It’s no secret that for the past 11 years, the Buffalo Bills have been a wreck.
It’s odd to think that finally bottoming out with a 4-12 season may be the light at the end of proverbial tunnel for this organization. This past season, we learned about the Bills players’ willingness to play hard for their coach, Chan Gailey.
Slowly, they improved, after a rough 0-5 start, taking three playoff teams in the Ravens, Chiefs and Bears, down to the wire—yet they still fell to 0-8.
Then in Week 10, the resilient Bills got off the schneid, defeating the equally inept Lions. Their 4-4 second half of the season showed how much these Bills care about winning and making their city proud.
This all stems from their coach. Chan Gailey, unlike his predecessor, plays to win.
Dick Jauron’s “play not to lose” mindset rubbed off on his quarterbacks, who, in their haste not to fail, failed too many times to count. Gailey put his faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fitz finished the season with more touchdown passes per game than “franchise” quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler.
This theme of getting the most out of his players extended to the wide receivers and offensive line, as well.
The young Eric Wood anchored a much improved offensive line and Stevie Johnson put up Pro Bowl numbers with over 1,000 yards receiving and ten touchdowns. Chan Gailey has this offense on the upswing and brought in Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator Dave Wanstedt as an assistant coach/linebackers coach to help improve the league’s worst run defense.
The guy speaks his mind (he even called out Lee Evans for his lackluster route running), knows how to be successful and has earned the respect of his young players.
Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey seem to be cut from the same cloth. Both are strong-minded southerners who want to bring in players and coaches who will buy into their vision for the future of this organization. Nix helped oversee the drafting of players like Philip Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson, who made the Chargers one of the most consistently solid teams in the league.
During this tumultuous offseason for the NFL, Nix has signed Shawne Merriman to a two-year bonus-laden deal, released the aging Marcus Stroud and resigned Special Teams captain George Wilson. Nix has brought in talent for Gailey to utilize on offense and is trying to do the same for George Edwards and Dave Wanstedt, as they try to implement their hybrid defense next season.
Whether the rest of the NFL community is willing to admit it or not, the Bills are on the rise thanks to the two men at the top. That’s why, come draft weekend, no matter who the Buffalo Bills select, Bills fans should be confident that these guys know what they are doing.
Give it a couple of years, through the combined efforts of Nix and Gailey, great players may even want to play in Buffalo.