Home > Bills, buffalo, Buffalo Braves, Chan Gailey, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Uncategorized > Bills’ franchise doldrums places extra pressure on Gailey

Bills’ franchise doldrums places extra pressure on Gailey

By Tim Wendel

My initial reaction to the Buffalo Bills’ naming Chan Gailey as their new head coach? I flash-backed to Lowell “Cotton” Fitzsimmons.

At first blush the two appear to have little in common. Gailey has an 18-14 record in the NFL, while Fitzsimmons went 832-775 in the NBA.

But as I watch the dysfunctional Bills unravel, I’m reminded of the final season of the Braves in Buffalo, when Fitzsimmons was coach. The team went 3-10 in December, 3-9 in January and 3-10 in February in 1977-1978, en route to a dismal 27-55 record. By that point, season ticket sales, including partial plans, had fallen to 2,400. Soon after the year ended, with a 131-114 defeat to Boston, the Braves left Western New York. With John Y. Brown wheeling and dealing, the franchise was swapped with the Boston Celtics and sent west to become the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I think Buffalo got a raw deal as far as the NBA,” Fitzsimmons told my friend Pete Weber years later. “I enjoyed everything Buffalo. What I feel bad about is the franchise … I guess I’ve got to take credit for folding the franchise.”

That brings me back to Chan Gailey. Will he singing the same tune when the Bills leave town? Everyone knows the Bills are in big trouble, seemingly destined to end up in Los Angeles or Toronto or another larger market.

Ironically, if you compare the Braves’ coaches and the Bills’ coaches, the spiral downward is remarkably similar. Both had Hall of Fame coaches, followed by pretenders when the teams desperately needed to win. The Braves’ high-water mark coincided with Jack Ramsay. He was followed by Tates Locke, Bob MacKinnon, Joe Mullaney and Fitzsimmons.

The Bills haven’t been the same since Hall of Famer Marv Levy left after the 1997 season. Those who tried to fill his shoes include Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron and now Gailey.

Buffalo fans better pray the Bills’ new guy can make the team competitive. If not, we could be looking at the Braves’ scenario all over again, with Gailey telling us years later how the Niagara Frontier deserved better.

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