Chan Gailey was a passable NFL head coach 10 years ago. He compiled a record of 18-14 as the leader of the Dallas Cowboys from 1998 to 1999. He lead a mostly successful Georgia Tech program for six years before a short stint as offensive coordinator for the woeful Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 and part of 2009.
Gailey does have the opportunity to succeed and could be a pretty good fit for this team. A somewhat proven commodity with an offensive background, Gailey could pick up a few wins if the right players are brought in. He found success as an offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mid-1990s and overachieved with a talent-starved Miami Dolphins attack in 2000 and 2001.
Gailey does know how to run an offense.
However, it remains to be seen if Gailey has the aptitude to turn around an entire franchise. He and new GM Buddy Nix promised to work together on all personnel decisions, finding players Gailey can coach into winners. On top of the list is a franchise quarterback, something this team has been without for a decade.
A Slight Tangent
Ten years between coaching stints is a long time, especially when the game changes so much every year. Art Shell, for example, waited 11 years in between stints as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Shell's first tenure lasted from 1989 to 1994, a time in which compiled a record of 54-38 and made three playoff appearances. He was fired after the 1994 season.
Shell was rehired by Raiders owner Al Davis for the 2006 season in an attempt to bring back better days. The team went 2-14 that year and Shell often seemed out of touch with a new game. He was unable to manage the egos in the locker room and alienated some players. Shell was fired by Davis after the season.
Over 10 years passed between the two tenures of former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. His first stint as coach earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as he won three Super Bowl titles and finished with a record of 124-60. Gibbs retired before the 1993 season to focus on other endeavors.
His second stint was not as successful as his first. Brought back by owner Dan Snyder for the 2004 season, Gibbs lasted for four seasons before retiring again. The Redskins were competitive and made the playoffs twice under his watch. However, Gibbs was unable to lead the Redskins past the divisional round of the playoffs.
Two of the elite coaches of the early '90s were unable to recapture the magic in their second tenures, showing how much the game had evolved over a 10-year span.
Back on Topic
While there is no guarantee Gailey will repeat the performances of either of his contemporaries, he will need to bring in coordinators and advisers that know the current game well. Respected men all around the league have praised Gailey, including Bill Cowher, who was linked to the position Gailey accepted.
Cowher even acknowledged that Gailey was his choice as a replacement following his retirement from the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2006 season. Jerry Jones, Gailey's former boss in Dallas, even stated that he regretted firing Gailey after only two seasons.
All of this talk means nothing to a large portion of the Bills' fan base. Gailey is not the big name that the disillusioned followers were looking for; instead it's another instance of Ralph Wilson settling for a coach he can control.
Nix believed that Gailey was the most qualified man for the position, overlooking promising candidates like Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and proven winners like former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick. Gailey was the safe choice, allowing fans to wonder if the front office is really looking to change the culture around the team and be competitive.
This move is similar to bringing in Dick Jauron or Mike Mularkey. There is some potential, but failure seems much more likely.
Gailey is known as a bright offensive mind, something desperately needed in Western New York. He produced some successful NFL players during his time at Georgia Tech, like Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and Cowboys running back Tashard Choice, but he was unable to lead his team into the Top 25 and finished with a 2-4 record in bowl games.
Overall, Gailey's career in the NFL has been unimpressive and well-traveled. He has presided over some successful offenses, especially during his two years with the Cowboys.
However, Gailey has spent under three years manning most of his positions in the NFL. He was quickly removed from his post in Kansas City after clashing with new head coach Todd Haley. Gailey has not been able to latch onto a job for an extended period of time in the NFL, showing the potential for a divisive personality.
The Buffalo Bills need a coach that will create unity and confidence. The jury is obviously still out on Gailey, but it looks like the Bills have set themselves up for a repeat of the past few seasons.
Gailey is not the home run acquisition that the team needs to get out of a decade-long funk; a strong leader who will shake things up and change the lull in the locker room. Flying so far under the radar that no one knew he was even a candidate, Gailey represents a underwhelming result of a questionable coaching search. Buffalo is not the most appealing position for most coaches, but the front office could have waited a little longer and found the right coach for the job.
The whole process comes off as just another step down the same old path of losing. Gailey does deserve a chance to overwork the franchise for the better, but football fans in Buffalo cannot help feeling a case of deja vu.