Chan Gailey's Wildcat Call Was, at Best, a Terrible Call

Andy LipariCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 7:  Head coach Chan Gailey of the Buffalo Bills looks at his play chart during a game against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter on October 7, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 45-3.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

With six minutes left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in Arizona, the Bills looked like they were putting together a drive to end the game. They had picked up two first downs and had the clock down to 3:20 left in the game. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller had been picking up good chunks of yards on the ground and it looked like a Bills win was going to come relatively easy at the end.

But of course, these are the Buffalo Bills, so nothing comes easy. Chan Gailey called for the Wildcat package on second-and-9 from the Arizona 36-yard-line. At first, I thought it was a good move because Buffalo had success with the Wildcat for once. It was just a different way to run the ball and run out the clock.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when Brad Smith put the ball into the air. As soon as Smith let the ball go, we knew nothing good could come from it. I felt like reaching through my TV to grab the ball and put it back into Smith’s hands for a re-do, but Patrick Peterson got to the ball first. Peterson is as dangerous as it comes on a return and it wouldn’t have surprised me to see him return the interception for a touchdown.

In the post game press conference on the Bills' official website, Gailey tried defending the call. “If we hit that, we’re all talking about what a great call it is, and if we don’t, it’s a dumb call. So it was a dumb call,” Gailey said. “If I had to do it over again I’d run it.”

I disagree with Gailey. If it had worked I still would have thought it’s a dumb call. And the fact he’d run it again is scary. The best-case scenario would have been for the Bills to score a touchdown on the play. Sure they would’ve been up by 10, but they would still be giving the ball back to Arizona with three minutes and three timeouts left.

The odds of Arizona winning wouldn’t have been great, but this is the Bills; we can’t put anything unbelievable past them. And the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald who can score on any play. Don’t give them the ball and a chance to pull the game out.

Even if the play had worked, is that the time Gailey wants to breakout the throw in the Wildcat formation? He could have used it in the third quarter or even earlier in the fourth quarter and I would have been fine with it, but with three minutes left? Save that for Houston or New England when you’re behind by a touchdown, not when you’re trying to run out the clock in Arizona.

At best, having Brad Smith throw on that play was a dumb call. At worst, it could have cost Gailey his job. As it played out, if Jay Feely had made his 38-yard field goal, Gailey would have gone straight to the hot seat.

It’s his call and there’s nobody else to blame for that decision. Knowing Buffalo, they probably would have kept him for the rest of the season anyway, but it would have been hard to imagine him back in 2013.

Even if the pass was incomplete, that play stops the clock and sets up the Bills with a third and long from the Arizona 36. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t going to get the first down the way he had been throwing the ball. It would have given Arizona plenty of time win the game even if the Bills had kicked a field goal and gone up by six.

I actually wished the offensive line hadn’t blocked well enough for Smith so he would have had to tuck the ball and run to avoid a bad play. Even a sack would have at least kept the clock running or forced Arizona to use a timeout.

No matter the result of the play or whether the Bills had won or lost, it’s an all-around bonehead call for the ages. Gailey usually calls a good game, but when he calls a play like that or the reverse to a backup tight end on the goal line like he did against Kansas City, it makes me wonder if the Bills can go anywhere with Gailey as their head coach.