By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
It really wouldn't have mattered what Bills gm Buddy Nix said about Chan Gailey, or what Gailey had to say at his official introduction as the Bills' 15th head coach; a high per centage of Bills fans consider the hire a "settle" because of various reports about high profile candidates who simply had no interest in the Bills head coaching job.
Perception may be reality in many ways here, because nobody disputes the Bills did talk with former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher as well as now Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and then there were their "official" interviews with Perry Fewell, now NY Giants defensive coordinator, and current Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Nix says that even though Gailey's name was virtually never mentioned anywhere in speculation about the Buffalo job, Gailey was high on Nix's list all along, in part because Cowher reportedly told Nix Gailey would be Cowher's assistant coach and offensive coordinator if and when he coached again. I asked Gailey about that in the news conference, and while he wouldn't confirm or deny Cowher had pushed for him, he did say working with Cowher in Pittsburgh was one of the most important influences on him as a football coach.
Unlike Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron before him, Gailey's credentials are quite impressive when looked at as an overall body of work, including two years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the late 90's when they reached the playoffs with 10-6 and then 8-8 records. He was offensive coordinator of the Dolphins for two 11-5 seasons in the early 2000's, and was head coach at Georgia Tech (44-32) for five seasons until 2007.
Gailey was dumped as offensive coordinator in Kansas City before the season started, largely because incoming coach Todd Haley had a different idea about how to run the offense.
Still, Gailey said while he didn't know if he'd ever get another NFL head coaching chance after that, he said he never doubted his alone ability to do the job well. He said there are two types of coaches; those who want to win and those who expect to win, and he's an expect to win coach.
Gailey didn't flinch when asked about all the others who reportedly turned the Bills down, something Nix said was about 80 percent untrue, saying the Bills job appealed to him in large part because he's been on the field on the opposite sidelines in the Ralph and loved the way Bills fans supported their team.
Gailey seems to realize the only way he'll win over skeptical fans is by winning, and he admits he has a big challenge ahead with the need for a franchise quarterback among other things. It's quite obvious that he and Nix, who have known each other for many years, will click together and bring in the type personnel they think they need to win.
It was notable that owner Ralph Wilson and CEO Russ Brandon were nowhere in sight at the news conference, as Nix is clearly running the show now. Don't mistake Nix's folksy southern accent for being anything less than a smart football man, and the same might be said for Gailey.
Chan Gailey wasn't a popular choice for sure, but as I see it, the Bills were actually quite fortunate to be able to land a coach of his experience and other successes at various levels. The jolting reality here though, is that with the Jets and Dolphins improving and the Patriots still the Patriots, the Bills are clearly the fourth team in the AFC East heading into the 2010 season, and even if Gailey is a stupendous coach and the Bills have a great draft, that won't change overnight.