The Buffalo Bills wanted Bill Cowher. Cowher was not ready to come out of retirement to go to Buffalo. The Bills wanted Jon Gruden. Gruden apparently was not ready to come out of the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. Buffalo extended an invitation to Jets Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and he declined the invitation. It’s not as if people were lining up to take over as head coach of the Bills. Nobody wanted to coach the Bills and when more and more candidates didn’t show an interest in going to Buffalo, the Bills decided to go in a different direction, one that will not excite too many fans. Buffalo went under-the-radar and hired Chan Gailey.
Once upon a time, he was the hot coordinator ready to take the jump to head coach. Once upon a time, Chan Gailey’s teams qualified for postseason play in 14 straight seasons. Once upon a time, Gailey was fired from Dallas despite back-to-back playoff appearances. Chan Gailey may not have the name Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden and he may not have a Super Bowl ring like Brian Billick, who I’m sure some Buffalo fans would’ve liked to see, but he does have a seal of approval from Bill Cowher, he does have a very impressive resume, and he understands how to win in the NFL. Buffalo needed discipline. Dick Jauron was more of a player’s coach and where did that get them? Zero playoff appearances, zero above .500 seasons, a bunch of penalties, and some off the field trouble. Many people will remember Gailey for his time at Georgia Tech where he couldn’t beat in-state rival Georgia or they may remember him for his most recent stop in Kansas City that was anything but a success, but you have to take a step back and dig deeper than just what he did recently. Too many times people get enamored with what happens most recently. When it comes to Chan Gailey, you certainly can’t ignore his failures in Kansas City. But at the same time, you can’t ignore 14 straight playoff appearances in Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Miami. You also can’t ignore the fact that Georgia Tech never had a losing season under his watch. He might not have been the first choice. He might not have even been in Buffalo’s top five, but unlike the other candidates who the Bills wanted, Gailey actually wanted the job.
Chan Gailey joined 103.3 the Edge in Buffalo with Shredd and Ragan to talk about how the Bills were able to keep this hire so quiet, what his relationship is like with Buddy Nix, what he learned from Bill Cowher, and why things didn’t work out in Kansas City.
Why was this able to stay so quiet?
“First of all, I don’t have an agent. When you don’t have an agent out there running his mouth you can keep things quiet for a little bit.”
On what he knows and likes about General Manager Buddy Nix:
“Buddy Nix and I go way back. Tom Modrak and I go way back. I’ve coached up here against the Bills many, many times. I know what kind of franchise this is and what kind of history it has and what kind of fans are up here. I was excited about the opportunity to be here and we probably talked the first time and I don’t remember who called who or who I talked to first but it’s probably been about three or four weeks and then it just started slowly coming together.”
On what he learned from Bill Cowher:
“Bill Cowher was a unique guy because he followed Chuck Noll. Well Chuck Noll is a stoic guy on the sideline, doesn’t say much and not very animated and here’s Bill Cowher who is very animated. I looked at Bill and said he’s not trying to be Chuck Noll; he’s trying to be himself. One of the things that you have to do is you have to be yourself in this league because the players will pick out a phony in a heartbeat. Then I learned how to be a head coach and work to one side of the ball. He’s a defensive minded guy and yet he was a head coach. I learned that you can be on one side of the ball and still be a head coach.”
On his desire to be head coach and offensive coordinator:
“That is correct. (Host: So would you hire an offensive coordinator?) I might. The guy will understand that he has the name and will do some of the paperwork and stuff like that. If I can find the right guy, I’ll hire a coordinator that will help take some of the load off somewhat, but if I don’t find the right guy, I will do it all myself, which I’ve done before. That’s not something new for me. I’ve done it before. I did it in Dallas.”
On what needs to happen for Buffalo to be a successful team:
“We gotta stay healthy. If we can stay healthy, I don’t wanna call it luck...I think there are things that you can do in the off-season in terms of preparation with practice that helps you stay healthier, but there’s gotta be a little bit of luck involved too that keeps you healthy during the season. The rash of injuries that happened, it’s very difficult to overcome. Then I think you have to be really stable on both sides of the ball with teaching fundamentals. When things start to go a little bit bad in a ballgame, the fundamentals are what’s going to get you out of a bad situation.”
On what went wrong in Kansas City:
“Totally different philosophies about how to run an offense. When you have two very strong people in an organization who have very different philosophies, it doesn’t work. I tried to make sure that was understood from the beginning. It just was not a very cohesive situation. If you’re not cohesive, you’re asking for problems.”
Listen to Chan Gailey on 103.3 the Edge here (Audio begins at 11:40 into the podcast)