By Sal Maiorana - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
ORCHARD PARK - If there is one characteristic that has been a constant for Chan Gailey's three teams in Buffalo, it's this: They don't stop trying, no matter what the situation.
There have been plenty of games that didn't mean a thing, opportunities for the Bills to mail it in, such as Sunday's 28-9 victory over the hapless New York Jets. And while sometimes it looks like they've quit, it's always because they're being outplayed and/or outclassed by superior teams, not because they packed it in.
Will that be enough to save Gailey's job? Probably not, but who knows, really?
Here are my final-game thoughts:
• The Bills could do worse at quarterback than Ryan Fitzpatrick, and I offer as example A, Mark Sanchez. He's brutal. And the way he has played almost all year makes you wonder how in the world the Jets went to the AFC Championship Game his first two years at the helm.
• Who wanted to scream when, early in the fourth quarter, the Bills had a third-and-1 at the Jets 19, and C.J. Spiller lined up in the backfield, angled into the flat, and caught a quick pass for six easy yards and a first down? Why, why, why did it take until the last game of the year for Gailey to realize it's probably a good idea to utilize your best player in the red zone? Gailey's misuse of Spiller was his greatest coaching failure here.
• And speaking of screaming, how about when Gailey opted to try a 50-yard field goal on 4th-and-3 at the 32, rather than go for it in a game that meant nothing. And then about two minutes later, 4th-and-4 at the 28, he kicked again rather than go for it. Rian Lindell missed both kicks. Once again, playing not to lose. Infuriates me, and it should you, too.
• This was not one of Spiller's best days. It was his worst as a rusher in terms of yards per carry (2.5) as he gained only 59 yards on a career-high 24 carries. Yet he had an explosive play, a 66-yard catch-and-run TD and finished with 131 yards from scrimmage. That's why you feed him the ball whenever you can, because he's liable to break one at any moment, and the more opportunities he gets the better.
• Brad Smith had to love catching two passes for 26 yards, and running twice for 20 yards and a TD out of the Wildcat formation against his former team. Good for him. Now, if Gailey is fired, let's hope the Wildcat exits with him.
• I fear we have seen the last game for Jairus Byrd as a Bill. I'm not sure they can re-sign both Byrd and Andy Levitre, their two most important free agents, and I just think Byrd will command more on the open market. I do think the Bills will retain at least one of them.
• Of the 13 straight non-playoff seasons, this one ranks as the second-worst for me. Losing the 2004 finale to the Steelers backups when a win would have gotten the Bills in the playoffs still holds strong at No. 1. But with all the hype, the expectations, the supposed roster upgrades, this 6-10 flop ascends to runner-up. There were no excuses for this debacle. Better roster, manageable schedule. Failure, through and through.