on a frustrated fan base.

"It's nice that I have a head coach that will do that, but they're more than welcome to say whatever they want," Edwards said.

Gailey can shout all he wants, and maybe he'll quiet a few critics along the way, but Edwards and his teammates are still the only ones who can completely silence a chorus of hecklers that will probably only grow if things continue to go poorly for the Bills.


For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.