It’s pretty easy to measure the performance of a head coach in the NFL. At its simplest form, you can look at two numbers. Wins and losses.
The Buffalo Bills finished 4-12 last year. Knowing that, coach Chan Gailey’s quotes from yesterday about his team’s playoff chances sound crazy:
“I expect it. I think our players expect it. If you don’t expect it, something’s wrong with you. If you say, ‘Well I hope we’re a little bit better than last year,’ you ought to get out. That’s wrong. I expect to win every one of them. I expect to be undefeated. That’s the way I’ve always been and that’s the way I’ll always be. I want to be 1-0 after this one and who ever we play second I want to be 2-0.”
But, like I said, a coach’s job security is based largely on how well his team performs. Gailey expects to have his team prepared well enough to have them in a position to win each week. He sets his bar high.
Imagine the backlash Gailey would have received if he had walked up to the podium and said, “I don’t think we’re good enough to beat Kansas City this week. We’re going to show up and try, but don’t expect a win. Talk to y’all after the game.”
He’d receive backlash not only from the media but from his players as well. The coach doesn’t think his team is good enough? He went outside the locker room and said that his guys didn’t have a chance? Gailey coming out and expressing doubt does nothing for the confidence of his team.
He needs his players to buy in and he’s also partly responsible for motivating the fans. The marketing campaign this season calls on fans to “lead the charge.” Those commercials star Chan Gailey. His public comments are a way for him to address the fan base as well.
I wouldn’t call Gailey’s comments yesterday “hollow.” Both Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix have been pretty straight-shooters since they took over. Gailey is back in the NFL because he hates to lose and hates to fail. He’s worked hard to get back and wants to stay there.
He wants to make a significant leap with the Bills this season. Moderate progress isn’t good enough for him. He wants to be worlds better. They’ve turned over the roster quite a bit since 2009 and he sees the roster as a constantly improving and evolving unit.
If Gailey thinks the Bills are a playoff team, he doesn’t want to have to sneak in. He wants to win the division. Although realistically, they’ll almost certainly have to settle for a Wild Card berth if they do win enough games to make the playoffs.
We know there are a lot of teams better than the Bills are. Many of those teams show up on Buffalo’s schedule. They haven’t beaten New England since 2003.
Coaches aren’t paid to think about the long-term or about past history. Winning games keeps them employed and they need to keep moving forward. They institute “24-hour” rules to keep their teams and staffs focused.
The quote from Gailey is exactly what fans and his players should want to hear from him. He can’t worry about which games he’s going to lose if he thinks he’s dealing with a 6-10 team. But he thinks he’s got at least a nine-win team. And, as the saying popularized in the Friday Night Lights movie goes, he wants to be perfect.
“Expecting to go undefeated” might be misguided. No team has gone undefeated in the modern era.
To “expect” to be undefeated is a lofty goal, almost arrogant. But if that’s the mindset he has to have in order to be successful then have at it. And really, those could very well just be Gailey’s expectations for himself every year. As a coach, you never want to lose a game.
I’m sure there are pitchers in baseball who enter every season looking to pitch a perfect game every start. And attorneys who expect to win every case. Sure the pitchers will get hit eventually (maybe on the first pitch of the season) and lawyers will end up losers, but why go in with a defeatist attitude?
Words can mean very little. And we’ll see how Gailey’s team performs Sunday afternoon. Of course there’s no real way to know if they won’t go undefeated. Anything can happen.
Now I don’t expect the Bills to be great (or even very good) this year. If all the bounces went their way last year, they probably could have been 8-8. They finished with four wins and if the team is any better, they should probably improve by a win or two. I’m hoping for watchable and entertaining games.
Yes, it’s less than mediocre and it’s a far cry from Gailey’s expectation of winning every game, but my expectations for this team are considerably lower than Gailey’s. And while I may be frustrated with the organization, I’m glad Gailey is optimistic.
His job depends on it.