Thanks for joining us for another installment of Bar Stool Debates, where Joe and Brandon go back and forth on the hottest topics floating around the Buffalo sports scene. After another disappointing football season, today we pose the question: Who should take the fall for the Bills's 13th straight season without a playoff berth, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Chan Gailey. Let the debate begin.
Brandon: With the Bills officially eliminated from playoff contention for yet another season, it's about time we started talking about which heads are going to roll this offseason. Knowing the way Ralph has things operating and the reluctance of Buddy Nix to make any drastic changes to his failing product, it's tough to imagine anything different as long as the aforementioned pair are in place.
Alas, you would hope at least someone would lose their job over this disaster of a season. Ideally, I think everyone would agree when we say both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey should be shown the door. But, for the sake of argument, let's try to decipher which is the lesser of the two evils, if there is such a thing…
Brandon's Chugging Shot: Chan Gailey is 15-31 over three seasons as head coach of the Bills. Need I say more?
Joe: Ah, yes. It is your classic debate of futility. What is worse: Howard the Duck or Waterworld? Spoiled Sushi or spoiled milk? Losman or Edwards? It is just a giant crap sandwich at this point. As you said, both these guys are terrible and I have absolutely no idea how the regime plans on selling this team next year with both these fools as their centerpiece. On a "Who do I hate more?" scale, I'm going with Chan Gailey. I hated his hiring from the moment he came from whatever unemployment line he was standing in. He is a proven loser. Fired from 3 of his last 4 jobs. A guy who just took the job because he couldn't get a better job. From hiring Wannstedt to acting like CJ Spiller would break his leg after 10 carries, he's Dick Jauron with a feeble offensive mind instead of a defensive one.
However, this is still a QB driven league. Not a coaches league. A QB is the guy who is going to make the coach look good. Not the other way around. I mean, can you name me a QB over the last 10 years where a coach took over and made him into a household name? I got Alex Smith/Jim Harbaugh and that's about as household as a food dehydrator. Fitzpatrick is terrible. He needs to go. I'd sign up for Mike Vick and Gailey over Fitzpatrick and some jackass retread.
Joe's Pickleback Shot: Fitzpatrick has appeared in 53 games as the Bills QB. He has thrown an INT in 37 of those games. In 18 of those games, he's thrown two or more picks.
Brandon: I'd like to preface my entire argument by saying there's no way Nix fires Gailey this offseason. Should he be fired? Absolutely. Any halfway decent franchise wouldn't think twice about canning a coach with Gailey's track record of failure. But Nix has insisted he'll be back, and, unless Nix gets canned, too, I think he'll stay true to that. I think by now everyone would agree that having a great quarterback is the ultimate criteria that separates good teams from Super Bowl winners.
The problem is the Bills are far from being even a mediocre team in this league as presently constructed, and great quarterbacks don't exactly grow on trees. There are a lot of areas the Bills still need to improve in before they're competitive, and I think that starts from the top. I'm in the camp that believes franchises in any sport, not just football, rot from the head down. Of course, there are plenty of people higher up than Chan Gailey within the organization who need to get out of Buffalo as well.
I'm kind of a believer in the whole "culture" of a team. It's pretty clear at this point that Gailey has failed to establish a winning culture. If a team lacks in talent, sometimes a great head coach can will the team to overachieve or at least have some fight. How that works, I'm not really sure. I'm not sure you can really break it down to the X's and O's. You see all the great coaches past and present who have this way about them, a certain respect among the players. Belichick isn't a players' coach by any means, but everyone on the Pats respects the hell out of him. The same could be said of the Harbaughs or whoever else. A coach either has it or he doesn't, and Gailey sure as hell doesn't. The Bills have shown time and time again this season that they give up when things get tough, and I think that starts with the head coach.
At this point, it's run its course with Gailey. It's time for some fresh blood. Besides, if Nix is able to find a quarterback he likes in the draft this year, I think Fitz would make a nice filler and/or backup to mentor the young guy under a new coaching regimes. They're going to suck next year, regardless. So might as well keep Fitz in as a placeholder. Though I bet Russ Brandon's eyes light up when he sees the potential ticket revenue Mike Vick in a Bills uni would bring.
Brandon's Chugging Shot: The Bills have won five road games since 2010. No team in the NFL has been worse away from home over that span.
Joe: Yeah, but who the hell was Bill Belichick before Tom Brady came into his life? He was just a glorified defensive coordinator. Dick Vermeil before Kurt Warner came along in St. Louis. What happened to Chuck Noll and the Steelers when Terry Bradshaw retired? How did good ole' Marv do when Jim Kelly left? He sure was great as the GM with Trentative and Tree Hugger. If Lou Saban came back from the dead, there is nothing he could do with Fitz at this point. His confidence is shot. He's cost the Bills more than anyone else on this roster. You need a passer first.
Joe's Pickleback Shot: Belichick's record before Tom Brady started for him was 39-57 with Cleveland and New England.
Brandon: Sure, but it's not like some kid is going to be Tom Brady the second he steps inside Ralph Wilson Stadium next season. It'll take time, and it'll take the right coach to bring him along. I guess this argument sort of hinges on how soon do you think the Bills can be successful? Do you think that if they release Fitzpatrick, drafted a rookie and signed a Mike Vick, the Bills would automatically be better next season? I'm not so sure. I think Gailey — with his terrible play calling, poor grasp on coaching and just his all around inferiority to his counterparts who consistently outsmart him week after week — is holding the team back just as much as Fitz and his arm strength, or the lack thereof, in this case.
This season especially, you look around the league at different assistants and you can't help but think how great it would be if the Bills brought one of them in to see what they could do. The Bills need a young, up-and-coming, forward-thinking head coach who's going to change the way this franchise operates. At the very least, with Fitz gone and Gailey still here, unless there's another Peyton Manning floating around free agency this offseason, I just can't see the Bills being a good team regardless of who's under center. With Gailey gone, maybe we'd start to at least see some semblance of progress and a little glimmer of hope for the future.
Brandon's Chugging Shot: On Sunday, C.J. Spiller reached 1,000 yards rushing on just 154 carries — the second fastest ever by any player in NFL history. The Bills' top offensive threat has barely touched the ball 11 times per game this season.
Joe: I think there's talent on this team. I know you don't think that at all. A QB is what is going to bring it all together. It is a quicker get rich quick scheme than finding a coach. Fitz has been a joke. Plus, what coach is going to want to come to this hell hole? They'd rather go coach Syracuse at this point. This is a shitty job. No one wants it. I think money talks more with players than coaches. How can you not see the Bills being better with someone like the guy we saw Sunday? Russell Wilson was killing it. He was awesome. Put him here and this team is battling for the playoffs. Easily.
Joe's Pickleback shot: The Bills have used/traded four first round picks on QBs since 1983 (Jim Kelly, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe and JP Losman). They have used four 1st round picks on RBs since 1997.
Brandon: I agree that the Bills can't attract the big name. But I do think they can attract a young assistant looking to get his start. You don't think the Bills could entice a, say, Kyle Shanahan, to come coach in Buffalo? I think they could get someone like that. It's a shitty job with the way ownership is and such, but an NFL head coaching job is an NFL head coaching job. If you can't get someone qualified to come coach your NFL team, it's time to re-evaluate how you're doing things.
I hear the case for Russell Wilson, or even Kaepernick or whoever else. But I also think, Andrew Luck or even RG3 excluded, the success of the rookie quarterbacks this season can also be traced back to good coaching. As much as people rip Pete Carroll, he's calling the right plays and he's doing the right things. Not to mention you don't see the 49ers or Seahawks defenses allowing 40 points every game. The schemes these young guys are running aren't complicated. Harbaugh and Carroll have made it as simple as possible, essentially telling them to just go out there and play, and they'll take care of the rest. I'm 110 percent certain Gailey isn't capable of something like that.
I won't say there's no talent on this team, because I do think C.J. and Stevie and Mario are top-end guys you can have success with. The problem is that Gailey hasn't the slightest clue on how to use any of them. That's been the team's biggest downfall this season and it will continue to be that way as long as Gailey's here.
Brandon's Chugging Shot: At his 6.5 YPA rate, with just 50 more carries, or three more carries per game, Spiller would be third in the league in rushing, behind only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. Minnesota and Seattle are both currently playoff teams.
Joe: Sorry, but the coaching search of 2009 is still fresh in my head. I think the damn Arizona OL coach refused to interview with us. WTF has changed since besides Ralph having his diaper changed daily instead of only on Mexican night? The QB is what needs to change first. I think it is the easiest change that can get results quicker. Hey, Gailey sucks, but we haven't seen what he could do with a young kid or a guy with talent that isn't from Harvard. Again, QB is where its at. The Bills have been worse at that position than in coaching IMO. I know we like Fitz more as a person than the bumbling coach, but the players win it first. Not the coach.
Joe's Pickleback Shot: Since Jim Kelly retired at the end of the 1996 season, Bills' QBs (And Travis Henry) have thrown 277 interceptions. That's an average of 1.08 Interceptions per game. In seven of those seasons, the Bills had more interceptions than touchdown passes.
Brandon: I don't know. I mean, how do you justify all of Gailey's miscues this season and his reluctance to capitalize on C.J. Spiller each week? At this point it's obvious getting the ball in his hands is the best way this team can have success. You would think a decent coach who has even the slightest idea what he's doing would be able to see that. I don't remember much of the 2009 coaching search, except the fact that the Bills chased the big names and failed miserably to court any of them.
This is incredibly optimistic, but I remember reading something — I forget where — that suggested Bill Cowher would be open to the Bills this offseason, saying that in '09 he turned it down because he simply wasn't ready to coach again. If you had the chance to get Cowher but had to keep Fitz, I think we'd take that every time. That's all dream scenario, and admittedly far-fetched. But even so, I do think they could find the right guy to replace Gailey. They just need to know where and how to look.
I certainly won't argue when you say the quarterback is the key to success, but I believe having the right coach in place whenever you find that quarterback is almost just as important. I just can't overlook Gailey's shortcomings. I think he's had a number of chances to prove he could take this team to higher places, and he's consistently fallen on his face each time. He's given us no reason to think it'd be any different if he had a different guy under center.
Brandon's Chugging Shot: C'mon! Have you seen his play calling?! This year's potential coaching hires better than Gailey: Chip Kelly, Kyle Shanahan, Bruce Arians, Mike McCoy, Gus Bradley, my grandmother.
Joe: Bill Cowher would be a fricken dream. But I'm pretty sure I have a better shot with drinking with your boy, Justin Bieber. So, I'll just pick his stunt double to booze with..which would be you. Anyways, let's wrap this up. The thought of picking between these fools is like picking between getting kicked in the nuts by Chuck Liddell or punched in the nuts by Mike Tyson. I think QB is still the biggest problem. Go back to last year at this time. Fitz's play was what drove the team to 5-2. Once teams caught up, he was done and the team went downhill.
Look at this year now…Fitz doesn't throw INT against Tennessee, we win. How about if he actually didn't choke in the final minute against St. Louis? What about his splendid first half against the Jets? How many games has the QB cost us in the last three years? Hell, since Jim Kelly went into the sunset? Again, QBs mean more than coaches at this point. They are the ones who make coaches look like geniuses.
Joe's Pickleback Shot: Since 2010, Ryan Fitzpatrick has 7TD and 9INTs with a QB rating of 67.1 in the 4th quarter when the Bills are trailing or leading by seven points or less. He has a 47.7 rating this year. Clutch?
Brandon: You can almost look back into each one of those games you just listed and pick about three or four mistakes by Gailey that also probably cost the Bills the game just the same. Look, Gailey and Fitzpatrick are obviously a match made in hell. Hopefully this nightmare ends soon. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: The franchise needs to be obliterated. When you have a team with so many issues, from ownership to the front office to the playing field, starting from scratch is the only fix if we want to see a playoff game in the next decade.
Having a new quarterback would be exciting (hopefully), but so long as Gailey is in place, I think the things this team can accomplish will be limited, great QB or not. Getting a new coach and, in turn, a new outlook on the Bills as a franchise and as a football team, would ideally go a long way in helping the Bills once and for all climb out of this goddamn basement. So that's a wrap. Let's head to the bar. Drinks on you.
Why are you just sitting there? Get in on the debate! Post your comment below and voice your opinion on who you'd rather see leave Buffalo.