Chan Gailey wasn't in the mood to talk about his future. His team had won a game, concluding a second straight run to 6-10. This was likely Gailey's final game as the Bills' head coach, his last as an NFL head coach, for that matter. He wanted to savor it.
“Let's talk about today,” Gailey said. “We'll talk about tomorrow, or next week, at a later date.”
Fine, Chan, but what about the performance by your team today? It finally looked like the guys were playing to save your job.
“I said this a couple weeks ago,” Gailey said. “I want them to play for the fans and for themselves. We're all in a business, we understand that. The business today was to go win the game, and that's what they did.”
That's debatable, actually. Ralph Wilson was in town this weekend for the team's annual holiday party. Beyond that, it's unclear what his objectives were. He didn't stay for the game. But if he wanted what was best for his team, Wilson would have ordered the coaches to do all they could to lose Sunday.
I'm serious. If it had been up to me, they would have mailed in that game against the Jets. I would have started all the backups, limited C.J. Spiller's touches, had the corners playing soft against Mark Sanchez — the way they did in the opener.
They had nothing to gain by winning. Gailey and his coaches are probably gone. Ryan Fitzpatrick is almost surely finished as the quarterback. Entering the game, the Bills had a chance to draft anywhere from fourth to 11th, based on the outcome of games on Sunday.
The Bills will be looking to draft a quarterback who could alter the fortunes of the team for years to come. General Manager Buddy Nix, whose job is also in question, has said it's time to find a franchise quarterback, even if it means trading up to get him.
So where they pick could be critical. Four or five slots in the draft could make all the difference — assuming, of course, that Nix and his cronies have the wherewithal to identify the correct QB and go get him.
What's wrong with tanking? In the NFL, teams routinely rest their starters in the finale after sewing up a playoff spot. They do what's in the best interests of the franchise. So why is resting guys to get a better draft pick any less sportsmanlike?
Of course, Gailey is too proud to do such a thing. Wilson, who has been meddling in his team's football affairs for half a century, apparently wouldn't intervene when it was warranted, when getting the highest possible draft pick was the best thing for the organization.
But there was no stopping them Sunday. The Bills drilled the Jets, 28-9, atoning for a bad loss in the opener.
Gailey finally beat Rex Ryan in their sixth meeting. The Bills tied the Jets in the AFC East at 6-10, though the Jets get third on the tiebreaker.
This one will not be archived alongside the classics at NFL Films. It was one of those games that came down to which team wanted it less.
Still, for awhile it looked as if the Bills might do the smart thing and lose.
They were trailing, 9-7, late in the first half. The Jets were running the ball down their throats. They seemed to have shaken off the horror of watching Sanchez throw the ball directly to Bryan Scott at his own 20-yard line, leading directly to six points.
But for once, when it mattered most, Gailey couldn't hold down C.J. Spiller. With 3:32 left in the second quarter, the Bills had third-and-10 at their own 34. They had done virtually nothing against the NFL's second-ranked pass defense. Fitzpatrick had completed one pass the entire half.
That's when Spiller messed up the plan. Fitz hit him with a quick toss a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Spiller took the football in stride and sprinted up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown, the longest of his three-year NFL career.
The Jets never recovered. Spiller's run was the kind that can crush a team's competitive spirit, especially when it has little incentive in the first place. Whatever motivation Ryan's squad had seemed to evaporate at that point. They basically quit in the second half.
Spiller didn't have one of his better games. He had 24 carries, the most of his career, but only 59 yards. That left him with 1,244 yards rushing for the season. His average per carry dipped to 6.0, which means he won't have the highest average of any NFL 1,000-yard back in 78 years.
But the 66-yard catch helped push Spiller to 1,703 yards from scrimmage for the season, making him the first Bill to surpass 1,700 since Travis Henry had 1,747 in 2002. Of course, Henry needed 368 touches to get there. Spiller had only 250 touches this season.
That's a pretty productive season, when you consider that fans have been clamoring all season for Gailey to give Spiller the ball more. Imagine what his yards from scrimmage would look like if he had 100 more touches, or even 50. Maybe the Bills would have a .500 record and Gailey wouldn't be looking at a pink slip.
As Gailey said, there's no sense in killing yourself with “what-ifs.”
“You don't do that,” Gailey said. “You get excited about what you do have; you don't complain about what you don't have.”
You could torture yourself by asking why the defense couldn't figure things out sooner, and how they could have allowed 48 points to that same Jets team in the opener. It's pointless. The fact is, they never came up big against the good offenses. Offense, defense, they never came through when it mattered most.
Gailey is 1-19 against teams that finished with a winning record.
He beat bad teams. It happened again Sunday. The Bills beat a bad Jets team that would have lost handily to every team in the NFL that day. It means nothing. All it did was hurt their draft position.
“As a player, you want to go win whenever you're out on the field,” said center Eric Wood. “We don't play for draft position. A little bit more momentum going into the offseason, a little bit better feeling, probably helps us a little more than a couple extra spots in the draft.”
Wood has been the wisest voice in the locker room lately, but the momentum argument is silly. Momentum doesn't carry over nine months, even when the cast of characters is unchanged. Really, a “better feeling” means more than a couple of precious spots in the draft?
Remember the Bills blowing out the Colts in the snow here in the '09 finale? There was talk about them “building on” that win. They cleaned house soon after. Gailey came in and they started 0-8 the next season.
Momentum? Talk to me four months from now, when the Bills and their new coach are wondering how to move up for a stud quarterback in the draft.