The Chan Gailey Effect
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 7th, 2010

Chan Gailey was introduced as the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills after the Bills were unsuccessful chasing the big name named coaches. He is known as an offensive guru from his vast experience in the NFL and the college ranks. The 57 year old coach has been many places and used differing styles of offense. The common denominator is that Gailey's offenses have been successful at every stop. What makes Gailey so successful is that he adapts his offensive philosophies to the personnel. Below is a graph of Gailey's professional coaching jobs and the performance of his offenses. We will look at Gailey's past and examine opportunities for the current Buffalo offensive players as it relates to potential fantasy success.

Tm
Year
Position
PPF
QB
RB
WR
TE
R/P
RB1%
WR1%
WR2%
TE%
Pit
1994
WR Coach
19.8
246
373
249
97
54.0
39
18
18
23
Pit
1995
WR Coach
25.4
289
333
385
53
45.5
41
32
23
10
Pit
1996
Off Coord
21.5
233
317
297
16
53.2
70
35
33
5
Pit
1997
Off Coord
23.3
348
293
360
48
55.1
79
40
16
11
Dal
1998
Head Coach
23.8
266
359
328
64
51.2
67
25
20
13
Dal
1999
Head Coach
22.0
246
321
319
98
49.3
71
33
13
20
Mia
2000
Off Coord
20.2
210
325
258
28
54.1
71
32
19
8
Mia
2001
Off Coord
21.5
291
264
341
36
51.0
64
29
19
8
KC
2008
Off Coord
18.2
309
227
252
172
41.2
57
30
12
36

PPG = points per game scored by the team as a whole
QB = total fantasy points scored by the QBs on the team
RB = total fantasy points scored by the RBs on the team
WR = total fantasy points scored by the WRs on the team
TE = total fantasy points scored by the TEs on the team
R/P = percentage of the team's plays that were rushing plays
RB1% = percentage of the team's RB fantasy points that went to RB1
WR1% = percentage of the team's receiving fantasy points that went to WR1
WR2% = percentage of the team's receiving fantasy points that went to WR2
TE% = percentage of the team's receiving fantasy points that went to the TE position

Gailey has been able to get the most out of his quarterback at every stop. He was the offensive coordinator during Kordell Stewart's amazing 1997 season in Pittsburgh. Gailey then headed to Dallas in an attempt to resurrect the Cowboys. In 1998, Dallas went from a 6-10 record to 10-6 in just one season. He worked had the use of Troy Aikman's services, but the Cowboys relied on the strong ground game. Aikman did not pass often. It was in Miami that Gailey's was able to make the most of very average quarterback situations. He helped Jay Fiedler become a viable NFL passer, which was not easy. After a lengthy stay in the college ranks, the veteran coach agreed to help Herm Edwards try to turn around a poor Kansas City Chief offense. Many remember the strong finish by rookie Tyler Thigpen in 2008, mainly due to Gailey's ingenuity. Since his offense revolves around the quarterback position, we will take a deeper look at some of these situations from Gailey's past.

As the offensive coordinator of the 1997 Pittsburgh Steelers, Gailey got the most out of Kordell Stewart. "Slash" finished as QB2 in fantasy football. With all of his successes, many forget that Gailey was the one pulling the strings for the Steelers offense that season. Gailey made the most out of Stewart's skill set, putting the athletic quarterback in situations to succeed. This is something to keep in mind if rookie Levi Brown moves up the depth chart. It is not wise to draw too deep of a comparison between Stewart in 1997 and Brown, but it does show Gailey's ability to adapt his offense to get the most out of his passer's talents. Brown is very athletic, like Stewart, and would be a threat in many ways. And, both have issues with accuracy tossing the pigskin.

It is easy to appreciate the veteran coach after what he was able to do with Miami in 2001. The Dolphins were led by the very average quarterback, Jay Fiedler. The journeyman finished the season as QB10 in fantasy football. The top ten finish for Fiedler illustrates the skills of Gailey to put his quarterback in situations to succeed. The team was not loaded with talent for Fiedler to utilize. Gailey made the most of the few weapons. The Miami running backs (with their respective fantasy finish in parenthesis) were Lamar Smith (RB14) and Travis Minor (RB50). The 2010 Bills have a stable of backs that possess more talent and are a better fit for Gailey's offense. The 2001 Miami wideouts (with the respective fantasy finish in parenthesis) were Chris Chambers (WR30), James McKnight (WR44) and Oronde Gadsden (WR47). This was Chambers' rookie season. He was still transitioning to a pro-style offense after playing college football at Wisconsin. Miami was void of a receiving option at the tight end position, with Jed Weaver (finishing as the fantasy TE25) leading the way. Gailey was able to get the most of his limited offensive options. It is amazing what Gailey was able to do with this limited personnel in Miami. The 2001 Dolphins offense had worse play-making options than the 2010 Buffalo Bills. The quarterback position is the only unknown but Gailey should be able to coach up the woeful option in Buffalo.

Gailey was only in Kansas City for one season. He was asked to turn around a struggling offense. With the Chiefs, Gailey was able to get the most out of marginal talent. Most will remember Tyler Thigpen coming on strong at the end of the season to finish as QB12 in fantasy leagues. This was mainly due to Gailey's spread offense that he named the "pistol" with Thigpen in the shotgun. Gailey altered the offense just for Thigpen. He was a raw, athletic rookie from Coastal Carolina. Gailey is likely to do the same in Buffalo after he settles on a passer. He will adapt the offense to whichever quarterback wins the starting job. Gailey had his hands full in Kansas City. The running back position was also a mess that year. Larry Johnson was in the Chiefs' doghouse, missing four games, as a result of his actions off the field. Without Johnson, Gailey mainly used a running back committee. Jamaal Charles was a rookie who found it difficult to transition quickly to the NFL. Kolby Smith was a plodder with a low yards per carry average. Dontrell Savage was just a returner forced into action on offense as a rookie. The lack of a viable running game forced Gailey into the spread offense with the focus on short passes. The wide receivers (with their respective fantasy finish) were Dwayne Bowe (WR16) and a bunch of below average NFL pass catchers led by Mark Bradley (WR66). Tony Gonzalez (who finished as the fantasy TE1), along with Bowe, were the only two reliable weapons for the young passer. Gailey was able to make the most out of Thigpen's strengths, playing out of the shotgun and making limited reads. Gailey has shown the ability to adapt to the skill set of his passer and will do the same in Buffalo, no matter who wins the starting job. If Trent Edwards wins the starting gig, expect an offense similar to the one he ran in Kansas City. Edwards' noodle arm and penchant for interceptions makes playing out of the shotgun an attractive option.

One primary thing to glean from these these examples is that Gailey is an intelligent coach who is willing to tailor his offense around his players. He was able to produce viable passing offenses with no name quarterbacks. This is good news for fans of the Bills ... and fantasy owners. Gailey will get the most out of the limited talent in Buffalo. The team is short on weapons, much like the Miami and Kansas City clubs of Gailey's past. He was able to take advantage of the strengths of Fiedler and Thigpen while hiding their weaknesses. It is amazing that both were good fantasy options. There is a chance we will be saying the same about the 2010 Buffalo quarterback, whomever it is that wins the job. The Bills' quarterbacks are not any worse than those in Miami or Kansas City.

Gailey worked with strong running games in Pittsburgh and Dallas in the 1990s. If those two stints are any indication, he likes to ride his stud. The strength of the Bills' offense is the running back position. Gailey will find a way to get the most from the variety of skills possessed by C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Expect Gailey to get Spiller the ball in space. His speed and quickness will be utilized by the veteran head coach. There is no doubt about it. Buffalo drafted Spiller high for a reason and it is Gailey's job to use him correctly. Jackson will likely get the most carries, while Lynch will battle for touches with the other two. The Bills attempted to trade Lynch earlier in the offseason to no avail. His market value is very low.

Gailey's ability to help his quarterbacks become more productive should only help Lee Evans. The Bills have no other legitimate NFL starter unless rookie Marcus Easley can quickly transition to the pro game after just one good season in college. James Hardy and Stevie Johnson are not candidates for anything other than a role as a low-end possession receiver. One other skill position player to watch is second-year tight end Shawn Nelson. Nelson is very athletic and can make a play after the catch.

Along with the starting quarterback, Jackson and Evans could very well be sleepers for 2010 in many leagues. Both have been written off by the fantasy community. Each has shown ability in the past and could surprise. At quarterback, Gailey will "get" to choose from Edwards, Brian Brohm, or hope that Brown can somehow make tremendous strides in accuracy. Edwards is a mistake-prone passer with poor arm strength. As stated above, if he wins the starting job, expect a short passing game ... probably out of the shotgun. Brohm ran the spread offense at Louisville but flopped badly with the Packers. Could Gailey rehabilitate Brohm's career? Possibly. Brown is a deep longshot. There is also the possibility of the Bills signing a veteran free agent off the street or trading for Thigpen, who now plays for the Miami Dolphins. Given Gailey's ability to make lemonade out of his quarterback lemons, Buffalo is likely to roll with what they currently have on the roster.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com.

© 2010 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved