The topic du jour surrounding the Buffalo Bills is undoubtedly coach Chan Gailey’s job status.
With a 5-8 record and on the brink of a 13th consecutive season of missing the playoffs, Gailey has come under immense criticism for his time management, use of star running back C.J. Spiller and unwavering commitment to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his uneven play.
“When you don’t win, all that stuff comes up. We know that. I still have a great deal of confidence in what I do and what we’re trying to get done and where I think we can go,” Gailey said Monday, when asked if he worried about his future with the team. “I have a great deal of confidence in that and I believe in our players and I believe in the direction we’re headed.”
That message has gone over like a lead balloon with fans of the team. On an ESPN.com poll Monday, 76 percent of the nearly 4,800 voters by the end of the business day had voted that Gailey should not return as the team’s coach in 2013.
The Bills, however, stand united behind their coach.
“He’s my coach. I’ve got his back. Those people who want him fired, they must not understand football,” Spiller said. “I mean, he’s been in this business for a long time. He understands what it takes to win. …. For people to say he needs to be fired and all that stuff, that’s bogus, and I’m going to leave it at that.”
“Yeah, absolutely I do,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said when asked if he thought Gailey should remain the coach, before being pressed as to why. “Unfortunately, our record isn’t where we want it to be. But we’ve made progress since he’s been here.
“We’ve got to find a way to win these close games, we’ve had a bunch of them this year, at least three that I can think of, in the fourth quarter where we just haven’t been able to seal the deal. I think we’ve made progress. I think there’s a belief in this locker room. He’s a guy that I know I am, and I know a lot of guys in this locker room, are going to be tremendously loyal to him for giving us a chance.”
“We all are in it together. If we’re successful, we’re all successful,” linebacker Bryan Scott said. “If we don’t play well, we’re all getting replaced. That goes without saying. That’s from day one.”
Bills General Manager Buddy Nix declined an interview request with The News to discuss the state of the team and Gailey’s future. Nix, through a team spokesman, said he would prefer to discuss those matters at the end of the season.
In comments made last month, Nix made it clear he has no desire to make a coaching change.
“Yeah, and I hope I can put that to rest,” he said when asked about speculation over Gailey’s job security. “The age-old thing – and they’ve done it around here for years – is to start over about every three years. What that does is make damn sure you don’t make it. … You change every three years and you never quite get there. That’s my take.”
The questions, though, have only gotten louder. Nix threatened to hang up on his own radio show 11 days ago when the hosts pressed him on the subject.
The Bills face a serious public relations crisis with a fan base let down by the team’s performance this season, especially given the high expectations at the start of the season. That’s been reflected at the box office, where thousands of tickets have gone unsold for the team’s three December home games.
“Of course people want us to win. We want to win,” Spiller said.
“We’re not happy with our record, but it is what it is. There’s nothing we can do about that. The only thing we can do is try and get better,” Spiller said.
Gailey’s conservative nature has particularly been a source of scorn.
The coach on Monday explained the puzzling sequence at the end of the first half of Sunday’s 15-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams, in which the Bills took over at the St. Louis 49-yard line with 1:15 on the clock and three timeouts remaining, but had to settle for a Rian Lindell 40-yard field goal.
The Bills grossly mismanaged the clock despite having three timeouts, then failed to take a shot at the end zone after reaching the Rams’ 23.
“Protection had been a little bit of an issue. Fitz had been hit a few times and we tried, we got down there to the 22, 23, wherever it was, and we tried a run because we had all our timeouts, so we tried a run and we didn’t make anything and then we tried a screen pass to try to get down there,” Gailey said. “We thought we’d make a big play on a screen pass that we hadn’t shown all year.
“So we didn’t make that and we’re sitting there at third-and-9 or something like that and there were nine seconds on the clock when I called timeout. I didn’t know they were going to put two seconds back on but you have to throw it in the end zone. It doesn’t do any good to make 4 yards. … If we tried to throw it and we got tackled inbounds or we got a sack, that’s not smart football so we went ahead and kicked the football.”
The four missed points, of course, could have made the difference in what was another disappointing loss in a season full of them.