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Chan Gailey: What Did the Chiefs Get?

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After stints with the University of Florida, Troy State and the Air Force from 1975 to 1984, Chan Gailey landed in Denver as a defensive assistant and special teams coach for the Broncos. In his five year's with the Broncos, the team was ranked in the top ten every year but his last in one of the money stats for special teams -- kick return average.

After head coaching positions with the Birmingham Fire of the World League and Samford University, Gailey made his way back to the NFL as wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He held that position for two years before being promoted to Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator. In his first year as OC, the Steelers' offense was ranked 15th in the NFL. The team was ranked 27th in passing offense and 2nd in rushing offense that year as well.

In Gailey's second year as offensive coordinator, the Steeler's averaged nearly 155 yards rushing per game, good enough for #1 in the NFL. The passing offense remained stagnant and finished the 1997 season ranked 23rd overall. The offense as a whole ranked 6th that year.

In every year Gailey was a coach with the Steelers, they made the playoffs and posted 12, 11, 10 and 11 win seasons respectively. With Gailey at the offensive helm in the 1996 season, the Steelers demolished the Colts 42 to 14 in one of the AFC Wild Card games. Unfortunately, that offensive explosion was quieted the next week when they lost to the Patriots 28 to 3. The Steelers avenged the Patriots loss the next season in the playoffs by beating them 7 to 6 in the divisional round. The Steelers ended up losing the next week in the AFC Championship to the Broncos.

Gailey leveraged his success in Pittsburgh to grab the head coaching position with the Dallas Cowboys, a position he held for two years. Gailey again improved the rushing offense of his team, keeping them ranked in the top ten in the league both years he was head coach. Oddly enough, Gailey took what was in the year before he came a 20th ranked Cowboy passing offense to a 9th ranked passing offense. Then, in 1999, passing production dropped and the Cowboys finished the season ranked 20th overall in passing offense. See a pattern yet?

The 1998 Cowboys posted a 10-6 record and won the NFC East. The 1999 team went .500 but still made the playoffs. Both years Dallas lost in the first round of the playoffs.

In Gailey's two-year stay with the Miami Dolphins as their offensive coordinator, the team hovered around the bottom ten in the league in terms of offensive production. The rushing offense didn't change much -- ranked 22nd in 1999; 14th in Gailey's first year in 2000; and back down to 23rd in his final year. The Dolphins passing offense was middle of the road before Gailey came on and fell to the bottom third of the league during his tenure as offensive coordinator.

Chan Gailey and the Dolphins went to the playoffs both years he was offensive coordinator. In 2000, the Dolphins made it to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs after beating Indianapolis in the wild card game. They were subsequently shut out by the Raiders, 27 to 0. The Dolphins were handily defeated the next year by the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the wild card game.

Chan Gailey spent the next six years as the head coach at Georgia Tech. I'm not going to look much into his 44-32 career record and subsequent resignation last year. College football is a different beast than the NFL. A college coach can lose to his school's biggest rival each year -- like Tech did against the University of Georgia each year Gailey was head coach -- and almost nothing short of a conference or national championship will keep that coach his job. Also, can you imagine recruiting for the ACC in the heart of SEC country? Gailey more than likely got SEC table scraps for recruits.

Now that I've laid out Chan Gailey's coaching resume for you, I hope some of the positives of his coaching career are coming to light.

Gailey has held a number of coaching positions that have encompassed nearly every aspect of football. He was a defensive coach with various colleges in the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. He held the position of defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator during those years. Throughout the rest of his coaching career, he's held the position of head coach, wide receivers coach, special teams coach and offensive coordinator. His coaching career spans over thirty-years and he's had relative success nearly everywhere he's gone.

I can't put it much better than Jon at MVN did yesterday:

  • None of his teams went below .500 and most of his teams won 10+ games

  • His teams usually hovered around the top 15 and usually ended up in the top 10

  • His teams have been very successful in the playoffs

I'm not sure what people who wanted a high-flying spread type offensive coordinator were thinking. Does the Chiefs personnel match up to that style? Not at all in my opinion. With improvement to the offensive line, the Chiefs are built to be a run first, pass second team, which is exactly what Gailey excels in creating. And I'm perfectly fine with that. A healthy Larry Johnson and an adequate offensive line -- a big "if" at this point in the off-season -- has the potential to push our rushing offense back into the top ten. I would much rather build a team around the run than the pass. Running the ball is much more reliable, especially in the playoffs.

Plus, emphasizing (but first shoring up) our league worst running game is only going to help Brodie Croyle. There's no reason to ask a player who hasn't started even half of a season's worth of games to carry the load with no help. Chan Gailey's style of offensive takes pressure off of the passing game, which is exactly what Brodie needs. It will allow him to grow more into the position than baptism by fire. You saw last year what zero threat in the running game can do to a QB.

Finally, Chan Gailey's philosophy meshes well with Herm's. This means more independence for Gailey and more control over his offense. Herm can trust him. Gailey is too established to be taking orders from our head coach. Herm is no longer running the show, baby-sitting a second-year coordinator. He has a professional in the ranks now.

Chan Gailey isn't going to come out and wow us with spectacularly designed plays. But I think he's just the guy out of the other candidates to lead this particular Chiefs' offense. Much like Marty-ball, Gailey's style may not be pretty but it sure is effective. With our defense holding steady, I'm reminded of the mid-1990s when the Chiefs were a balanced, successful football team. We had a few wins during that time, didn't we?

After a night of contemplation, I think this is a great hire by the Chiefs. There was no reason to gamble with the offensive coordinator position.

Update: Warpaint Illustrated has exclusive quotes from Herm about Chan Gailey. They give some good insight on the hire.