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Sunday, December 23, 2012
Gailey-Fitzpatrick era must end in Buffalo

By James Walker

Chan Gailey
Time may be up for Bills head coach Chan Gailey, left, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
MIAMI -- Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick are likeable, smart and have good NFL experience.

However, Gailey is not the right head coach for the Bills and Fitzpatrick is not the right fit at quarterback. Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium continued to hammer that point home. After three awful seasons, it is crystal clear.

The Bills fell to 5-10 and cemented their third consecutive season of double-digit losses under Gailey and Fitzpatrick. The shame is this was by far Buffalo's most talented team in that span. But Gailey and Fitzpatrick continue to hold this team back. It's time for the Bills to stop spinning their wheels.

The success of any NFL franchise is closely tied into the success of its coach and quarterback. Buffalo has one of the league's weakest pairings. The Bills must cut ties with both. Getting rid of just one will simply stunt Buffalo's growth in 2013. Keeping both would potentially cripple the franchise. This was a no-excuse year for Gailey and Fitzpatrick -- and both fell flat.

After the game, Gailey looked worn down but said he's not thinking about his job security.

"No, I worry about getting better and playing to our abilities," Gailey said. "We haven't done it, and that’s my responsibility to get that done. We're not there."

Fitzpatrick's situation is easier to predict. The Bills signed him to a six-year, $59 million contract extension in 2011, and Fitzpatrick has been mostly a disappointment. He's 7-19 in his past 26 starts and entered this weekend with the third-most turnovers in the NFL the past two seasons.

Buffalo can save $4.45 million on its salary cap and $7.45 million in cash by cutting Fitzpatrick by the second day of the league year next March. If the Bills keep him, Fitzpatrick's total cap number will be $10.45 million next season.

Cutting Fitzpatrick appears to be a no-brainer. Bills general manager Buddy Nix already expressed the desire to upgrade the position via the draft or free agency.

Fitzpatrick threw for 240 yards and one touchdown Sunday. He lost a fumble in an ugly first half and threw an inexcusable interception at the goal line at the end of the fourth quarter with the Bills driving.

"The first half is as poor as we've played offensively since I’ve been here," Fitzpatrick said. "We made a couple plays but had a couple fumbles, false starts, a lot of different things you can’t have if you want to be a good football team."

Gailey's situation is a little more unpredictable. He recently received a public backing from Nix, but making a case to keep Gailey is becoming increasingly difficult.

Sunday’s game was pretty much on par with what we've seen in Buffalo's losses all year. The sloppy Bills had 11 penalties and four turnovers. The team looked underprepared and continued to make silly mistakes that are inexcusable this late in the year.

The Bills fell behind 24-3 after three quarters and were never in this game.

"If we score [at the end] and get the onside kick, it's a competitive game," Gailey said of the 14-point final margin.

The time for excuses is over for Gailey and Fitzpatrick. Three years is enough of a sample size to realize this is not right pairing for the Bills' organization.

The sooner Buffalo starts over with a new head coach and quarterback, the quicker the Bills can turn things around.