The Buffalo Bills need to find a head coach who can figure out “the other side of the ball.”
Each of their last four head coaches arguably have been satisfactory in their area of expertise but have experienced abject failure on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
The Bills are expected to be on the hunt for a new head coach. Chan Gailey's tenure looks like it is grinding to a miserable halt with today's season finale against the New York Jets.
Gailey is an offensive guy. His attack ranks 19th in yards and 20th in points. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback and the dearth of receiving weapons on hand, Gailey has squeezed out reasonable production on offense. Washington's Mike Shanahan would not have gotten better than 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions out of Fitzpatrick this season. Gailey's defenses have been a disaster, first with George Edwards as coordinator and now with Dave Wannstedt, who has colossally underachieved. If Gailey's defense was even 15th this season in points allowed (instead of 31st), the Bills would be in playoff contention Nobody would be getting fired.
Step back one regime to Dick Jauron. When he was hired, the word out of Chicago was Jauron didn't know what he didn't know about offense. Sure enough, his defenses were respectable, but he couldn't identify an offensive coordinator — or an offensive philosophy — to save his soul. Jauron wanted to run a fast-paced no-huddle with a suspect offensive line and with Trent Edwards, the least improvisational quarterback you could find. As a gunslinger, Edwards was the anti-Jim Kelly.
Before Jauron, offensive-minded Mike Mularkey agreed to retain Jerry Gray as his defensive chief, then had philosophical differences with Gray.
Before Mularkey, defensive-minded Gregg Williams said upon being hired that through his entire career, he was determined he would run a West Coast offense if he ever got a head job. He ran it for one year, fired Mike Sheppard, then went in the exact opposite direction with Kevin Gilbride's downfield passing game.
I think a good offensive coordinator is a little harder to find than a good defensive coordinator. There will be capable offensive play-callers available, including Indianapolis' Bruce Arians, Denver's Mike McCoy, Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone and maybe even Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt (if he gets fired).
There are numerous defensive coordinators with good credentials, like Cincinnati's Mike Zimmer, the Giants' Perry Fewell, the Niners' Vic Fangio and Arizona's Ray Horton. Look for the Bills to have Horton on their list.
There also are organizational managers, in the Marv Levy mold, who would not call the plays on either side. One is Arizona offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who has an executive presence and his great at getting the trust and respect of the players.
Whoever they settle on, that person must have a clear vision about “the other side of the ball.”
Westhoff's last stand
Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff will make his 32nd visit to Orchard Park today as an opposing coach. That has to be a record. Even Don Shula, who made 28 trips to Buffalo as a coach, can't top it.
This will be his last with the Jets after 12 seasons in New York. Westhoff, 65, is retiring from the Jets after today's game. He coached from 1986 to 2000 in Miami and from 1982 to '84 with the Colts. However, Westhoff is not ruling out a possible return to coaching, especially since his Jets special teams units are having a poor season.
“I'm definitely going to stick with my plan, but if I get frustrated enough, angry enough, maybe I'll re-evaluate after a point in time,” Westhoff told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this season. “I don't close any doors. This could make me angry enough to reconsider, but not right away. I'm going out the way I said. I'm going to do that.”
Westhoff has been one of the best special-teams coaches in the league. His units ranked ninth last year, seventh in 2010 and fifth in 2009, according to the Dallas Morning News' comprehensive survey that has ranked special teams since 1990. Only three times in that span has Westhoff's units ranked in the bottom half of the league. (This year may be a fourth.)
In his 12 years with the Jets, his teams have a remarkable 16 kickoff returns for touchdowns. That includes two by Chad Morton against the Bills in the 2002 season-opener. Morton's second that day came in overtime in a 37-31 Jets win.
Westhoff was diagnosed with cancer in his left femur in 1988 and has withstood at least 10 leg surgeries over the years. He is strong-willed and irascible. And he gets results.
“I think sometimes we have a shelf life with a team, especially in this day and age,” Westhoff said. “I think sometimes they need to hear something from someone else. I felt that way long before the inconsistencies of this year. It's time for me to try something else.”
Offense is so bad ...
From the Misery Loves Company Dep't. comes this breakdown of the Arizona Cardinals' offense. You think the Bills' offense lacks weapons? A website called thebiglead.com recently suggested the Cardinals would be better off punting every first down and running no offensive plays. You know what? A case can be made for it.
Arizona's offense ranks 32nd in yards, 32nd rushing, 28th passing, 32nd on third down and 30th in scoring. But in the last six weeks, since the team's bye, the Cards have taken their attack to new lows.
In the last six games, Arizona has seven offensive touchdowns and has allowed six defensive returns for touchdowns. The Cards have 23 turnovers in that span and have averaged 214 yards a game, 50 below their season average and 134 below the league average.
• As a public service, we offer the Cincinnati-Duke Belk Bowl as an example of why you should not bet on football games. Cincinnati had only five coaches for the game, because the rest had bolted to the University of Tennessee. The game was in Charlotte, N.C., giving Duke a big home-field advantage. Duke, a 7.5-point underdog, was the correct betting play. Sure enough, with 1:20 to go and the score tied, 34-34, Duke had the ball at the Bearcats' 5, ready to cover the spread by 10.5, if not 14.5. Duke fumbled and the Bearcats recovered at their 4. An 83-yard TD pass and a 55-yard interception return later, Cincinnati had not only won, but covered the spread, 48-34. The ball bounces funny. Don't bet on it.
• Houston's J.J. Watt needs 2.5 sacks to pass Michael Strahan's record of 22.5.
• The Chargers' home finale vs. the Raiders sold out, snapping a string of three straight blacked out games. San Diegans aren't eager to watch Norv Turner's last game. A huge contingent of Raiders fans bought up tickets and figure to make the stands raucous today.
• San Francisco's No. 2-ranked defense has a big problem. Star defensive end Justin Smith has a left triceps injury. A bone spur broke loose from Smith's triceps and remains in his left elbow. Part of the triceps tendon remains attached. He missed the blowout loss to Seattle but says he will be back for the playoffs. His effectiveness will be a concern.
• Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers leads the league with a passer rating of 106.2. He's set to join Hall of Famer Steve Young as the only QBs to post a rating of 100 or better in four straight seasons.