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One year later, Chan Gailey says he's almost certainly retired


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."

  • Millhouse

    Should be hired somewhere as an OC, but with younger assistants being hired around the league as HC's, he probably has fewer contacts than a decade ago.

  • MaoSayTongue

    Gailey would've made the playoffs this year with Fitz at QB and a first-round lineman.

    • jim

      With which team?

      • ptato22

        Gailey is not good enough to coach in the NFL. He makes Marrone look like Tom Landry.

  • Maltese Falcon

    Fitzpatrick wasn't the answer one of the biggest mistakes Gailey made was not drafting a QB in the 2012 Draft. Fitzpatrick at best is a backup QB, if he was so good why didn't the Titans go to the playoffs?

    • jim

      Whoever said Fitz was good?

      • Maltese Falcon

        I never said he was good, read my post!

  • Jimi Jamm

    He's a good guy and no matter what he does, I hope he enjoys it.

    • jim

      He's probably a terrific guy but easily succumbed to Ralph Wilson syndrome.

  • jim

    Definitely a serious problem, and that was Gailey coaching the Bills for 3 godforsaken years. Nonetheless, he sets the right example. Seeing as they're never going to play in the post-season again, the Bills should retire, or at least the 12th man so that Brandon will actually have to start working for a living.

    • Maltese Falcon

      You have all the answers, don't ya genius!

  • BuffaloFan4Life

    "...the Medal of Honor Bowl, an all-star game of draft-eligible players not in the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game...."

    Unbelievable. What's next, the "Red Shirt Bowl, an all star game of red shirt freshmen who were not good enough to play for their college teams during their true freshmen seasons, but who still may have a chance to be draft eligible in 2 years"???

    Another "all star" game for the NFL scouts and personnel people to waste their teams' money on and go watch...."The Medal of Honor Bowl." It's amazing. Thousands of draft eligible athletes play in what seems like hundreds of bowl games and all star games. Then comes the process of the NFL Combine for the majority of draft eligible athletes followed by the private work outs for the elite draft eligible athletes. Not to mention the paid visits for the top 25 or so draft eligible athletes from each of the 32 NFL teams themselves.

    And after all of that, with the millions of dollars spent and hundreds of years of scouting experience used by the 32 teams preparing for the draft, and there are not even 32 good quarterbacks playing in the NFL from one year to the next. If there are over 300 football playing colleges every season, and only half of them send juniors or seniors into the draft, that makes a minimum pool of over 150 possible rookie quarterbacks available for teams to draft every season. And still they cannot find just 32 really good ones at any one time to play in the I said, amazing.

    • Dexter_Morgan_II

      you don't have a clue as to how competitive NFL is. look at the numbers you throw out there which doesn't include the thousands of high school qbs who don't make it to college. In your judgment, there aren't 32 good qbs. problem is your unrealistic expectations of "good". They are all good qb and some very good and a handful excellent.

  • eric

    Chan is a man I truly respect. regardless.
    Think he would come back as Bills ST coordinator ?

  • Dexter_Morgan_II

    chan is a good person and good football coach.i think he made a big mistake calling his own plays and not focusing big picture. he may not have been HC NFL material but a lot of coaches like cowher will tell you he was an excellent OC. good man

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.