by Michael Lombardi
January 19, 02010
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.