Wednesday, January 20

Profiles in just not giving a crap anymore.

I assure you this is real:

That's right: Chan Gailey, whitest man in America, innovative architect of "Chan Gailey Equilibrium," and offensive coordinator who was fired last year after three preseason games -- that's right, not even regular-season games, preseason games -- with the Kansas City Chiefs, has been hired to be the head coach of something. In this case, "something" is the Buffalo Bills, a New York-based charitable organization that provides work opportunities for mediocre, washed-up football coaches, in addition to frequently fielding a professional football team.

I have conflicted emotions about this. On the one hand, I am bitterly disappointed to see that Gailey didn't return to the college level and end up at any of Georgia's arch-rivals who were hunting for head or assistant coaches over the past few weeks. (Gailey attended the University of Florida and was a grad assistant there in the mid-'70s; why, oh why did they not see fit to bring him home?) On the other hand, it put a lot of things in perspective for me, as a lifelong Washington Redskins fan, vis-á-vis Daniel Snyder's almost uniformly atrocious ownership. The guy's an idiot, no doubt, but at least he never seriously (to my knowledge) considered hiring Chan Gailey.

So even though I stopped doing the Monday Morning Cage Match a couple months back just because I got kind of bored with it, it seems like the perfect way of determining which coaching hire was more inexplicable: the Chanster to the Bills, or Lane Kiffin to the USC Trojans. Both decisions are redolent with apathy, the actions of managers who for whatever reason lost all hope of being able to hire someone good and were content to simply throw a contract through the car window of the first guy who actually expressed any interest in the job -- actually, in Gailey's case, the hiring was so surrender-riffic that they probably just text-messaged him a contract, but whatever. Using an expanded version of the Cage Match, we shall determine which of the two hires was more embarrassing: Let the Gailey-Kiffin battle royale begin!

You name it, Chan Gailey has coached it, from the lower college divisions to DI-A to the NFL to the World League of American Football, whatever the hell that was. He's only spent two years as an NFL head coach, but he does have 13 years as an offensive assistant, including four Super Bowl appearances. Thirteen years total as a coach at any level -- well, make that 12.25: He was fired a quarter of the way through his second season with the Oakland Raiders. And actually, you might want to scale that back even further, because I think one of those years was as a grad assistant, and another was a year spent as a "quality control assistant" with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yeah, ha-ha, very funny, you got coffee for Tom Coughlin. Stop trying to make it something it wasn't, Lane. Then again, he was the offensive coordinator for Southern Cal during the 2005 season, when the Trojans averaged 49 points and 579 yards per game, so there's that.

That "Chan Gailey Equilibrium" thing? Oh, it's real. In 13 years as a head coach at various levels, Gailey has assembled an aggregate record of 98-63-1, which averages out to 7.54 wins and 4.85 losses per season. (And 0.08 ties, but come on, you just know he's gonna find a way to tie someone at least once in the NFL.) He is the Toyota Camry of head coaches: satisfactory, dependable, he'll get you from point A to point B ("point B" in this case being the Humanitarian Bowl), but you will never, ever be remotely enthused or invigorated while he does so. In 20 games with the Raiders and 13 with the Vols, Kiffin is 12-21. Yes, the USC Trojans just hired a guy who's nine games under .500, lifetime. He'll have to go at least 11-2 with the Trojans this season just to get to .500. And as much derision as has been heaped on his UT successor, Derek Dooley, in various corners of the blogosphere, not only is Dooley's 17-20 record better than Kiffin's was when Kiffin first came to Knoxville, it's better than Kiffin's now.

In 2007, the Kansas City Chiefs were 19th in the NFL in passing, dead last in rushing, and next-to-last in total offense; they finished 4-12. In 2008, Gailey's first year as offensive coordinator, they were 18th in passing, 16th in rushing, and . . . seventh-worst in total offense. And they went 2-14. Progress! At any rate, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley was unimpressed enough with Gailey's performance that he saw fit to fire him after just three preseason games the following year. Yeah, I'm gonna repeat that as many times as it takes to sink in. Went 7-6 at Tennessee, which is considerably less than what most Vol fans expect but better than the team's 5-7 record the season before he arrived. The Vols blew Georgia and South Carolina off the field, got jackhammered by Ole Miss and Virginia Tech, and played agonizingly close games against top-five Florida and Alabama teams that they had no real business staying within three touchdowns of; an average season in pretty much every respect.

Bill Cowher. Wait, what? Yeah, apparently the Bills went to Cowher to try to lure him to Buffalo, and he said no but suggested his former offensive coordinator from the Steelers. Wow. Cowher is a guy that at least 30 NFL teams would sell their mothers into white slavery to get, so his word means a lot here. So much that it actually counteracts a recommendation from Jerry Jones, who reportedly said he "regretted" having fired Gailey back in 1999. (Actually, since Jer-bear ended up replacing Gailey with Dave Campo, perhaps his regret is sincere.) Ummm . . . his dad?

Took the Cowboys to the playoffs in both of his years in Dallas, including his first year as the NFC East champions. (Even if he did proceed to lose in the first round of the playoffs that year and hand the Arizona Cardinals their first playoff victory in 50 years.) We could say the moral victory against Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators, the equally moral victory against eventual national champion Alabama, but those aren't actual wins. We know what the biggest win of Tennessee's 2009 season was, and it was the prison-shower cornholing they gave to my Georgia Bulldogs up in Knoxville. In retrospect, that might have been the best humiliating beatdown we ever had -- I have to think it accelerated the dismissal of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and two other defensive assistants who hadn't been getting anything done -- but that doesn't change the fact that, at the time, I wanted to disembowel myself and strangle myself with my own entrails.

Aside from getting shitcanned in the preseason, it'd have to be losing to Georgia all six years of his tenure at Georgia Tech. That losing streak was arguably set into motion by the loss he suffered in his first year with the Yellow Jackets, a 51-7 napalming in which the intimidation was visible in his team's eyes almost from the moment the Dawgs put their first points on the board. From then on, you could almost set your watch by the point Gailey's Jackets would crap their pants against the Bulldogs (though, in his defense, Reggie Ball obviously had a lot to do with that). Probably getting curb-stomped by Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which closed out Kiffin's first and only season. A Hokie offense that struggled to score on East Carolina a couple months earlier went apeshit on the Volunteer defense, winning 37-14 and handing the Vols their sixth straight loss in the Georgia Dome. (Seriously, y'all, just don't play there anymore. You're like the character in the horror movie who goes back upstairs even though it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that they're about to be sliced up like prosciutto.)

Well, if Chan Gailey Equilibrium continues to hold in Buffalo, a 7-5 season in college should equate to, oh, let's say a 9-7 season in the NFL. Since the league went to 32 teams in 2002, nine wins gives you just under a 40% chance of making the playoffs -- which, actually, is probably an improvement for the Bills, now that I think about it. Ruthless recruiter. Also has a fairly hot wife.

CONCLUSION: USC's hiring of Lane Kiffin is actually more embarrassing than the Bills' hiring of Chan Gailey. Congratulations, USC: Buffalo hired a coach whose very name has become synonymous with mediocrity and the bare minimum in terms of acceptable achievement -- the "wearing only 15 pieces of flair" of football coaches, if you will -- and yet all available evidence indicates that it was still a smarter move than bringing Lane Kiffin back to Los Angeles. This may seem hard to fathom right now, but in three years, when the Bills are patting themselves on the back for another 8-8 season while the Trojans anxiously fret over whether recruiting violations will keep them from accepting the EagleBank Bowl bid that's otherwise rightfully theirs, you will see that I was right.

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