"I don't know what it is," Gailey said. “I've never been here before, so I'm in new territory."
It really is difficult to define. Good luck finding adjectives strong enough to describe the Bills in the last two games, maybe more. They have been a colossal failure that has pushed their coach to unfamiliar depths. Any coach would have been baffled after the 45-3 shellacking from the 49ers.
The Calamity at Candlestick was the last thing Buffalo needed after the disaster against New England. The Bills gave up 97 points in the last two games, 100 points in two division games, 48 points per game in their three losses and 35 points per game overall. The sky isn't falling but records are for the Bills and their opponents at an alarming rate.
If this keeps up, they're going to break a record for most records broken in a season. Buffalo's defense has allowed 580 yards and 621 yards in its last two games. Quick, what do you call it when the Bills allow 550 yards and lose by three touchdowns? Progress. What do you call it when they give up 300 yards? Halftime.
That's not a collection of jokes. It's a collection of facts, and in recent weeks they've come to characterize a football team that has become a joke. The Bills have been so bad in their three losses that it's laughable. But it's not going to be funny for anyone involved if their season continues down the same path and falls off a cliff.
Obviously, the Bills have lost their way. They're approaching a danger zone with Arizona waiting around the bend. The Bills need to make a U-turn against a Cardinals team that was sloppy in a loss to the Rams last week. George Wilson, who has watched his team meander numerous times in Buffalo, said their play can't get any worse.
The atmosphere can get worse, however, much worse. Losing again this week in Arizona is well within reason. It could get very ugly during the bye week if they lose in the desert and fall to lowly Tennessee at home the following week. It could turn into a “bye, bye” week for the postseason, not to mention a few players and coaches.
“This can't become our trend," Wilson said. “We have to find a way to stop the bleeding and be on the winning side of things."
Standing before them is the possibility of radical change, which few would have anticipated before training camp began. Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix can't have it both ways. The Bills have had either a coaching problem or a personnel problem. The players appear to have a chemistry problem.
If everybody is on the same page, as they insist, maybe it's time to turn the page on certain people in the organization. Gailey proved during his first two seasons that he was a capable coach. Nix appeared to help him with some expensive moves in the offseason. The best teams do more with less. The Bills have managed to accomplish less with more.
Somewhere, they started going in the wrong direction, and now they need a compass to find their way back. Gailey is driving the bus, and he could wind up getting kicked to the curb if he steers the Bills into a ditch. It's not to say he's solely to blame and deserves to be fired, but it usually falls in the head coach.
Gailey hasn't had much help while overseeing the operation. Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt hasn't been getting results they expected. The Bills have allowed the second-most points per game and the second-most yards per game this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his disjointed offense haven't provided enough support.
The Bills dismissed the argument that they quit against San Francisco, by the way. My guess is they would sail unscathed through a lie-detector test if asked about the second half Sunday. They're not lying to anyone, other than themselves, of course. Did every player quit? No. Collectively, they appeared to put down their guns.
Take a closer peek, fellas.
Assuming they turn things around, they will look back on the last two games and see the evidence for themselves. And if they conclude they gave an inspired effort against the Niners, if they threw their best punches, never stopped fighting and suffered another convincing loss, their roster needs a major overhaul.
In the end, it doesn't really matter.
Whether they quit or Gailey and his assistant coaches deserve more blame, some of the blame, none of the blame, the Bills have shared in this mess. For one reason or another, they haven't performed under Gailey this season. Their 2-3 record isn't nearly as telling as the fashion in which it arrived.
“Going on two weeks and giving up that many run yards and giving up the plays we gave up, it's disappointing and deflating," linebacker Nick Barnett said. “I don't lose hope. I'm going to keep striking and pushing forward because I know we have the potential and [right] makeup in this room. We just have to show it."
Gailey nobly stood up for his players and took much of the blame Sunday. He said they were hurting and perhaps a little rattled against the Niners. He hinted again that they lacked mental toughness, a recurring theme that speaks to their competitiveness. He reminded anyone listening that ultimately he was responsible.
It comes with the territory.
And it's nothing new.