They’ve collectively won almost 350 NFL games, a Super Bowl title, and a handful of AFC championships. Bill Cowher and Dan Reeves have also enjoyed some of that success with a valuable coordinator on their sideline in Chan Gailey. Now the new head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Cowher and Reeves were praising the hiring decision of owner Ralph Wilson and GM Buddy Nix.
“I think Chan number one has a wealth of experience in the National Football League,” said Cowher. “I don’t think there’s a situation that he’s walked into that he hasn’t been a part of turning it around. He’s a great teacher and a great communicator. The more you’re around him the more you’ll like him and appreciate him.”
Reeves, who has known Gailey since childhood, believes its Gailey’s all-around knowledge of football that makes him such a good fit as a head coach.
“He’s got a whole lot of talent and I think he relates very well to people,” said Reeves. “He knows the game extremely well; he’s coached all phases. He won a National Championship at Troy. When I was at Denver, he was coaching at the Air Force Academy coaching defense. He called me at that time and ended up coming in and coached special teams for me, so he’s coached that and he’s coached offense, quarterbacks, and been offensive coordinator. I think he has a great background.”
Beyond his experience however, Reeves and Cowher felt what made him such a valuable coach was his ingenuity and ability to adjust on the fly.
“He’s very knowledgeable about all kinds of offenses,” said Reeves. “He can run all kinds. It can be a multiple attack that can do anything. I just think he has a great grasp of the game.”
“He has the ability to adapt,” said Cowher. “That’s the one thing to me that separates you in the coaching world. We all have beliefs and systems, but to be able to adapt to what you have and to find a way to get the players to believe in that is what separates you in the coaching world. What Chan has done proves that he can adapt to situations as well as anybody in the league.”
Cowher in fact recalls a particular game in 1996 against Cincinnati when while coaching together with the Steelers their offense was shorthanded at receiver due to injury. It forced Gailey as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator to come up with a much different approach for their attack, which was primarily a three and four wide scheme that season.
“I remember walking into his office and telling him we’d have only one receiver healthy enough to play for the upcoming week,” Cowher said. “He put together a package and told me that was fine, but to let him know that if I could get him a second receiver he’d appreciate it. We went into that game and won it using a completely different package than we had shown all year. We went two tight ends and two backs, but that’s what I most appreciated about him. He was a guy that didn’t cry about what he didn’t have, he’d use what he did have and he’d make it work.”
Gailey may not be known as a coach that will chew a player out, but he’ll demand perfection in his own way. Known as a stickler for mastering the details, Gailey will make sure his players are consistent in their execution.
“He’s very passionate and he’s an unbelievable competitor,” Cowher said. “He’ll leave no stone unturned. He will not accept mediocrity. Being around him I always thought I was a competitive guy, but he might be more competitive than I am. He’s a very driven coach and very thorough and a great fit for the organization.”
And though he successfully took Dallas to the playoffs in his two seasons as Cowboys head coach in 1998 and 1999, Reeves believes the second time around as a head coach in the league could lend itself to having greater success.
“He’s done it on the pro level and the college level so he’s been there, and I think you’re a lot better now then you were when you had your first opportunity,” said Reeves. “I can remember Jerry Jones when I was out there last year said one of the things where he felt he had made a mistake was letting Chan go. I think Chan did a good job there and was headed in the right direction, and it just didn’t work out. I think he’ll be a better head coach now because he’s had that experience.”