Boring, journalistic stuff first: if you spent your Monday evening under a rock or off-planet, you may have missed the news - from The Buffalo News and FOXSports.com's Jay Glazer - that Chan Gailey has emerged as a strong candidate for the Buffalo Bills' head coaching position. Glazer reports that the two sides met in secret last week, are scheduled to meet again soon (it may have already happened), and barring breakdowns in discussions, Gailey is expected to be named Buffalo's next head coach within the next couple of days. Possibly as soon as Tuesday.
So keep your cell phones handy. That "The Buffalo Bills have scheduled a press conference" bit won't be completely out of left field this time. And make sure you've got your insurance policies close by.
This news, if it ends up becoming reality, is surreal, almost to the point of a complete loss for words on my part. I'm not angry or exasperated or apathetic, which I understand puts me in a very distinct minority for the time being. But I don't think I can accurately summarize my feelings on the matter in a tidy, coherent post. Nothing about Buffalo's coaching search has been tidy or coherent, so what meanders after the jump seems fitting.
The now-infamous email
Or, at least it might be when you read this section. It's already infamous to the Admins group here at Rumblings, with whom I am in constant contact via email behind the scenes.
Back on July 23, in an email thread to all of the names you find at the bottom of this page ironically entitled "Why am I so sad?", I cited my "random infatuation" with the idea of Chan Gailey becoming the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills. I'm serious. This was nearly four full months before Dick Jauron was fired. Ask any one of the authors; this email actually existed. They will confirm its strange existence.
Before y'all jump on me, let me point this out: that email listed Gailey as a head coach not because I liked the idea. Quite the opposite, really. I was talking about my belief that a team should target a young veteran quarterback with upside over a rookie in the email thread, and I had my eye on Tyler Thigpen at the time. I then mentioned the idea of trading for Thigpen and bringing in Gailey as his head coach simply because of his familiarity with Gailey's offensive system.
So no, I'm not claiming that I saw this coming. Anyone claiming that either just turned a frozen donkey wheel to move an island in the South Pacific in 2033 and flashed back 23 (number significance!) years, or they're lying. Or they're Jay Glazer or Mark Gaughan. I find it ironic, however, that we even had the discussion behind the scenes in the first place. I guess if you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it will stick.
Our authors' reactions to my "idea," by the way, were about what you'd expect, and deservedly so.
sireric: Gaily? Thigpen? Dear God that sounds horrible.
Ron From NM: Chan Bailey? Why not bring in a coach who is a proven winner for a change instead of a proven loser?
krytime: Mmm... pierogies.
One of those isn't real.
Does MattRichWarren need to drink more wine?
Y'all know Matt. He does our daily links post every morning, and posts more than anybody else here, even though he's happily married. Matt should quit his day job and go into the voodoo doll business. Taken from his Twitter account Monday morning:
The Bills will hire a coach today. Let me explain. Last time I went wine tasting on a slow day, they hired Buddy Nix as GM. Today I am going wine tasting again and while I am two hours from my computer the Bills will make a move. Inevitable.
Almost inevitable. I had this vision of Matt dressed up as Smith from the Matrix movies, pounding wine with his ear piece dangling by his cheek and his shades off, when I heard about the Gailey story on my commute home. Weird visual, but also kind of comical. Oh, and no, this was not a coincidence. Matt has powers.
I suppose I should put my opinion on Gailey in here, too
Let's assume for the moment that Gailey is a shoo-in as the coach. He's the guy. I am not disappointed. I'm not anything, really, except ready to start talking about players again.
This was what GM Buddy Nix wanted all along - to hire a coach with head coaching experience that can coach players up on the offensive side of the ball. Buddy went out and got what he wanted. (Side note: I still can't believe the headline choice for this article wasn't used when I composed this article late Monday evening. If it was, let me know, and I'll
cover my arse change the title to something way more boring.) (Second side note: Buddy and Chan... wow.)
Chan Gailey is a good football coach. I'm not sure I'd call him a good head football coach, but I certainly wouldn't call him a bad head football coach. Everyone's equating him to Dick Jauron, but Jauron came to Buffalo with 36 wins in five-plus years of coaching; Gailey has half as many (18) in two years of experience. The man has produced pretty much wherever he's been. He's experienced, he knows the league, and he knows offense. His players respect him and listen to him. That's... well, it's a start.
That's about where the good news ends. I don't get caught up in the political or image aspects of things like this, but I fully understand why folks would be upset or worried. Bill Cowher has been dangled in front of us for weeks - even the owner mentioned he'd spoken with him - and to ride that roller coaster from Cowher all the way down to coordinators turning down interview requests to landing at Gailey, well, it's not hard to figure out why some stomachs might have turned. I'm not sure I believe the vast majority of folks threatening to drop season tickets or spend Sundays at the Home Depot, but yeah, I get the angst.
The only thing that matters going forward from the moment Gailey is introduced as head coach - remember, we're assuming it's a foregone conclusion - is what happens next. The only way Gailey will prove if he can handle head coaching responsibilities in this league is by winning ball games and making smart management decisions during games and with his personnel. For the immediate future, we've got a roster to start overhauling, and even more immediately, a coaching staff to assemble.
Sal Cappacio said it best:
No matter if it's Chan Gailey or the Man on the Moon, the important hires are the coordinators. There is ZERO room for error here.
He's right. Whether you're willing to admit that Gailey's a good coach or not, it won't matter if he can't get the right guys in at all three coordinator spots. Dick Jauron is a good coach too, folks. 99% of the coaches in the NFL in any capacity are good coaches. Jauron's ultimate downfall throughout his entire career - by far his biggest issue - has been his inability to find himself a quality offensive coordinator. It's not difficult to foresee Gailey having similar issues.
On the Gailey-Modrak connection
While everyone has been waiting on head coaching news, the need for cathartic release in the form of Tom Modrak and John Guy getting fired has not gone to the wayside. Naturally, when one person realized that Gailey and Modrak spent time together in Pittsburgh (Gailey was there from 1994-1997), everyone freaked out.
I'd caution you to table that action, at least for the time being. It was always unlikely that Nix would make moves immediately in the front office, because at this point, we're knee deep into pro and college scouting for the two big events coming up in the next few months. Just as Scott Pioli did in Kansas City once major off-season events concluded, the chance is still good that Nix will clean house a little bit and bring in his own people.
He might be forced to. Let's face it - Gailey's a "yes man" as much as Nix is, and his presence isn't going to save Modrak's or anyone else's job if Ralph Wilson or Russ Brandon feels the pressure from an incredibly irate fan base to spill some blood. If I had to put money on it today, I'd guess that neither Modrak or Guy will be here come this May. Then again, I've been surprised before. Monday night, in fact.
Hear the "big splash"? Plink... plink...
Ultimately, the immediate, wholly negative reaction to the news is based on just how random it was. Also, it's based on everything we've come to dread daily about this organization. Oh, and that search process didn't help much, either.
In the end, Buffalo reached a familiar place - head-scratching territory. I'm not surprised - I am by the name, but not by the method nor the idea - and can't fathom why anyone else would be. The peculiarity of how we arrived to this point becomes irrelevant when Gailey poses at the podium with Wilson, Brandon and Nix, and it'll only become relevant again when this process begins anew in, optimistically, three years.
To this point, we haven't seen the top-to-bottom house-cleaning the team needed, and while that's not shocking considering who owns the team, it's perhaps the one thing that disappoints me about Buffalo's new organizational direction. The search was never going to be comprehensive, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have been. The end results were never going to be crowd-pleasing, but that doesn't mean they couldn't have been. These are lessons that the Bills never seem to learn. The Bills have pieces in place to make better personnel decisions, but ultimately, the change in the power structure probably will not end up being significant enough to effect real change.
There's only one way to sell this move: win football games. The Bills were going to have a hard time doing that in 2010 regardless of who the new GM and head coach were. When Nix was named GM, he made it clear that he wasn't looking to make the "big name hire;" if he's as successful in building a football team as he is living up to his on-record word, we're going to have a hell of a football team here in short order.
Disappointment will reign. I get that. Heck, I strive to be as even-keeled as possible, and even I did one of those Tim Allen confusion-grunts when I read Glazer's report. The shock wore off quickly. It always does. Nothing new in this world is ever doomed for immediate failure, however, and I think giving up on the idea that the team might actually improve under the watchful eye of Buddy and The Chan is ill-advised. But we're now in a unique position, folks - complete and total lack of positive expectation at the start of a new regime. Maybe that's what the team wanted all along.
We'll save the oh-so-suspenseful approval poll for the official announcement, shall we? Let's get this over with, Mr. Wilson.
Or maybe I'll wake up tomorrow morning and have only dreamed this.