When most Buffalo Bills' fans wake up this morning, myself included, there is certain to be one present that good ol' St. Nick forgot to deliver - major changes to the team's coaching staff.
Granted it's highly unlikely that the team would change coaches this late in the season, but with their 24-10 loss to the rival Miami Dolphins (7-8) on Sunday, the Bills (5-10) fell to 15-32 under head coach Chan Gailey's direction.
The season was not supposed to turn out this way. This was supposed to be the year the Bills made a serious run toward their first playoff birth in 12 seasons - the longest drought in team history. Unfortunately, under Gailey, the Bills have not gotten better as Bills' fan had hoped with him patrolling the sidelines.
Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey on the sidelines during the first half of his team’s game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, in Miami.
Optimism for a successful season, in my experience, begins to build each year in March once the free-agent signing period begins. It increases in April as I try to convince myself that the newest crop of draft picks are the missing pieces the team needs to get back to the playoffs.
Peaking before Week 1, that same optimism that is born in March and blooms like flowers in the spring, begins its autumnal ebbs and flows as the Bills alternate winning one game and losing two or three in a row, generally in both frustrating and heartbreaking fashion. Then, usually no later than Thanksgiving, all the hopes and dreams I had for my favorite football team have disappeared, replaced by that all too familiar feeling of shame and hopelessness.
Where do you begin to look for answers to the myriad problems the Bills have? Will Ralph Wilson Jr., at age 94, from his headquarters on Lake Michigan, start fresh next season with a new General Manager, coaching staff and quarterback? Probably not, but all three will share the brunt of the blame for the Bills' failures this season.
Buddy Nix hired Gailey and Gailey is married to the idea that Ryan Fitzpatrick has the talent to be an effective quarterback in the National Football League, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
In my estimation, one of two things should happen: 1) The Bills fire Nix and Gailey, including his entire staff, and release Fitzpatrick; 2) The team keeps Nix, fires Gailey and his staff and releases Fitzpatrick. What will likely happen? The Bills keep the status quo, returning all three and I'm writing this same column next Christmas.
The Bills, as constructed right now, can't, and won't, win with Gailey as the head coach. Although Nix will share some of the blame for this season, he has done a fair job putting some useful pieces on the roster, but Gailey has proven that he and his coaching staff lack the ability to prepare their players to be successful every Sunday. One need look no further than the last two weeks for proof of this either, as the team has played uninspired, and embarrassing football.
The Bills were 4-12 in Gailey's first year in 2010, then went 6-10 in '11 and are 5-10 this season. Of the 32 losses the Bills have suffered during Gailey's tenure, 17 have been by 10 or more points. That's more than half of the team's losses coming by double-figures. To make matters worse, 13 of those losses were by 20 or more points and five by 30 or more.
Needless to say, the Bills, with Gailey at the helm, are just not a good football team. Sure, they've had some bad luck in terms of injuries over the last three years, and have lost 15 games by eight or fewer points, but good teams will find a way to win at least half of those games.
I wrote a column earlier this year about the Bills' lack of success against the AFC East, so I won't get into that again, just to note that they have now gone 3-14 with one more game left this season against the New York Jets, a team that is equally as flawed as the Bills this year, but a team that has beaten Buffalo the last five times they have played by an average of 19 points.
In a perfect world, Wilson Jr., CEO Russ Brandon and Nix will heed the advice of Western New York's Monday Morning Quarterbacks and rid the team of Gailey, his inept coaching staff, and release Fitzpatrick and his Harvard education that may win him friends on Wall Street, but doesn't help him on the field.
With any luck, the Bills, come March, will pique my interest with key free-agent acquisitions. Then, in April, draft a certain linebacker from Notre Dame, as well as the quarterback of the present and future (USC's Matt Barkley, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Oklahoma's Landy Jones, West Virginia's Geno Smith, North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, to name a few) and a few other key players, helping to rebuild my optimism for at least one more season.