One year later, Chan Gailey says he's almost certainly retired
Updated 4:21 PM , January 6, 2014
Chan Gailey went through a rebuilding year in 2013.
There he was again, on his hands and knees, trying to cultivate a winner. He planted the seeds and hoped to watch his prospects grow.
Eventually, though, the former Buffalo Bills head coach realized a serious problem.
"I botched it," Gailey told me this afternoon. "I put too many tomato plants in there."
There aren't any training camps for gardening.
For the first time since the 1960s, before he played quarterback at the University of Florida, Gailey didn't participate in a football offseason. After the Bills fired him, he chose to take a year off to discover whether he was suited for retirement.
"There was some withdrawal," Gailey said by phone from Charleston, S.C. "I don't miss Monday through Saturday, but I miss game day.
"It would have to be a special situation for me to get back in. You never say never, but I think I'm done."
Gailey and his wife, Laurie, live in his grandmother's renovated house in Clarkesville, Ga., tucked in the Northeast corner of the state -- in the Appalachian Mountain foothills -- a few miles from the South Carolina and North Carolina borders. His two sons and five grandchildren are nearby.
"I'm doing nothing, and I'm good at it," Gailey said. "I act like a normal human being. I cut the grass. I had a garden. I play golf. It's what other people do, I guess."
Some of Gailey's competitiveness shifted to agriculture. By his standards, the results were inconsistent.
"But I learned a lot," Gailey said. "We had cucumbers. We had peppers. We had more squash than you could ever eat. We had green beans.
"It was fun to do it. I'll get better at it, hopefully."
Gailey laughed at the idea of needed a season to establish a new garden culture.
"I wasn't a total failure in the transition," Gailey said. "I think I can build on the foundation from last year."
Gailey is coaching against Ralph Friedgen in the Medal of Honor Bowl, an all-star game of draft-eligible players not in the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game. The Medal of Honor Bowl happens Saturday afternoon at The Citadel.
Gailey said he couldn't turn down an opportunity to "keep his hand in the game," but being away from football and spending time with his family impacted his career perspectives.
Several NFL teams and college programs are going through overhauls and might be interested in adding a veteran offensive mind, someone who has been an NFL and major-college head coach within the past five years, to their staffs.
Gailey was the first Bills head coach since Marv Levy retired not to remain in the NFL after he left.
Gailey noted how much calmer life has been for him and Laurie.
"It's just different now, me being around all the time," Gailey said. "But the stress level for her is so small right now. You can just see it on her. She wanted us to win and be successful. It took a lot out of her for us not to win.
"I've just seen her be able to relax this year more than ever before. That would be a major consideration for not coming back."