G:TB superfan Work Jerry alerted Teedge and me (not I) of Chan Gailey's rumored termination and requested a post summarizing candidates for the big chair at One Bills Drive. So here we are.
Since the great Marv Levy retired, the Bills have suffered through five-and-a-half head coaches: Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Perry Fewell (only on an interim basis for 7 games, and thus only half a coach), and Chan Gailey. Phillips was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach when Levy retired and at the time the move made sense, or at least was defensible (pun!) as Buffalo's defense was pretty good under Phillips and promoting from 'twixt Marv's ranks made sense to Bills fans. That Phillips phloundered as HC in Denver a few years earlier wasn't a concern, as Marv was a retread from KC when the Bills hired him. Although he's generally viewed as a dolt and a failure, Phillips had a 0.604 win percentage in Buffalo (29-19) and was the last coach to take them to the playoffs (in 1998 and 1999), although he never won a playoff game.
The Gregg Williams hire also made more than an insignificant amount of sense in 2001. Williams was the engineer of Tennessee's ferocious defense that was arguably best in the league in 2000. He was only about 42 at the time and never held a head coaching position at the NFL level so he didn't have to carry retread baggage. Who wouldn't want a young, successful, innovative defensive mind to take over a team with lots of young talent on defense? Williams went 17-31 in three seasons and was fired after the 2003 campaign even though he turned the defense into a top-5 unit. The real problem with the 2003 squad was the offense, which mustered a meager 11 passing TD and 13 rushing TD in 16 games, resulting in the 30th fewest points scored. Thanks Bledsoe! Williams went on to have relative success in Washington and later won a Super Bowl in New Orleans where he tried to have several players mutilated, leading to what appears to be a lifetime ban from the NFL.
The Bills then turned to Mike Mularkey, who coordinated the Pittsburgh's 20th-ranked offense the year before. Like Williams, Mularkey had no head coaching experience and was something of an up-and-coming youngster who put together top-8 offenses in 2001 and 2002 with Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox. It seemed like a great idea at the time to bring in an offensive guru to straighten things out on that side of the ball and just maintain Williams' solid defense. It didn't work out as planned, and, in fact, was a complete mess. By 2005 the Bills ranked 24th or worse in points and yardage on both offense and defense, and Mularkey was fired with a 14-18 record in Buffalo. Mularkey is now shitting the bed as HC in Jacksonville, where the 2-12 Jaguars rank 31st in offensive points and yardage. At least he achieved symmetry.
After the mularkey with Mularkey, the braintrust in Buffalo decided to go retread again and hired Dick Jauron who despite having 2001 Coach of the Year on his resume was a clearly terrible candidate with a 36-49 record as HC and only one season with more than seven wins, including a 1-4 stint as interim head coach in Detroit in 2005 after Steve Mariucci got canned. Remarkably, the Bills took Detroit's castoff and put him in charge. Jauron went 7-9 three years in a row and was 3-6 in 2009 when Ralph Wilson took pity on me and relieved Jauron of his duties (or, in his case, doodies). Perry Fewell took over and stood no chance of getting the HC job, what with Jauron's stench and stain upon him.
Which brings us to Chan Gailey, who was a very successful OC with Pittsburgh in 1996-97 with Mike Tomczak and Kordell Stewart (history repeating?). Gailey was the HC in Dallas in 1998-99, where he went 18-14 and engineered top-10 offenses both years. After Jerry Jones gave him the boot for an 8-8 season (which was probably appropriate given all the HOF/Pro Bowl talent they had), he was the OC in Miami for two years where he was the steward of a statistically below-average offense. From 2002-2007 he was the HC at Georgia Tech, where he went 44-32, including 2-4 in Bowls, and never won an ACC Championship. Somehow he became the OC for the Chiefs in 2008 who ranked 24th and 26th in yards and points respectively. After about a decade of mediocrity, Gailey apparently held no football-related job in 2009. Then Buddy Nix swooped in and put him in charge of the Bills in 2010. Since then he is 15-32, or 0.319 for those of you without calculators handy. Predicting this undesired outcome does not require genius-level intelligence -- indeed, I'm an idiot and my first reaction to the Gailey hiring was "I want to die" (scroll down to the comments for all the scatological fun).
Gailey has to be out after this year. HAS to. Would you play for a man who throws like this?
I could prepare a list of candidates that I would like to get the job, the usual suspects like Cowher and Gruden, but all of those guys are too smart to even interview for the position. So here's a list of mopes that I predict will don a suit and tie and meet with the Bills' geriatric braintrust. Like my johnson, this list is short and undistinguished. I fully expect the Bills to hire another team's castoff to retread the HC position. The only question is, how far removed from his last head coaching job will the new hire be?
Reid won't get the job because he's too legitimate: he has a 130-92-1 regular season record, he's 10-9 in the postseason, and his offenses are consistently excellent. He makes the list because he has a very Buffalo look about him and I can envision Buddy Nix offering to bring McNabb in to play QB. Although he qualifies as a retread he is way too qualified to handle the reins in Buffalo.
HIRING ODDS: 6.9%
Norv looks like a good fit in light of the foregoing. He has a goofy name like "Gregg" and "Chan" and he experienced tremendous success as an OC in the 1990s with the Cowboys. He is 113-122-1 in the regular season and 4-4 in the postseason, and these numbers may actually be too good for him to get the job in Buffalo. I know Skins fans loathe Norv but he took Washington to the playoffs and won a game which is more than anyone has done for Buffalo since Marv Levy beat the Dolphins on December 30, 1995 by calling 49 rushing plays on a 26 degree afternoon. Not a typo. December 30, 1995. It's been 17 years. But I digress. Simply put, Norv Turner is too good an option to make the grade for the Bills. They will dig deeper.
HIRING ODDS: 7.1%
Mike Nolan is one of those guys who remain inexplicably employed in high level positions, making him a strong to quite strong candidate for the Bills. He broke onto the scene as the Giants' DC in 1993, a year in which the G-Men ranked 1st and 5th in points and yards allowed, respectively. The Giants' defense drifted into mediocrity over the next few years under Nolan. He became the Skins' DC in 1997, and their defense became increasingly worse under his steady hand, culminating in the 1999 season when his defense ranked 30th and 24th (out of 31 teams) in yards and points. He then put up a good season as the Jets' DC, making them an above-average unit. The next year he was Baltimore's WR coach, which is a totally logical career progression. In 2002 he became the Ravens' DC and they had a below-average defense, which is remarkable because they were top-10 for the three years before and the four years after that. To his credit, Nolan oversaw two of those top-10 years (2003 and 2004) before landing the HC job in SF. Under Nolan the Niners had one of the worst defenses in the league from 2005-2008. He then ran fair-to-middling defenses in Denver and Miami. He is now the DC in Atlanta, where they currently rank a tough-to-reconcile 23rd in yards and 4th in points. Nolan was 18-37 as the HC in SF and he never made the playoffs. In fact, he never won more than 7 games in a season. This record of low achievement and making sow's ears out of silk purses makes Nolan a great fit for the Bills, but at 53 years old he might be too young. Nolan's old-timey habit of coaching in a suit might confuse Nix into thinking Nolan is elderly, so that helps his cause.
HIRING ODDS: 69%
Ted Marchibroda is a spry 81 years young, 8 years older than Buddy Nix and 13 years younger than Ralph Wilson. So he gets all their cultural references to Packards and Claudette Colbert. Marchibroda is so old that he was the #5 overall pick in the 1953 draft, back when there were 30 rounds and 13 teams. Marchibroda also has ties to the Bills as the architect of the K-Gun offense when he was Marv Levy's OC from 1989 to 1991. He's 87-98-1 as HC with a 2-4 playoff performance. Those two playoff wins seem like two too many for the Bills, but both came in ... wait for it ... 1995! Symmetry! His teams made the playoffs three other times, in 1975, 1976, and 1977. These dates may be a bit too recent for Nix and Wilson's approval but they are pretty attenuated. He hasn't coached since 1998. There's no way in hell that Marchibroda is up the task of working 14 hour days or even staying awake for three consecutive hours on a Sunday afternoon. I expect him to make it to the final round of interviews.
HIRING ODDS: 71%
Weeb has a preposterous name like Chan and he's over 90 like Ralph Wilson. He has three rings, his most recent coming with division rival New York. The Bills have lost 6 in a row to the Jets and 8 of the last 9. Weeb's inside info as a former Jet coach would be just the edge the Bills need to get past them. Some will say that his 0.502 regular season and 0.800 postseason records are too good, but Ralph and Buddy might look past this in light of the fact that Ewbank hasn't coached in 40 years. And he's in the Hall of Fame! Who could pass on a pedigree like this? The fact that he's dead cuts against him, but not enough to preclude him from getting the job.
HIRING ODDS: 96.9%
I realize that my hiring odds figures add up to well more than 100%, but I took SSMCIS, a curriculum developed in the early 1960's in response to the first Sputnik launch which convinced American educators that the US lagged behind the Russians in math and science. Accordingly, I, like the Bills' front office, rely on new math and all hiring odds figures are presented in base 8. Tom Lehrer can explain it for you.