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Diner morning news: Bills take ‘Raider-ish’ route

Hiring Chan Gailey isn’t the way back to respectability. Michael Lombardi

Print This January 19, 2010, 10:31 AM EST
99 Comments

QUOTE: “Logic is the anatomy of the thought.” -- John Locke

I don’t understand the Bills’ logic in hiring Chan Gailey as their new head coach. It has an almost “Raider-ish” feel to it, believing that fixing one side of the ball will fix their current losing streak. Gailey was almost hired last year by Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli to be the head coach, but because Pioli didn’t think he could sell Gailey to the media or the Kansas City fan base as the man to rebuild the team’s fortunes, he passed, opting to keep him as offensive coordinator. We know how that worked out; Gailey was fired after the third preseason game, not for his lack of offensive acumen, but because of philosophical differences between him and head coach Todd Haley.

So if the Chiefs didn’t think they could sell Gailey, what makes the Bills think they can? Certainly, former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher’s ringing endorsement of Gailey will carry some clout, but will all of western New York rest easy? I’m sure most Bill fans, like me, are looking for the logic.

Recently, my fundamental problem with the Bills organization is that they hate change. They don’t want to bring in someone from the outside to alter their thought process, and as the saying goes, if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. And let’s face it, the Bills are irrelevant. Hence, the reason for no GM hiring after Marv Levy left. Instead, they promoted marketing man Russ Brandon. Then they stayed in house and hired Buddy Nix to become their new general manager with Brandon overseeing the company, another indication the Bills are not inclined to bring anyone new into the organization — once again, very Raider-ish.

Whether it was Nix or Brandon or owner Ralph Wilson who identified the Bills’ problem as being an offensive problem is not clear, but they seem convinced that if they improve their offense, they can rebuild their team. Logically, I don’t have a problem believing that fixing your offense will help you improve, but what the Bills need is a leader. They need change, not a play caller, and this is where I disconnect with their decision.

Gailey appears to be a manager, not a leader, more suited to being an offensive coordinator than a head coach. The Bills are at a crossroads in terms of their stature in the AFC East, with the Jets seemingly enjoying a sudden resurgence, the Dolphins appearing to be up and coming and the Patriots having beaten the Bills the last 13 times. All three teams have quarterbacks for the present and future, something the Bills don’t have. It’s possible the Bills think Gailey will develop their quarterback of the future, but who has he developed? Wasn’t it just a little while ago that people in the NFL were complaining about Gailey’s Georgia Tech offense when evaluating Calvin Johnson?

Gailey has a reputation for being a bright, creative offensive mind, but his Georgia Tech teams never played in a BCS game, and they did this year. Where’s the proof in the tapestry of his work? Many criticize current Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino for being a disaster as a NFL coach, but look at his offenses at Louisville and the quarterbacks he’s developed in his career. His production is light years ahead of Gailey. Why not Mike Heimerdinger of the Titans, who proved he could adapt an offense to Vince Young, or Hue Jackson of the Ravens, who has coached Joe Flacco for two years? Why not talk to Jim Fassel, who led a team to the Super Bowl and has coached and developed quarterbacks? Why not talk to Mike Martz, who has proven he can develop quarterbacks and can run a pro-style offense? Why not talk to Marc Trestman, who coached in the CFL and proved he can win as a head coach? Maybe they’re not the right fit, but at least talk to some of them -- if not to learn more football, then to validate their decision in hiring Gailey. There’s no urgency in hiring Gailey – he’s not going anywhere, so widen your scope.

So is Buffalo almost “Raider-ish” in that so many qualified NFL types don’t want to go there and interview for the job? In some ways, yes. Most people who are in the know realize that the Bills have a meddling owner who loves to be involved. But of more concern is their unsure future if something happens to the 90-year-old Wilson. So with an uncertain future in their ownership and some fundamental problems in their front office, the Bills are not attractive right now.

But despite all those concerns, the Bills could think a little outside the box and try a broader approach yet still have Gailey involved with the team. They could conceivably have Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier as their head coach and Gailey as their coordinator, or they could hire another bright young mind to lead them if they want to go the play-caller route at head coach.

No matter what they do, the Bills need the same thing that made them successful back in the 1980s, which is to hire from the outside to change the culture and become curious again. My advice to the Bills is don’t try the retread approach; try a new way of thinking.

But like the Raiders, they’re stuck in time and stuck in their refusal to change. The Bills have become the east coast version of the Raiders, and if they don’t watch out, indifference is right around the corner.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

For more on the Chan Gailey hire in Buffalo, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

Comments

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Robert Boland
Jan 19, 2010
10:55 AM

Tremendous analysis of what is potentially crippling the Buffalo organization. Gailey is not without talent, as you point out, but no team he's been a head coach of has gotten better.under his leadership. Not Samford following Terry Bowden, not Dallas following Barry Switzer (although perhaps he should get a pass on that one), not Georgia Tech after George O'Leary and even though one could quibble with Tech firing him after a career of bowl appearances, can anyone say Tech isn't better off with Paul Johnson leading them.

Sean in GB
Jan 19, 2010
11:13 AM

I agree with Lombardi...can't imagine that Bills fans are very excited about this one. Seems like a very uninspired selection to me. I suppose Gailey at least deserves a chance to show what he can do in Buffalo, but a young coordinator like Frazier probably would have been a better choice. No matter who the coach is, the Bills need to find a QB first and foremost. Trent Edwards is average at best; maybe they can develop Brian Brohm into a capable starter but I don't see it.

Steven Cains
Jan 19, 2010
11:30 AM

I'm glad to see Marc Trestman being talked about as a potential head coach.

Bill Callahan would be another strong candidate.

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike,

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon?

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:31 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:32 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the consensus

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:32 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the consensus about

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:32 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the consensus about him

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:32 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the consensus about him league w

Jim Comerford
Jan 19, 2010
11:32 AM

Mike, What is your opinion of Russ Brandon? What is the consensus about him league wide?

Eric
Jan 19, 2010
11:34 AM

Bills fans deserve better. Wilson seems to be stuck in an era that doesn't exist anymore. Bringing back Marv Levy a few years ago, and then when he leaves, replacing him with a 70 year old Nix??? Way to keep up with the NFL.

Im a Pats fan. I feel bad for the people of Buffalo.

Also, as a Pats fan, I cant stand the Jets, but I admire the Jets fans that have long suffered with that franchise.

Scott Bolander
Jan 19, 2010
11:35 AM

In the end, the only thing that will turn things around for the Bills is the same thing that saved the Colts: The owner dying.

In the Colts case it was Robert Irsay in 1997 (Jim Irsay took over for his ailing Dad in 1995). They have made the playoffs in 12 of 15 seasons since then.

In the 23 seasons Robert Irsay ran the team, they went to the playoffs only 4 times and were never a serious contender.

Bill
Jan 19, 2010
11:36 AM

@Sean - Not that I support the hire, but Frazier is not a "young" coordinator. He's younger than gailey, but by 7 years (Frazier - born in 1959; Gailey in 1952).

John in NYC
Jan 19, 2010
11:42 AM

They still have all the old Donohoe crew (Guy, Modrak et al) so they are still going to have hit and miss drafts, worthless free agents, mediocre coordinators, position coaches that can't get work anywhere else, and then try to compete with Belichek, Parcells and now Ryan. Still, it is an upgrade, Nix and Gailey will get back to basics and put together a string of 8-8 seasons and the fans will still show up and start tailgating on Thursday and sell out games that are played in 20 below weather with 30 mph winds and 5-10 inches of snow while sunny Jacksonville covers their seats with a tarp. Considering that there is a real good chance of having no football in 2011, who cares if they hire Gailey?

Jon
Jan 19, 2010
11:44 AM

Mike,

You say the Scott Pioli, who is a highly respected personnel man, almost hired Chan Gailey for the Chiefs, and the only reason they didn't was for non-football reasons (fan base and media). Yet when the Bills hire Gailey, you trash it for not looking outside. If they wanted to stay in house they could have kept the highly respected Perry Fewell. As far as Gailey's college credentials, the guy did go to a bowl game every year and recruiting is almost as important as coaching in the college game. Would I have preferred Shanahan, Cowher or Martz? Of course, but Gailey isn't terrible. And Frazier's success has as much to do w/ the plethora of defensive talent given to him as it does his tampa-2 scheme which the Bills also ran (with far less talent)

Does Wilson meddle? Of course he does, he's 90+ years old and has nothing else to do. He tried hiring an outside total football guy in Donahoe and that didn't work. So now he went back to a guy that was very successful w/ the Bills in Buddy Nix, who was on the Polian/Butler staffs and later went to SD with them. I don't see that as being a bad thing at all.

All I am saying is that over the past 10 years, the Bills did try different approaches, Donahoe, Levy, Brandon (a marvelous business guy, who if he could have somehow translated to football, the Bills would have been great) and now Nix. If anything they are thinking too far outside the box by not going w/ the same tried and true safe approach that every other team uses.

So please don't compare the Bills to the Raiders, who are fighting with each other literally and drafting guys in the 1st 2 rounds that could have been available in the 5th and 6th. Just because something hasn't been successful, doesn't mean it isn't for lack of change. Change does not equal better results.

Dave Masonis
Jan 19, 2010
11:44 AM

Spot on Mike, keep up the great work

Andrew Pilsch
Jan 19, 2010
11:45 AM

I really appreciate this analysis. After having had to suffer through the Chan Gailey era (or error) at Georgia Tech, I agree that he doesn't really have anything going for him.

To Robert Boland: Gailey was fired at GT b/c he never beat Georgia, never fielded a team that was competitive against Georgia, & failed to understand why fans cared about beating Georgia. Also, going to bowl games? Under Gailey we played in the Humanitarian Bowl (twice), something called the Silicon Valley Classic, and the Emerald Bowl. We lost in all of those gems.

His problem at Tech was that he was okay with mediocrity, something that doesn't bode well for the Bills (or maybe it does? as Lombardi says, they don't want to change the culture & they have a culture of mediocrity).

ScottR.
Jan 19, 2010
11:50 AM

Ohhh I bet Bills fans are pumped---The Chain Gailey Era is here!

vince
Jan 19, 2010
11:51 AM

once again the bills shoot themselves in the foot by doing what they always do, take the cheap way out, and hire someone with litte or no credibility, lets face it, they just continue to spit in the faces of all the season ticket holders who continue to pay to watch a poor product.Russ Brandon is the Larry Quinn of the bills, thinks he knows more than he does.So for fifty years in the league we have been good for what?, maybe 10?, and thats not 10 in arow, the AFL years, and the teams of the 90's.I've had enough, roll in the moving van.

Sonny L.
Jan 19, 2010
11:56 AM

The fish rots from the head...

Adam from Buffalo
Jan 19, 2010
12:05 PM

Mike, you hit it right on the head. Thanks for bringing national attention to what Bills fans have known for some time: WE WILL NEVER WIN WITH RALPH IN CHARGE. EVER! The man is surrounded by yes men, none more so than that hack Russ Brandon. Wilson, Modrak, Guy, Littman, and Brandon. Five morons if I've ever seen any. They're all going to have the blood on their hands when this franchise is taken from us. All of them. There isn't a person at 1 Bills Drive who is willing to stand up to the old man, and so the old man will continue to make decisions like hiring Gailey or keeping Jauron on for "contiuity", even though Jauron had gone 7-9 in three straight years. Continuity of what? Being a loser? Well done.

I was in Professor Boland's Sports Law class last semester, and when I mailed him my final paper, I put a note in there, asking him to have you, Mike, consider taking the Bills GM job. It was a pipe dream, I know, because your knowledge of the game and intelligence immediately took you out of the running. We'll go something like 18-30 over the next three years, and we'll hear again and again how the Bills "are this close" to turning the corner. Ralphsputin will get up there at the presser in 2013 when it's time to name the new coach and embarrass himself once again, and it'll be the same old song and dance. Any senior citizens looking for a job as a NFL GM should send their resumes to One Bills Drive.

Bills fans are some of the most desperate in the country, as we'll look for any reason to believe the Bills Spin Machine (better known as the front office) that this next move is the right one. Donahoe. Williams. Mularkey. Levy. Jauron. And now Nix and Gailey. Where have we heard this before? In today's NFL, where a team can go from the basement to the penthouse in one season, it's ridiculous that a team can go ten straight years without making the playoffs, but the front office will have you believeing that we're not that far away. Teams like Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, and the Jets were all able to change the fortunes of their franchises recently with a great selection of a head coach. Ralphsputin doesn't seem to understand that, as he only wants people around him who will tell him what he wants to hear. Bills fans are a tough bunch, but how much more can we take? We want a reason, any reason to believe that things might turn around for us. Sad thing is , I can't seem to find one.

Thanks again for a great article, Mike. The past decade has been an embarrassment, and from the looks of it, the beat goes on.

Chris Flanagan
Jan 19, 2010
12:19 PM

This article is Raiderish and its author is and ex-Raider failure...thats all the insight im getting from this apart from the part where Poli also thinks Gailey is head coaching material...the rest of it is a useless attempt at analysis. Not going outside the organization??? Nix spent the last decade helping build the chargers, Chan has never been with the Bills so not going outside the organization is nonsense. As for the other candidates not wanting to go to Buffalo its clear they were making that decision based on the current QB situation and that alone. At worst Gailey will win as many games as Shannahan will in Washington, except Shanny costs alot more and had Elway hand him a few Superbowl rings. Oh an the part about Wilson being a meddling owner, can we get some examples please?? What does he do that the other owners in the NFL dont do??? Robert Kraft is a medling owner isnt he?? So is meddling bad??? Next bring facts and not this weak garbage.

Sean in GB
Jan 19, 2010
12:21 PM

Thanks for the correction Bill. Still think the Bills would've been better off with an up-and-coming coordinator type. Hard to envision Chan Gailey doing much in Buffalo, but I guess we'll see.

Jim from Buffalo
Jan 19, 2010
12:24 PM

Chris, Are you related to Ralph or Russ?

Jim from Buffalo
Jan 19, 2010
12:33 PM

Chris, Are you related to Ralph or Russ?

Diana
Jan 19, 2010
12:35 PM

Bill Cowher reccomends the guy as a hire to replace himself. And you who could not find another NFL job while offering your services for free is giving advice.

You sure did not mind being belittled to walking a parking lot while with the Raiders as to not loose a payday and you write Raiderish? Here is a quote you might try to remember, " A man without pride is like a ship without a sail", I made that up but it fits you to a tee.

Jeremy
Jan 19, 2010
12:42 PM

Great analysis, but you left out the most salient point - Gailey will be 58 during the 2010 season. Doesn't this break the Bill Simmons Old Coach Rule?

Bob Chalmers
Jan 19, 2010
12:45 PM

"Nix spent the last decade helping build the chargers, Chan has never been with the Bills so not going outside the organization is nonsense. " Thank you Chris Flkanagan!

I am so sick of hearing these stupid complaints about Nix. He has had a whole year with the Bills - NIX WAS AN OUTSIDER!!! And in his one year, they may have had one of their best drafts ever. Maybin was the only shaky pick, and it's already been published that Maybin was not Nix's choice.

Gailey has a solid resume. He was Pioli's choice for football reasons but he went with appeasing the stupid fans and media and KC, and how is that working out, Chiefs fans?

Gailey was also Cowher's choice to replace him in Pittsburgh.

Jerry Jones has stated firing Gailey after 2 years was one of his worst decisions ever. The Cowboys dropped from 8-8 to 5-11 after Gailey was fired as head coach. No mention of that at all in this article.

Good grief - I understand (sort of) how frustrated fans can say foolish thiings without the facts to back them up.

I don't understand why Mike Lombardi is. Upset that he didn't get the Bills GM job, perhaps, Mike?

TySly
Jan 19, 2010
12:45 PM

Mike has talked about the Bills before and said this, but basically what they need is a FOOTBALL man at the highest level making a PLAN for how to put a team together that can succeed in Buffalo. I don't think the problem holding the Bills back in the last few years has been coaching, it's been #1 the design of the team and #2 the talent level that have been failing.

Jauron's teams had pretty vanilla schemes and gameplans, but you have to admit that the team believed in him and played their hearts out for most of his tenure.

As for Mike's point about "so many qualified NFL types don’t want to go there and interview for the job?" - Do you think the propect of being the same division as Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan and Bill Parcells scared away some of the top coaching talent?

Let's face it, the Bills job is a full rebuilding situation, especially in the desgin of their team.



Bob Chalmers
Jan 19, 2010
12:47 PM

"Nix spent the last decade helping build the chargers, Chan has never been with the Bills so not going outside the organization is nonsense. " Thank you Chris Flkanagan!

I am so sick of hearing these stupid complaints about Nix. He has had a whole year with the Bills - NIX WAS AN OUTSIDER!!! And in his one year, they may have had one of their best drafts ever. Maybin was the only shaky pick, and it's already been published that Maybin was not Nix's choice.

Gailey has a solid resume. He was Pioli's choice for football reasons but he went with appeasing the stupid fans and media and KC, and how is that working out, Chiefs fans?

Gailey was also Cowher's choice to replace him in Pittsburgh.

Jerry Jones has stated firing Gailey after 2 years was one of his worst decisions ever. The Cowboys dropped from 8-8 to 5-11 after Gailey was fired as head coach. No mention of that at all in this article.

Good grief - I understand (sort of) how frustrated fans can say foolish thiings without the facts to back them up.

I don't understand why Mike Lombardi is. Upset that he didn't get the Bills GM job, perhaps, Mike?

Knazzlle
Jan 19, 2010
12:49 PM

What the hell Jim Comerford. Also, your a friggin tool Lombardi.

Eric Green
Jan 19, 2010
12:56 PM

Mike,
The line that popped out to me in your article is leader. How many teams go about looking for a leader instead of the "hot assistant"?

Roggespierre
Jan 19, 2010
01:03 PM

Scott Bolander - you have it absolutely right regarding the Colts.

Having been a reporter in Indianapolis at that time, I can confirm that EVERYTHING about the Colts Organization changed when the baton was passed from Big Bob to Jim Irsay. The City of Indianapolis and Colts fans in general are fortunate that Jim seems to have inherited much from his mother.

It wasn't just Jim's willingness to hand over control of football operations to Bill Polian. He also bolstered (started?) the marketing department, initiated broad community outreach, and generally worked to build goodwill among the locals. This came in handy when the time came to talk turkey about public financing for a new stadium.

Chris Flanagan
Jan 19, 2010
01:12 PM

Jim, not related to either but if I was Id choose Ralph! Lets be honest here coaching is important, but players are the key.

No one was doing backflips when Levy was hired either, but we didnt have the number of media outlets attempting to get web hits with outrageous nonsense like Lombardi is here. Remember hes still building a business with this website, knows bills fans are passionate and wanted to put togther a "loud" article to draw attention.

I liked our draft last year with the exception of maybin who was a 1 year wonder at PSU and gets destroyed when the ball gets run in his direction. At this point im more interested in who will be the new D coordinator (would like to see Nolan before Miami gets their smelly fish paws on him). We need to get som help at LB this offseason hopefully the money saved on hiring Chan results in a serious bid for Karlos Dansby so we can stop playing safties at the LB positon. A new defensive approach that makes better use of Strouds talents would be welcome. Its great our Pass D was so good last year, but pretty meaning less when teams could just run the ball right down our throat. The loss to Cleveland is still stinging but that is offset by the less than deserving win we got over the Jets in NJ.

Chris Flanagan
Jan 19, 2010
01:18 PM

Jim, not related to either but if I was Id choose Ralph! Lets be honest here coaching is important, but players are the key.

No one was doing backflips when Levy was hired either, but we didnt have the number of media outlets attempting to get web hits with outrageous nonsense like Lombardi is here. Remember hes still building a business with this website, knows bills fans are passionate and wanted to put togther a "loud" article to draw attention.

I liked our draft last year with the exception of maybin who was a 1 year wonder at PSU and gets destroyed when the ball gets run in his direction. At this point im more interested in who will be the new D coordinator (would like to see Nolan before Miami gets their smelly fish paws on him). We need to get som help at LB this offseason hopefully the money saved on hiring Chan results in a serious bid for Karlos Dansby so we can stop playing safties at the LB positon. A new defensive approach that makes better use of Strouds talents would be welcome. Its great our Pass D was so good last year, but pretty meaning less when teams could just run the ball right down our throat. The loss to Cleveland is still stinging but that is offset by the less than deserving win we got over the Jets in NJ.

Chief
Jan 19, 2010
01:19 PM

Similar to William Clay Ford Sr. Although Schwartz seems to be a bolder hire. Leaving clowns like Mayhew and Lewand in charge is the bigger issue.

Mr. Murder
Jan 19, 2010
01:21 PM

Cowher was too expensive for him, so he got Cowher's choice of a replacement.

The Buffalo Replacements has a nice ring to it, they could pick from some good possible theme songs, at least....

...maybe Wilson's staying ahead of the lockout?

Brad James
Jan 19, 2010
01:44 PM

Well Lombardi,

This is one of your more popular posts in recent memory and a really good assessment. The Bills have no plan, the Bills have no future. I feel sorry for Bills fans.

Not in Utah
Jan 19, 2010
02:10 PM

Brad James, Bills fans feel sorry for you.....at least Buffalo is not in Utah! Utah has no past, present OR future. Good luck out there. Ha HAHAHAHAHa

Not in Utah
Jan 19, 2010
02:57 PM

Brad James, Bills fans feel sorry for you.....at least Buffalo is not in Utah! Utah has no past, present OR future. Good luck out there. Ha HAHAHAHAHa

mjw149
Jan 19, 2010
03:00 PM

It's a real concern that Wilson can't find anyone compelling at GM or coach. Because what else do the Bills have going for them as a destination? Even as a Bills fan, I'm afraid that expecting the Bills to be successful in WNY isn't realistic. The 90s are looking more and more like a USFL driven fluke.

Out of the real rust belt teams, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Cinncinnati, are annual disappointments. Pittsburgh and Green Bay are sustainable successes - probably due to their incredibly unique history. Minnesota and Chicago are somewhere in between. Philly, NE, NYJ, NYG all have major urban areas to attract talent. At least Detroit has a rich, albeit deeply entrenched ownership and Cleveland has deep history. So it seems like Cinncinnati and Buffalo would turn into LA, Mexico City or Toronto someday.

So we can all whine about ownership, but what other rich people can buy the team AND KEEP IT in Buffalo?

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