What’s the adage about one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? Rephrased to depict life in the National Football League, that same saying might go: One team’s loss is another team’s gain. Or how about this: One team’s firing becomes another team’s hiring?
On Tuesday this week, former Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Chan Gailey, who was hastily fired by the Chiefs at the end of the 2009 exhibition season, was named the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills. The 15-year NFL veteran and for two seasons in the late 1990s the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, replaces Dick Jauron, who was fired at the end of this season, as the new Bills’ coach
A year ago at this time, Gailey was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs, one of the lone holdovers from the Carl Peterson-Herm Edwards regime that underwent a fairly thorough housecleaning once Scott Pioli took over as the team’s new general manager at the end of last year and hired Todd Haley away from the Arizona Cardinals to be the new head coach.
The problem was, Haley was the offensive coordinator for the Cardinals, those same Cardinals that came within two minutes of becoming Super Bowl XLIII champions a year ago. Although the 42-year-old Haley was hired by the Chiefs for his first head-coaching assignment, the 13-year NFL coaching veteran’s heart and head are and probably always will be wired for the offensive end of the game.
You see where this is going. The Chiefs did not need, nor could they justify having, two offensive play callers, especially two with seemingly differing approaches to how the game should be played and what would work for the severely challenged Kansas City offensive unit.
Haley thought he could do a better job running the Kansas City offense than Gailey. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, and for Chief fans, he thought wrong. As it turns out, I don’t think Gailey would have done much worse and, chances are, he would have gotten more out of less. But that’s all water under the bridge now.
The writing may have been on the wall from the beginning, but Haley did not act on his decision until right before the start of the regular season, when he dismissed Gailey and announced that he would be taking over the playing calling duties along with his head-coaching responsibilities. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Gailey. With the season about to start, there were no coaching vacancies, in the NFL or at the college level, available for someone with Gailey’s highly regarded skills and experience.
At 58 and out of coaching for the first time in more than three decades, Gailey wasn’t sure where he might go or what he would do next, and he had real concerns regarding his strong desire to once again become a head coach in the NFL
“You see opportunities go by. You hope that your body of work will speak for itself,” said Gailey at the press conference in Buffalo announcing his hiring.
Gailey’s body of work is impressive. His 15 years in the NFL include coaching stops with the Denver Broncos (six years), Pittsburgh Steelers (4 years), Dallas (2 years), the Miami Dolphins (2 years) and Kansas City (1 year). He also coached at the college level for 14 years, at Troy State, Air Force and was the head coach at Georgia Tech from 2002-2007.
It was reported that before selecting Gailey, Buffalo had spoken with former NFL coaches Mike Shanahan of Denver and Bill Cowher of Pittsburgh, now an analyst for CBS Sports. The Bills also had asked to speak with Brian Schottenheimer, currently the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets and son of former NFL head coach Marty Schotteneheimer. The young Schottenheimer played quarterback at Blue Valley High School in Stanley, Kan., during the time his father was head coach of the Chiefs.
Asked how he felt, recognizing that he probably was not Buffalo’s first or even second choice to fill the Bill’s head coaching vacancy, Gailey said, “I can’t do anything to change anybody’s mind. All I can do is go help us try to win football games. If we win football games, everybody’s mind will be changed.”
Gailey’s record as an NFL head coach is 18-14, and Dallas made the playoffs the two years he was there. His challenge at Buffalo will be even greater. The Bills finished the 2009 season at 6-10, the seventh worst record in the NFL but still two games better than Kansas City.
So, one of the game’s best offensive minds will get the chance he was hoping for: to relive his dream of being an NFL head coach. It’s ironic, isn’t it? By doing Gailey wrong in relieving him of his coaching duties last fall, the Chiefs actually ended up doing him a lot of good.
It’s funny how things frequently end up that way, with the good guy ending up on top and better off, actually, than he was before.
The comeuppance may come next season when Gailey’s Bills pop up on the Chiefs’ schedule for a game late in the year at Arrowhead. That game should be very interesting, indeed. May the best offense win.
For more information:
Kansas City Chiefs Website