Kansas City, Mo. Last time Todd Haley and Chan Gailey were together, somebody got fired. This time, somebody will get beat.
The question is whether Kansas City will gain an edge today because Haley learned how Gailey thinks and game-plans before he ousted him as Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. Or, might the Buffalo Bills draw extra motivation because their head coach, canned by Haley 13 days before the ’09 opener, thirsts for revenge?
Both men say no way.
Haley, whose Chiefs (4-2) stand atop the weak AFC West, insists it’s impossible to predict what Gailey or any other coach is going to do.
“So much changes on a year-to-year basis, even on a week-to-week basis,” Haley said. “Teams are adjusting and figuring out what their guys do best and how they do things and what works best for them. I think a great deal of that is overrated. Coach Gailey has been a head coach a lot longer and in more places than I have.”
Haley inherited Gailey as offensive coordinator when he replaced the fired Herm Edwards in Kansas City following the 2008 season. There were whispers that their football philosophies were clashing. But they made it all the way through spring workouts and training camp before Haley fired Gailey — and replaced him with himself.
Gailey, who has over three decades of coaching experience, landed in Buffalo last January, where he’s struggling to get the Bills (0-6) on their feet. Buffalo is the league’s last winless team.
“I understood exactly where Todd was coming from. He and I were on different pages and he wanted to do it the way he wanted to do it and I understand that completely,” Gailey said. “I’ve been there. I know exactly what was going on. There are no hard feelings. It’s business. I understand it and you go on with life. That’s the way it is.”
All thoughts of insider knowledge aside, beating the Bills and starting 4-0 at home one year after starting 0-4 would seem to require a simple recipe.
Led by Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs sport the NFL’s leading rushing attack, averaging a robust 176.5 yards per game. The Bills have been a sieve, giving up an NFL-worst 174.5 yards on the ground. So the Chiefs should simply run, run, run and pocket an easy victory in a match that would seem to be made in Kansas City heaven. Right?
“That’s just on paper,” said Brian Waters, Kansas City’s left guard. “The game isn’t played on paper. Watching them on tape and watching their defensive line, I’m surprised at what the numbers are what they are. I really feel like the strength of their defense is the secondary, but I think they have a huge amount of talent up front.”
Actually, the Bills made an in-season switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense in an effort to shore up their run defense. And last week in a 37-34 overtime loss to Baltimore, the signs were encouraging.
After allowing 689 yards rushing in a three-game span, the Bills had, for them, a good day. The Ravens had a relatively paltry 135 yards on the ground — though they spent much of the game in pass-first mode.
And there were other positives coming out of the game for Buffalo, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career-best 382 yards passing and Lee Evans’ three touchdown catches.
“We had opportunities. You have to look at the positives and build on that and you have to take the negatives and hopefully learn from that so that you don’t make those same mistakes again,” Gailey said.
Charlie Weis, who replaced Haley as offensive coordinator this year, has led a quick revival of the Chiefs. With almost 350 yards per game, they’re 12th in the league.