AFC East: Travis Minor

Gailey doesn't do backfields by committee

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
9:27
AM ET
The Buffalo Bills have three identifiable running backs on their roster: a 2008 Pro Bowler, a 1,000-yard rusher last year and the ninth overall draft pick in 2010.

With such talent in the backfield, folks have wondered how new head coach Chan Gailey will delegate the touches among Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Those who assume Gailey will spread around carries with a semblance of equity shouldn't be so sure.

In fact, if Gailey doesn't designate a workhorse and ride him hard, it would be the first time he declines to do so since his rookie season as an offensive coordinator in 1988.

In an ESPN fantasy football column, Matthew Berry provides an enlightening look at Gailey's history with running backs since the Dallas Cowboys hired him to be head coach in 1998. The chart also included Gailey's subsequent play-calling gigs with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.


As we can see, Gailey doesn't split carries. True, he had Emmitt Smith in Dallas, but Gailey saddled up Lamar Smith in two seasons with Miami and Larry Johnson, who played only 12 games for Kansas City in 2008.

Not included in Berry's chart are Gailey's pre-Dallas stops as offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos (1988-89) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-97).

The trend of one dominant back generally remains.

In his first season as an NFL playcaller, Gailey had a pair of over-the-hill backs in Tony Dorsett and Sammy Winder. Dorsett had 181 carries for 703 yards, while Winder ran 149 for 543 yards. The next season, however, rookie Bobby Humphrey took over with 294 carries, nearly three times as many as Winder.

Jerome Bettis was Gailey's go-to guy in Pittsburgh. Eric Pegram managed 509 yards on only 97 carries in 1996, but the Steelers' second-leading rusher the next season was quarterback Kordell Stewart.

Gailey's track record shows an obvious preference for one back taking 300-plus handoffs.

NOTE: As readers correctly pointed out, Thurman Thomas was not Miami's second-most-productive back in 2000. That was J.J. Johnson. The chart has been adjusted, removing Thomas and inserting Johnson. Actually, quarterback Jay Fiedler had more rushing attempts than either of them.

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