NFL Nation: Lamar Smith

Gailey doesn't do backfields by committee

July, 21, 2010
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.
Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards sees three possible landing spots for Michael Vick -- and two of them are in the NFC South.

  Michael Vick timeline Video
  A chronology of events around Vick's troubles, ending with a guilty plea for dog fighting.

Edwards mentions Carolina and New Orleans as possibilities along with Jacksonville. And let's remember, Edwards isn't reporting any of these teams are showing interest in Vick -- he's just offering his opinion on three teams he thinks could make sense. I don't disagree with Edwards on New Orleans (more on that in a moment) and Jacksonville, but I respectfully disagree with him on Carolina.

That's entirely because of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. I just don't see any way Richardson would take a chance on Vick. Richardson has been burned badly twice in the past by Kerry Collins and Rae Carruth.

Those situations bothered Richardson to his very core and he was totally embarrassed that the off-field problems of Collins and Carruth reflected so poorly on a franchise the owner takes enormous pride in. Since Carruth, Richardson has gone out of his way to avoid any player with a checkered past and he's gotten rid of a bunch of other players (Todd Sauerbrun, Chris Terry and Lamar Smith) as soon as they've run into trouble. This one's not going to happen.

As for New Orleans, like I said, I don't disagree with Edwards. His logic is that coach Sean Payton is an offensive guru. Payton has a great quarterback in Drew Brees. But Payton could figure out all sorts of ways to use Vick in a hybrid role or at quarterback in a Wildcat scheme. I say this one's at least possible.

We all know we can rule out a Vick return to Atlanta and Tampa Bay has just made Josh Freeman the franchise quarterback. Although, if Jon Gruden were still coaching the Bucs, they'd almost certainly be in the conversation about Vick.