0

Bills hire Americus native, ex-Georgia Tech coach Gailey as new head coach

Photo by David Duprey

Photo by David Duprey

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Upon introducing Chan Gailey as the Buffalo Bills new head coach, general manager Buddy Nix had a momentary memory lapse.

"This is the 15th head coach," Nix said, before pausing.

"Is that right?" he added, looking to a Bills official to ensure his count was correct. "I thought there were more than that."

No, it just seems that way in Buffalo.

Hired on Tuesday, Gailey becomes the 15th coach in the franchise's 51-year history, but more notably fifth in 10 years.

In replacing Dick Jauron, who was fired in November, Gailey is the latest candidate being asked to instill stability and provide identity to a once-proud franchise that has gone 10 years without a playoff berth and coming off its fifth straight losing season.

Add in an extended search during which fans clamored for the Bills to hire a big-name candidate such as Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan, and it's evident how big of a challenge Gailey faces in landing his second NFL head-coaching job.

"I can't say anything to change anybody's mind. All I can do is go try to help us win football games," Gailey said. "We win football games, everybody's minds will be changed, right?"

After Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was considered the front-runner for the job, Gailey emerged as the surprise choice as Nix made his first major decision since being promoted to the GM post two weeks ago. Gailey brings with him an extensive resume as an offensive expert, and a 35-year coaching career, which include two notable head-coaching jobs.

Gailey had a two-year stint with the Cowboys that ended in 1999 when he was fired despite an 18-14 record and leading Dallas to consecutive playoff appearances -- both losses. He went 44-33 in six years at Georgia Tech, and led the Yellow Jackets to six bowl appearances but was fired in 2007 after going 0-6 against rival Georgia.

For Nix, Gailey met most of the criteria he set out in his search. Nix was eager to find someone with previous head-coaching experience and who had an offensive background.

"Without any doubt in my mind, we got the best qualified guy, a guy that was on the list early," Nix said. "We got the right guy for us. I've got full confidence in him to answer your question."

Gailey also got a big vote of support from Jerry Jones in Dallas. In congratulating Gailey upon his return to the NFL head coaching ranks, the Cowboys owner also reiterated that he still regrets firing Gailey.

"I'm proud for Chan Gailey," Jones said. "I'm glad to see him have the opportunity to get back as head coach in the NFL. He did an outstanding job at Georgia Tech. He's really a top coach and will do a great job."

That still doesn't stop skeptics from wondering whether the Bills misfired again.

The team hired Gregg Williams over John Fox in 2001, while Jauron was hired ahead of Mike Sherman in 2006. Mike Mularkey, who lasted only two years, was hired ahead of Charlie Weis in 2004.

Nix refused to be second-guessed.

"I can stand up here on the soap box and tell you what we're going to do, you've heard that before," Nix said. "So I'm not going to waste my time or yours. But I will tell you this, in November or December, I think you'll know more about what we're about."

Gailey has been out of football since he was removed as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in August, two weeks before the season opener. He's previously worked under Cowher in Pittsburgh and broke into the NFL with Denver in 1985, when he was hired by Dan Reeves.

He has a track record of having a flexible offensive philosophy, that's capable of adapting to the strengths of his players.

And that will be put to the test in Buffalo, where Gailey's top priority will be sparking an offense that has finished 25th or worst in yards gained in each of the past seven seasons.

Gailey intends to handle the offensive play-calling duties next season.

Along with assembling a coaching staff, Gailey said he intends to address the Bills' quarterback situation soon. A combination of injuries and futility led Buffalo to go through three starters this past year.

Bills receiver Lee Evans backed Gailey.

"I think the biggest thing in talking to people around here is the level of confidence that they got the right guy," Evans said. "That leaves a lot of optimism going forward."