Bills hire Gailey as coach

Updated: January 20, 2010, 6:16 PM ET
Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Chan Gailey's second chance to prove himself as an NFL head coach comes with plenty of challenges.

The Buffalo Bills team he's taking over hasn't made the playoffs in a decade and its fans have been clamoring for Bill Cowher during a coaching search that seemed to take forever.

Instead of landing one of the big-name coaches with loaded résumés such as Cowher or Mike Shanahan, Gailey -- who coached the Dallas Cowboys for two less-than-inspiring seasons -- was introduced Tuesday as the 15th head coach in Bills history -- and fifth in 10 years.

"I can't say anything to change anybody's mind. All I can do is go try to help us win football games," Gailey said. "We win football games, everybody's minds will be changed, right?"

Gailey was hired by first-time general manager Buddy Nix, ending a two-month search to replace Dick Jauron, who was fired in November. He takes over a Bills team coming off its fifth straight losing season following a 6-10 finish, and in the midst of a 10-year playoff drought that is tied with Detroit as the longest active streak in the NFL.

"I've been around enough winning programs ... that when I walk on the field I expect to win. I don't just hope to win," Gailey said. "But the bottom line is we've got to do it on the field"

Gailey has spent 15 of his 35 years of coaching in the NFL. In his two years coaching the Dallas Cowboys, he went 18-14 and led the team to consecutive playoff appearances -- both losses. He was dismissed after the 1999 season, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has acknowledged his mistake in firing Gailey.

For Nix, it was Gailey's extensive experience that impressed him and met most of the criteria the GM set out when he took over the search two weeks ago.

Nix was eager to find someone with previous head-coaching experience and who had an offensive background.

"Without any doubt in my mind, we got the best qualified guy, a guy that was on the list early," Nix said. "We got the right guy for us. I've got full confidence in him to answer your question."

Gailey also got a big vote of support from Jones in Dallas. The Cowboys owner on Tuesday not only congratulated Gailey upon his return to the NFL head coaching ranks, but Jones also reiterated that he still regrets firing Gailey.

"I'm proud for Chan Gailey," Jones said. "I'm glad to see him have the opportunity to get back as head coach in the NFL. He did an outstanding job at Georgia Tech. He's really a top coach and will do a great job."

Gailey has been out of football since he was removed as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in August, two weeks before the season opener. He was entering his second season with Kansas City after a six-year stretch as Georgia Tech's coach, during which he went 44-33 before being fired in 2007.

Nix is already being second-guessed for how he conducted the coaching search, during which Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer turned down the Bills' request for an interview last week. And it was a search that featured several prominent candidates who had raised fan expectations.

The Bills spoke to Cowher in a bid to lure the former Steelers coach out of his career in broadcasting. Fans raised $1,125 to rent a billboard in Buffalo last week urging team owner Ralph Wilson to hire Cowher. The team also interviewed former Broncos coach Shanahan, who instead chose to coach the Washington Redskins.

Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was considered the top candidate after interviewing two weeks ago. Frazier's stock appeared to climb even further after his defense shut down the Cowboys in Minnesota's 34-3 win in the playoffs Sunday.

Nix said he conducted a thorough search and refused to be influenced by the fans or media.

"I can stand up here on the soapbox and tell you what we're going to do, you've heard that before," Nix said. "So I'm not going to waste my time or yours. But I will tell you this, in November or December, I think you'll know more about what we're about."

Gailey and Nix have crossed paths going back to the 1970s, when both began their football careers as college coaches in the south.

With Buffalo, Gailey's top priority will be sparking an offense that has finished 25th or worst in yards gained in each of the past seven seasons.

Gailey intends to handle the offensive play-calling duties next season.

Along with assembling a coaching staff, Gailey said he intends to address the Bills' quarterback situation soon. A combination of injuries and futility led to the Bills to go through three starters this past year.

Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay supported the team's decision to hire Gailey.

"I've been through this a number of times, and eventually you've got to get it right, and I think they will," said Kelsay, who completed his seventh season in Buffalo. "I think we're headed in the right direction. ... It is time for change, and I think we're due for a little success as well."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press