Amidst the optimism and high expectations as Bills training camp opened back in July, players were wearing T-shirts with a picture of Head Coach Chan Gailey on it. Under Gailey’s face was the phrase “YES WE CHAN”.
But a 3-4 start has included blowout losses to the New York Jets, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers as well as horrendous play from the defense and a regression in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game.
You can now add Gailey to the list of issues thanks to some questionable play calling in the last two games, roster decisions that haven’t worked out and some of his philosophies.
One wonders if we are about to see updated T-shirts from disgruntled fans with Gailey’s picture and the phrase “NO THEY CHAN’T”.
Let’s take a look at the big picture first. Gailey, in year number three, is 13-26. His .333 winning percentage is the sixth worst in franchise history among coaches who worked at least a full season’s worth of games.
Harvey Johnson (.080) 26 games
Jim Ringo (.130) 23 games
Hank Bullough (.190) 21 games
John Rauch (.250) 28 games
Kay Stephenson (.277) 36 games
Chan Gailey (.333) 39 games
Now let’s compare Gailey to his recent predecessors after the 39 game mark:
Gregg Williams 15-24
Dick Jauron 19-20
Chan Gailey 13-26
Mike Mularkey left after 32 games.
Under Gailey’s leadership, the Bills are 8-11 at home(including the Toronto games), 5-15 on the road and just 2-12 against AFC East competition. Through the first two seasons, the Bills were 2-12 against teams that made the playoffs and 8-10 against non playoff teams.
When the Bills lose, they have a tendency to get blown out. 12 of the 26 losses have come by 20 points or more including three of the four this season.
Gailey was hired in part to resuscitate what had been a lifeless offense and develop a quarterback. The grades are mixed since the offense is better but as far as the quarterback goes, it looks like the Bills still don’t have an answer at the critical position.
In Gailey’s first season(2010), the Bills were 28th in scoring, 18th in rushing and 24th in passing. In 2011 the offense exploded out of the gate, slumped in the second half of the season but still jumped to 14th in scoring, 13th in rushing and 15th in passing.
As far as this season goes, scoring is slightly better(2 more points a game on the average), the running game has taken another giant step(4th in the NFL) but the passing game has plummeted, dropping to 30th in yards per game.
Gailey tried to make his offense work with Trent Edwards but quickly realized that was a mistake. Ironically, Fitzpatrick is now exhibiting perhaps the worst part of Edwards game, a reluctance to throw down field.
Currently Fiztpatrick is on pace to throw for about 550 fewer yards than last season although oddly enough, he’s also on pace to throw for ten more touchdowns than he did last season.
Gailey has decided the Bills offense will sink or swim with Fitzpatrick at the helm. You may or may not find fault with that plan but you can definitely blame Gailey(and General Manager Buddy Nix) for not having a legitimate Plan B, if Plan A failed.
The Bills have four quarterbacks on he roster but three of them essentially can’t play. Gailey and company took a flyer on Vince Young and while he didn’t look that great in the pre-season, he decision to cut Young was a head scratcher since it gave the backup job to Tyler Thigpen who the Bills clearly don’t want on the field(and for good reason).
Buffalo then traded a seventh round draft pick for Tarvaris Jackson but he does the same thing on game day that you and I do, watch the game as a spectator. Brad Smith is the fourth quarterback but he isn’t an option outside of the occasional wildcat play and a very small body of work shows he shouldn’t be throwing. More on that in a moment.
Some of Gailey’s recent decisions and his philosophies have brought a greater focus on his performance.
As unbelievable as it may seem, this years defense might actually be worse than last year’s. Gailey’s first Defensive Coordinator, George Edwards, was fired after last season and now Dave Wannstedt is under fire for the unit’s continued failures.
Gailey has given Wannstedt complete control and despite the troubles on that side of the ball, Gailey says he has no plans to get involved. The Head Coach is responsible for the entire team, offense, defense and special teams. He needs to find out what the problems are and help come up with a solution rather than just step aside and say “Dave can handle it”.
Don’t expect any staff changes as a way to fix the mess. During a recent interview on WGR, Gailey said he doesn’t believe in making in season staff moves, saying “its not the right way to do business”.
Gailey’s play calling has come under scrutiny the last two games. We really didn’t have to analyze it much over the first five games because they weren’t close but the last two have come down to the end.
Gailey has drawn the ire of many fans after deciding against going for a two point conversion with a 33-28 lead in the Tennessee game and calling for a Brad Smith pass out of the wildcat with a 16-13 lead late in the game at Arizona. It was intercepted. The pass attempt by Smith was his first of the season and only his second as a Bill. The other pass was picked off as well.
In regards to the two point try, Gailey said he didn’t like to consider those until 10 or 11 minutes are left in the fourth quarter. The Bills took the five point lead with five seconds left in the third quarter.
In both games, Gailey has gone mostly conservative on his play calls at the tail end of the both the second and fourth quarters.
Gailey has also said he’s not a fan of 50+ yard field goal attempts but they aren’t the daunting challenge they used to be and Rian Lindell is thought to have a strong enough leg to make them. Its possible Gailey became “less of a fan” after watching Lindell go 2-5 from that distance in 2010. Lindell has not attempted a single field goal from 50 or beyond since that season. Which would beg the question, if Lindell’s leg isn’t strong enough any more why not get a new field goal kicker?
John Potter has a powerful leg but he isn’t accurate enough to kick field goals. Gailey kept Potter on the roster though as a kickoff specialist. Potter was very successful at getting touchbacks during he pre-season but his touch back rate in the regular season is only 50% and Potter was inactive for the last game. The Bills are one of only three teams that have two place kickers on the roster.
Gailey decided to make an in season change at punter, releasing veteran Brian Moorman for Shawn Powell who was with the team in camp. Powell’s net yardage(38) is only slightly better than Moorman’s(35). Powell’s lone punt against Tennessee traveled a mere 22 yards and almost landed in the stands behind the Bills bench. He also had a bad punt late in the game at Arizona.
Personally I like Gailey and you have to give him credit for making the Bills offense better than it was before he got here. But Gailey has really made me wonder about his future based on many of the things I’ve seen over the last two games. If the Bills don’t start playing better defense and win their fare share of games over the second half of the season, those “YES WE CHAN” shirts will be pa