David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In his third year with Buffalo, Chan Gailey has become more conservative than ever.
Chan Gailey of the Buffalo Bills has been lauded as a solid offensive strategist and outstanding offensive coordinator. That may be where his ceiling is, because his tenure as head coach may be running out of steam. In Buffalo, Gailey has led the team to a 15-30 record, which is a .333 winning percentage. That kind of performance is usually sufficient to get you fired in the NFL.
Gailey is finishing up his third year on the job with Buffalo. The franchise had gone 10 years without a postseason appearance prior to Gailey, and he has now extended that streak to 13 years—the longest such active streak in the NFL.
The Bills are a team that usually is competitive every week, and rarely gets embarrassed by any opponent. The Bills are struggling with learning how to win in the fourth quarter, as they struggle in closing out games in the fourth quarter and seem to lack a killer instinct.
There are a number of reasons why Gailey is sitting on a hot seat, so let's name them off:
1) Takes responsibility for the offense only. He leaves the defense to Dave Wannstedt and the special teams duties to Bruce DeHaven. Gailey coaches the team as an offensive coordinator would, but the head coach is supposed to be responsible for everything that happens. Gailey doesn't operate that way.
2) His play-calling in the red zone has bordered on the side of bizarre for the last two months. The Bills have been great at moving the ball down to the red zone, but once there, they often look clueless. They have an outstanding weapon in TE Scott Chandler, but don't go to him nearly enough.
3) The Bills have been involved in some close games but Gailey coaches as if he is being strangled by the pressure. Specifically, he has passed up reasonable field-goal attempts for Rian Lindell, only to try to punt the ball to back opponents up.
The Bills watch hopelessly as the opponent then drives the field to score the decisive points. This is what we refer to as coaching "not to lose, instead of coaching to win". His lack of confidence in certain players or lack of aggressiveness at times is disheartening.
4) Predictability. The lack of gadget plays, special plays on special teams, is another way that Gailey has grown overly conservative in his third year. The Bills become more and more conservative every year under Gailey.
5) Keeping the ball out of the hands of your best player. C.J. Spiller is unquestionably one of the most exciting running backs in the NFL. Yet Gailey has mysteriously kept the ball out of Spiller's hands in too many games in 2012. The only time he is guaranteed ample touches is when Fred Jackson is out hurt.
6) The Bills had a solid start in 2011 at 5-2 after shutting out Washington. In that game, starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took a shot from London Fletcher that resulted in cracked ribs and a bruised sternum.
Fitzpatrick's season quickly went downhill from there. While it was obvious to all observers that something was wrong with Fitzpatrick, Gailey simply put his head in the sand. Rather than pull his injured QB, he let the team go 1-8 over their final nine games so it came into 2012 with no momentum whatsoever.
According to Spotrac.com, Gailey signed a three-year deal originally with the Bills. If his contract is up after the 2012 season, then the Bills have to decide to either: Fire him at the end of the year; sign him to a one-year deal to see if he can produce a winning season; or opt to give him a longer extension.
Buffalo GM Buddy Nix is fully behind Gailey, so it would not be a surprise if Gailey comes back. If Nix is fired as the GM, then all bets are off.