Bills general manager Buddy Nix said he wanted a head coach with NFL experience, and in hiring Chan Gailey he essentially admitted an assistant NFL coach wasn't what he had in mind.
Nix confirmed the team interviewed Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Perry Fewell, who finished last season as the Bills' interim head coach after Dick Jauron was fired.
"The head coach there is no school for it, there is no internship," said Nix. "I don't care how long you've been an assistant, the day you become a head coach you start learning how to be one and before that you don't know. There's no preparation. It's good that you've coached, you know football, but the head coach is different.
Nix also wanted an offensive-minded head coach with a history of developing quarterbacks. Another check for Gailey.
"This guy's met more of the criteria than I ever thought we could find," said Nix. "This guy's won everywhere he's been. Very few times do you get an offensive minded coach that's been a coordinator on defense, he's been a special teams coach in the NFL, and he's been successful everywhere he's been. I told you when we go draft a guy we're going to get a guy that's got some body of work."
Gailey also received a strong endorsement from Bill Cowher, and has also worked closely with former NFL head coaches Dan Reeves and Dave Wannstedy.
"I don't think there's a situation he's walked into that he hasn't been a part of turning it around," Cowher said of Gailey. "He's a great teacher. He's a great communicator. I think he has the ability to adapt to a team and a city. He's been to a lot of different places and I think the one thing that you'll realize the more you're around him, the more you will not only like him, but the more you will truly appreciate him."
--D.O.A. ... Doomed on arrival.
That best sums up the Bills' 2009 season in which dubious decisions made by the front office and coaching staff in the months and weeks leading up to kickoff made missing the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season and the firing of coach Dick Jauron a foregone conclusion.
--The offensive line.
Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters was traded to Philadelphia, and right tackle Langston Walker was named his replacement. Walker, too heavy and slow, was cut a week before the season opened. Buffalo wound up using four different left tackles in the mayhem that followed and gave up 46 sacks, fourth most in the NFL.
--The offensive scheme.
Coordinator Turk Schonert was fired a week before the opener by Jauron and replaced by the inexperienced Alex Van Pelt, the team's quarterbacks coach. Van Pelt compounded problems by sticking with Schonert's plan to operate a no-huddle attack full time. The frenetic scheme overwhelmed the line and jittery quarterback Trent Edwards, who regressed badly and eventually lost his job to backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
--The offensive collapse.
The Bills wound up 30th in yards, the seventh year in a row they've finished in the bottom quarter of the league, and their 157.2 yards per game passing tied for lowest average in the past 30 years. And while running back Fred Jackson emerged as a standout all-purpose back (1,433 yards), the Bills' 25.8 percent third-down conversion rate tied for fifth worst by any NFL team over the past 20 seasons. Buffalo had just two 100-yard individual rushing days (both by Jackson) and one 100-yard receiving game (by Terrell Owens).
--The effect on the defense.
Buffalo's defensive unit, fast but undersized, couldn't withstand the rigors of facing 1,086 snaps, or 175 more than the offense, which couldn't sustain drives. The unit, which lost six starters to injuries, finished 30th against the run, allowing nine individual 100-yard games.
The Bills were a case study for small, fast players breaking down in the NFL. The team placed a team-record 20 players on injured reserve, including nine starters, with the offensive line and linebacker corps taking the brunt of it.
All told, Buffalo has hit rock bottom, tying Detroit and Houston for the fewest trips to the playoffs over the decade past at zero. The fact their 66-94 overall record is better than the Lions' 42-118 is little consolation.
After standing pat with the front office and coaching staffs a year ago, owner Ralph Wilson and chief executive officer Russ Brandon have embarked on a complete rebuilding job. The first move was hiring veteran scout and personnel man Buddy Nix.
Nix is encouraged by inheriting young talent such as Jackson, guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, linebacker Paul Posluszny and Pro Bowl rookie safety Jairus Byrd. But his work is far, far from finished. On Nix's plate:
--Hire a head coach who then must assemble a complete coaching staff. Chan Gailey was hired after several bigger names dismissed Buffalo's overatures.
--Find a quarterback.
Nix will let Gailey decide if Edwards' career can be resurrected. Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm will return.
--Find a left tackle, two linebackers and maybe a defensive end should veteran Aaron Schobel, the team's No. 2 career sack leader, retire.
--Determine Owens' fate.
Gailey may decide third-year pro James Hardy is ready to play full time.
--Revamp the scouting operation.
The fate of lead personnel men John Guy and Tom Modrak had yet to be determined.
"I don't think we're that far away," said Nix, who helped turn the Chargers into an AFC power from a 1-15 disaster.
"We have some holes, we have guys getting some age on them, but we have young talent. The biggest thing is all these injuries. We've got to get those guys back. We can't have two years like this in a row. I think we're due to get healthy and stay healthy, and I don't think we're that far away."
As for steady criticism of Wilson that he won't spend to get a quality coach or quality players, Nix defended his boss.
"I know everybody sits up here and he's the boss and you want to say good things, but all I can say is that if we don't make it, it's not Mr. Wilson's fault, it will be our fault," Nix said. "To every question, he says, 'You got it.' You can't ask for more than that. Without a doubt, he's ready to do it right and do whatever it takes."
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