MIAMI – The world didn’t end on Friday. For Bills fans, it was quite the opposite. They got a new lease and the prospect of a new stadium.
Now, it’s on to more pressing matters. The end of the season is coming fast. Only two games left, starting with today’s clash against the Dolphins. We’re looking at another dramatic finish on the (all together now) ...
Heroic run to 7-9!
You can barely contain yourself, I know. Sure, they’re out of the playoff hunt. They essentially mailed it in last week in Toronto. But if they can gather themselves and keep their eyes on the prize, they can achieve the improbable. They can get their head coach to seven wins for the first time.
All they need to do is win today, then come home and knock off the reeling Jets at The Ralph. That part should be easy. Rex Ryan is a national laughingstock, after all. We’ll look past the fact that Ryan is 5-0 against Chan Gailey.
Gailey’s job could be on the line. I don’t believe Buddy Nix wants to fire his coach. I doubt Ralph Wilson wants to go sifting through a bunch of strangers for a new coach.
But if Gailey is indeed on the hot seat, winning these two division games and matching Dick Jauron’s best seasons could very well save him.
That’s what they tell us, anyway. The players on the Chan Gang, most of whom owe their current position to Gailey, are fully in favor of keeping Gailey.
“I love him to death. I love coming to work for him every day. I’m just happy that these two years I’ve been in the league I’ve been able to have a boss like ...”
Oops, sorry. That was Trent Edwards talking about Dick Jauron in late December of the 2008 season.
Stevie Johnson said he feels the players could be playing for Gailey’s job today. He nearly broke down talking about it. I’m assuming he won’t pull up his jersey and display a “Merry Christmas” message if he scores a TD.
Ryan Fitzpatrick said it’s not as if he’ll drop back to pass thinking, “This is for dear old Chan,” but he also believes finishing with a two-game winning streak could do wonders for his head coach.
“I think it is important to realize the gravity of the situation right now,” Fitzpatrick said, “and the difference between two losses and two wins to end the season would be a lot. It is important to keep that in the back of your mind. Important to remind yourself what you are playing for and why you are going out there.”
So this is what it has come to, in the year of Mario Williams: Selling 7-9 as a triumph, a sign of progress, a reason to believe that the team really is getting better and that Gailey deserves another chance to prove himself.
That’s what a Bills fan comes to expect, I suppose. You learn to rationalize. You turn the kaleidoscope of failure and 7-9 looks like a galaxy of hope. Hey, six wins, seven wins, next year ... 8-8!
Silly me, if I were running the team, I’d have my mind made up on Gailey. He would be gone. I wouldn’t need any more bumbling evidence, same as with Jauron four years ago. If Nix was a good general manager, if he had legitimate standards, he’d already be looking for his next coach.
But I’ll go along with the program and pretend today’s game has real significance. The Bills could eliminate the Dolphins, for one thing. That has to give even the most disspirited fans a little yuletide tingle.
There is some history here. The Bills have a way of rising up in the game before Christmas when their head coach is perceived to be in hot water. Grab my hand, we’ll stroll once again down memory lane:
• On Christmas Eve day in 2005, they went to Cincinnati on a five-game losing streak and won, 37-27, shocking a Bengals team that was headed to the playoffs. Tom Donahoe and Mike Mularkey hugged one another as they went off the field. They were both gone a month later.
• The Bills had lost seven of eight when they played in Denver a few days before Christmas in 2008. Jauron was under fire. They had lost the first Toronto game two weeks before. They stunned the Broncos, 30-23, effectively knocking them out of the playoffs. Jauron survived.
• Last Christmas Eve, they hobbled into The Ralph on a seven-game losing streak and stunned playoff-bound Denver, 40-14. They made Tim Tebow look like a glorified fullback, which as it turns out, was pretty much the case.
There’s no denying, the Bills have a way of rising up in the penultimate game of the season with their coach’s job on the line. They went on to lose the season’s finale all three of those years, but why dwell on the negative?
The Bills have finished last in the AFC East four years in a row. If they lose the next two, it makes five straight years. They’re 3-13 in the division under Chan. Gailey said winning the last two would be a positive, but he reminded us they have to win this one first.
And you thought it was meaningless.