Okay, now that I am removed from the emotional high and low of the game thread, I am going to attempt to construct a rational basis based on the situation that happened at the end of the 4th quarter vs. Miami. I do support Chan Gailey just as much now as before the game, because a coach has to have much more than one season game and an offseason before anyone starts proclaiming success or failure on him. So just don't get the masochistic suicidal wrist-slashing Bills-fan vibes. :)
So here's the situation.
With 1:30 left, the Bills had the ball on their own 1 yard line, 4th and 10 to go and trailing by 3 points.
The Bills chose to take an intentional safety. This put them down by 5 points and without possession of the ball. The hope was that the defense could stop the Miami offense on a 3 and out, giving the Bills possession of the ball again at an area not in the shadow of their own goal line. This happened. The defense actually stopped Miami.
With :29 seconds left, the Bills had the ball on their own 20 yard line, 1st and 10 to go and trailing by 5 points.
There are arguments supporting the intentional safety, mostly based on the idea that going for it on 4th down, when we had failed on 1-3rd downs, had effectively zero chance of succeeding. That belief is based on the failure of our offense up to that point. The reality is, any one play has a chance of connecting for ten yards. Why do terrible offenses routinely find themselves able to pick up 10 yards at a time at the end of the game?
In rebuttal I ask this: which of those two bolded situations actually gives a team zero chance to win the game? Which situation would you rather be in as an offense? Are the Dolphins capable of giving up an 80 yard drive in 29 seconds to an offense with NO timeouts? Or are the Bills more capable of picking up a 4th and 10 at their own 1, conserving their timeouts, and only needing a 70 yard drive to tie in 1:30? Yes, that's a leap of faith. But is that any more of a leap of faith than hoping the defense would even stop Miami after the safety?
I know that this play wasn't "what lost the game" in the sense that it can't receive the blame for the loss. I know this, I know this, I know this. I know this. Let's face it, the defense, while not perfect, played well enough to win the game. The offense didn't, and they bear the blame. But that's not what this is about. That's not what this is about, because, with 1:30 left, none of that mattered. With 1:30 left, the Bills had a diminished chance to win, but not an unrealistic one. The only thing that mattered at that stage was Trying to win with what was left of the game. It ws important to correctly assess the best chance from the situation at the end of the game. Had we gone for it on 4th down, a) we lose immediately; or b) we keep our timeouts, keep about a minute on the clock, and keep our chance at the field goal. Yes, it was risky, but in ITS successful execution (unlike the alternative plan), we have realistic chances.
By taking that intentional safety, we placed our faith in the defense stopping Miami and thus putting our offense in an impossible situation with 29 seconds left. That wasn't even a realistic risk. We effectively surrendered our realistic chances of pulling out any kind of a comeback. It doesn't mean we should fire our coach or even THINK about firing him. It doesn't even mean we should think the Bills are going to do worse this year than any of us thought. But it was practically the definitive wrong decision at the end of the game.