FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 1: Chan Gailey, coach of the Buffalo Bills paces the sidelines during a game with the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
I'm as wishy-washy about Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey as just about anyone out there. One of the many reasons that Gailey has escaped criticism from the masses despite a 10-22 record over the past two years: his honesty and transparency in speaking with reporters.
Take, for example, his unprompted response to a generic question about the last (and by all accounts lackadaisical) practice before the team's Thursday pre-season opener against Washington.
"I thought after practice that mentally, we were sort of into it," Gailey said Tuesday. "It's the first time in quite a while that we have not been in pads, and I thought guys thought it was a glorified walk-through. We've got to make sure we learn how to practice without pads on. We've got to up the tempo with that a little bit."
In the short term, Gailey's ruffling his feathers about a practice being too laid back isn't anything but a good thing; a public kick in the pants for a young football team is a long-used coaching staple. You can expect the Bills to come out with some energy at Ralph Wilson Stadium tomorrow evening as a result.
Over the long haul, however, I'm beginning to wonder how much weight that these types of stories involving Gailey will carry with a fan base desperate for a winner.
Seriously: can you remember the last time a head coach with eight- and seven-game losing streaks over two seasons was as widely respected as Gailey? Think about that for a second: Gailey's Bills are 10-7 before factoring in the two longest losing streaks that the team has suffered through since a seven-game losing streak spanning the 2003 and 2004 seasons, when they were transitioning from Gregg Williams to Mike Mularkey. (Before that? An eight-game streak spanning 1985 and '86.)
These Bills have had historically bad stretches under Gailey, yet the rhetoric is constantly about his offensive ingenuity and resourcefulness, his Southern charm, his brutal honesty, and the bare cupboard of talent that he's had to work with. All of that is perfectly legitimate: Gailey does have some charm to him, and has not faced the burden of expectation from any angle but his own, owing to the fact that the Bills were starting from scratch as an organization after the 2009 season.
Still, at what point will Gailey's various charms wear off? Does his honesty, as exemplified above, still carry as much weight with you today as it might have in 2010, Bills fans? When does the external pressure for Gailey to produce wins, and avoid franchise footnotes with negative connotations, crank up? We leave that to your comment section debate below.
I'll start things off: I'll admit that Gailey's various charms still work for me. I will always think highly of him as an offensive mind, regardless of what legacy he'll leave behind as Bills head coach. I'll stop short of calling 2012 a make-or-break season for him, but anything less than significant steps forward in multiple areas - the win column chief among them - will render those positive traits significantly less charming in my book.