If third-year Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey had a short leash entering the 2012 NFL season, he just swapped it in for a good old-fashioned shock collar heading into the bye week. But despite his team’s struggles and 3-4 record, Gailey won’t be zapped of his job just yet.
A trendy playoff pick entering the year, the Bills have disappointed thus far and have under-performed in many areas. Their offense has been inconsistent, and their defense has been terrible.
What’s worse, they’ve dropped their first two division games—handily—and continue the damaging trend of being dominated in such contests.
The main issue for Buffalo right now is on defense. The Bills were aggressive in the offseason in trying to improve that side of the ball. After promoting Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator, the organization spent $100 million lassoing in free agent Mario Williams, and spent another $20 million on pass-rusher Mark Anderson. With Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus plugged in at defensive tackle, this line generated a lot of hype.
However, through seven games, they have yet to capitalize on those moves. The line has played poorly, the linebackers are clearly a liability and the secondary hasn’t played as well as many anticipated leading up to the regular season.
The problems continue on offense, too. Gailey calls the plays for the Bills and essentially serves double duty as the offensive guru in this regard. In addition, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be inconsistent, and his deep ball has arguably gotten worse this year.
Thus, having the league’s 31st-ranked total defense and 19th-ranked total offense isn’t helping Gailey’s chances. Starting out 0-2 in the division isn’t helping Gailey’s chances. And failing to make the necessary adjustments with a fairly talented squad certainly isn’t helping Gailey’s chances either.
What is helping Gailey’s chances is that the season isn’t over—both literally and figuratively. In a mediocre AFC, Buffalo still has a real chance of turning this thing around and competing for a postseason berth. With 11 total games and four division games still left to play, along with a weirdly average AFC East, the Bills could make strides and get right back into the hunt.
It won’t be easy, though.
Following the bye, the Bills take on the AFC’s best in Houston to take on the 6-1 Texans. After that, they stay on the road to battle the New England Patriots for the second time this year. Those two games will be critical for Gailey and could be the difference between missing the playoffs again or sitting in first place in the division.
In this regard, Gailey’s preparation and impact on the team during the bye week will be telling.
Another benefit for Gailey is that Buffalo doesn’t have many worthy candidates to replace him midseason. The most recognizable name on the staff is Dave Wannstedt, and as the defensive coordinator of one of the league’s worst defenses, he’s deservedly taking more heat than Gailey for his unit’s atrocious performance.
Outside of Wannstedt, other candidates could potentially include offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. Coach D is in his third season with the Bills. Last year, his underrated unit allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL, and his attitude and no-nonsense demeanor is one that could ignite a spark for the whole team.
There’s also George Catavolos, who is the secondary coach. Gailey retained Catavolos after becoming head coach, and he is currently in his seventh year with the team. Catavolos has done a great job since coming to Buffalo, and perhaps his fresh perspective would offer a new direction for the Bills.
All of that, of course, is speculative. Ultimately, Gailey has had tangible success in this league, and right now he is the best person for the job. Because he is in the final year of his original three-year contract, the Bills will likely ride this thing out to see if he can salvage the season at the midway point. He has a chance, after all.
If not, then Gailey could be on the outs. If the Bills continue to disappoint and end the year without postseason football yet again, it won’t be the least bit surprising to see him go.
But for now, the Bills have no better chance flipping the script without Gailey than with him. Expect the veteran coach to finish out the year and see this thing through. He just may get this team back on track in the process.