I can’t lie: I’m a Chan Gailey apologist.
Not a lot of Bills fans were too pleased with the hiring of Gailey back in 2010. The criticisms (he’s too old, he’s never been a tremendously successful head coach) had some merit, but I thought Gailey’s credentials as an offensive mind were pretty solid. He’d also had some experience coaching undertalented rosters, which is for sure what the Bills had when Gailey took over.
A few years later, I feel like Gailey has won at least a grudging respect from the majority of Bills fans. The first half of Gailey’s first season was an 0-8 disaster, but the team never quit on their new coach and finished strong. Last season, Gailey had the Bills off to a flying start before injuries decimated the roster. Buffalo limped to the finish line, but I don’t think the majority of Bills fans really blamed Gailey for the team’s collapse.
To be sure, Gailey has made some mistakes – starting Trent Edwards at the start of 2010, bungling the running back situation that same season, letting Andy Levitre play center last year, hiring George Edwards as defensive coordinator – but all in all he’s done a pretty good job despite inheriting a dumpster fire of a roster. This team simply hasn’t been talented or deep enough to contend the past few years.
But this year he has no excuses. This is by far the most talented team Buffalo will enter camp with in at least a decade. Save left tackle Demetress (Demetrius) Bell, every single player of importance from last season is back. And thanks to a fanstastic offseason, there is enough talent and depth to make a run at the playoffs. It’d be easy to say that if Gailey can’t win this year, he should get the boot.
And to a point, that’s true. If Buffalo goes 7-9 or worse…I think he has to go.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be playoffs or bust for Gailey.
Let’s not delude ourselves – while this roster is much better than it has been, it’s not like this is a juggernaut yet. The quarterback is still unproven. Left tackle will be manned by either a rookie or a second-year player. Cornerback and linebacker could be really good…or not so much. The wide receiver situation is unsettled. This is not a team without flaws.
And the Patriots aren’t going away at the top of this division. I’d be fairly shocked if the Bills can edge out the Pats to take the AFC East. That leaves two wildcard playoff spots to go for. The Steelers, Jets, Ravens, Chargers, Broncos, Bengals, Titans, etc. will have something to say about those if they don’t win their repsective divisions. It’s NOT going to be easy.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m dying to see the Bills back in the playoffs. That has to be the goal for the season. But if the team goes 9-7 or 10-6 and misses out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker or something…Gailey should stay. That’d still be progress.