Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey and His Overdue Bills

on Thursday, 29 September 2011. Posted in Commentaries

Finding success and the challenge of keeping it.

Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey and His Overdue Bills
If I had to choose a Coach of the Year after the first three weeks of the season—a snap judgment if ever there was one—I would have to go with Chan Gailey. Forget about the Buffalo Bills' 3-0 start, even if it is one of the most notable developments of the early season. Gailey toiled enough just returning to a head coaching position.

Despite winning the NFC East in his first year as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and reaching the playoffs in his second, owner Jerry Jones fired Gailey. His hop-scotch resume reflects his short tenure there as part of a trend rather than an exception, leaving him with a reputation as a lesser talent—a meat-and-potatoes kind of coach.

His hiring in Buffalo left some less than impressed, and his first campaign ended in a very Bills-like 4-12. More of the same from Gailey, perhaps.

So maybe we can view this three-game streak as a breakthrough for Gailey, and for a Bills team that has wallowed in a wintry obscurity for the past decade. The coaching staff was wiped out following the 2009 season, and Gailey's crew has developed an offense that is smooth yet explosive, and currently the most potent in the league—averaging nearly 38 points per game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson have one of those quarterback/receiver mind melds, or at least the beginnings of one, and Fred Jackson has developed into one of the best all-around backs in the league.

The defense is scrappy (which is just a way of saying they haven't lost a game yet). And the entire team contributed to their stunning comeback against the New England Patriots.

In their euphoria, Buffalo fans should respect that win enough to fear it, and Gailey must prevent his team from having the inevitable letdown. They won't intercept every quarterback four times, and eventually they will lose a game when they go into halftime down 18.

In Detroit, another Coach of the Three Weeks candidate, Jim Schwartz, faces the same task after a 20-point comeback against the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions have won all three games this season, and Stafford-to-Johnson has established what Fitzpatrick-to-Johnson could be. At least in Detroit, the players have the gumption to expect perfection, which might make continuing their streak a bit easier.

These are the points in a coaching career that separate the elite leaders from the very good. In all sports, the mediocre competitor breaks through in spurts, through upsets or short winning streaks. Yet something always constrains them from a permanently upward trajectory.

There usually comes a moment when said competitor realizes he or she is in "the zone," that magical headspace where no time exists and athletes run on autopilot. Of course, once you realize you are in the zone, autopilot shuts off and the plane nosedives.

The Bills and Lions, so conditioned to failure, will at some point contemplate their good fortune. For Gailey and Schwartz, players' ignorance is their bliss.

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