ORCHARD PARK - Can you hear them? I think I'm starting to be able to. Yup, I can hear those, 'Let's go Buffalo!' chants turning into, 'Hey, ho, Chan Gailey's got to go!'
With the Buffalo Bills' (5-8) 15-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams (6-6-1), head coach Chan Gailey's record went to 15-30. And if Sunday was any indication, the future of the Bills is not in good hands.
Gailey's ability to make the tough, and even the right decisions has come under scrutiny at various points throughout what has turned into another disappointing season. In the minds of many, Gailey certainly didn't help himself any with some of the calls he made - and didn't make - including his decision not to use Rian Lindell's right leg when nearly everyone in Ralph Wilson Stadium expected him to.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, right, is hit by St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long during the first half of an NFL game, Sunday, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Facing a 4th-and-7 at the Rams' 37-yard line, and holding a 12-7 lead in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Gailey sent Lindell into the game for what would have been a 52-yard field goal. Rather than letting him attempt the kick, Gailey called a time out and sent in punter Shawn Powell.
"Yeah, we were not going to go for it there," Gailey said. "The defense was playing good. We were going to try to pin them back. That was the reason. When they first told me when I first turned, they told me it was a 50-yard field goal instead of a 52, 53-yard field goal. We had just dropped the snap on the extra point, so that is why I pulled them back out of there and said 'Hey let's let the defense try to keep them pinned back.'"
Not being a fortune teller, I can't tell you if Lindell would have made the field goal, but what I can tell you is Gailey made the wrong choice in not attempting to put more distance on the scoreboard between his team and the Rams.
"Well I was trying to get that to them to take the delay of game and Scott Chandler saw me tell them to take the delay of game, but I did not know he got that word," Gailey added to his defense of the decision. "So I was scared they were going to snap it. That is why I called the timeout."
Gailey's inability to pull the trigger on field goals between 50-55 yards this season has done more harm than good. The most glaring instances came in an overtime win against the Arizona Cardinals and against the Indianapolis Colts Week 12. Both games were on the road and both games were inside.
"Dang it, I guess," Lindell said of his reaction to Gailey's choice not to use him. "Obviously I want to kick everything. I think going through the paws on the PAT played into that."
A week after the Colts game, and up 24-10, Gailey sent Lindell out to attempt a 50-yard field goal against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11). With the wind blowing in seemingly every direction and the rain falling, Lindell connected. You would think that would have quelled any doubts Gailey had in regard to his kicker's ability to make tough kicks. You could think that, but Sunday it was made crystal clear that you would be wrong.
"I don't think it mattered how it played out," Lindell added. "I knew what the ball was. I wanted it, but if I don't get it then I move on."
The Bills were coming off a game against the Jaguars in which they ran for 232 yards on 46 attempts. On Sunday, the Bills managed just 61 yards on 20 attempts, nine of them were by Fred Jackson and another seven by C.J. Spiller. That's right folks, the Bills' most electrifying and talented offensive player had just seven carries, touching the ball a total of eight times as he caught one pass for 15 yards. Needless to say, Gailey had to answer, again, for his decision to limit Spiller's touches.
"Of course I want to touch the ball more," Spiller said. "But there is no need for me to sit around, mope and groan and do all that because that is high school. That is childish. That is not what I am all about.
"Is the frustration there? Yeah," Spiller continued. "Deep down in your gut as a competitor, yeah it is there. But there is nothing I can do about it, so I am not going to sit around and pout and be a little baby or a little girl or something."
Jackson's workload was limited, in part, by an apparent knee injury sustained in the fourth quarter, and the Bills' overall success on the ground wasn't helped by the fact that the Rams were able to take advantage of the Bills' injury-riddled offensive line. But after Jackson's injury, Gailey again made a precarious choice in terms of the Bills' personnel in the backfield. That is, he inserted Tashard Choice rather than Spiller, who's versatility is a secret to no one, nor his ability to turn nothing into something. That was never more apparent than on his lone reception.
Facing a 3rd-and-13 at their own 43-yard line, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found Spiller on a screen pass, and like he has done on more occasions than you can count on all of your fingers and toes, Spiller gained 15 yards, earning a first down at the Rams' 42-yard line. He didn't touch the ball again for five plays, due in part to Gailey's assertion that Spiller gets tired from time to time and the fact that it was Jackson's turn.
"Well he gets He had two good runs in that first drive," Gailey said. "He gets winded and he comes out. We just put Fred in there. It worked out that the next couple of carries we got behind the sticks on runs that we called he was in there. That is just the way it works out. We are trying to get those guys the football."
I understand that Gailey is not coaching the players, he's also managing their egos. But to take your best offensive player out because it was your second-best offensive player's turn is both laughable and completely unjustifiable. This isn't Pop Warner, this is a National Football League team fighting to keep what remote playoff hopes they have, alive.
If the Bills are ever going to make the playoffs again, the Powers That Be need to find a coach that knows how to manage his players, their egos, the clock and can show the intestinal fortitude to attempt a 50-yard field goal.
Too many times this season the Bills have given up the chance to take a shot at a field goal and have punted instead, trying to win the battle for field position. And until Gailey realizes that games aren't won based on how deep you can pin an opponent in their own end of the field, but on how many points your team scores and gives up, the Bills and their fans can look forward to another year of disappointment in 2013.