Can Gailey Get the Chiefs Offense Going?
January 21, 2008
By Terry Blount
Edited by Herija C. Green
The Kansas City Chiefs finished the 2007 season with a disappointing 4-12 record. A primary factor for the Chiefs woes was a lackluster offense that finished last in the NFL in rushing yards, 19th in passing yards and 31st in scoring. As a result the team dismissed offensive coordinator Mike Solari and hired former Dallas Cowboys head coach Chan Gailey as his successor.
After 10 years as a college coach, including two years as head coach at Troy State, Gailey began coaching in the NFL in 1985 as defensive assistant and special teams coach for the Denver Broncos. He served as the Broncos' special teams and tight ends coach from 1986-87, then as quarterbacks coach in 1988 before serving as offensive coordinator from 1989-90. In 1989, the Broncos offense finished tied for eighth in the league in scoring, sixth in rushing yards and 23rd in passing yards. In 1990, the Broncos offense finished 16th in the NFL in scoring, 14th in rushing yards and seventh in passing yards.
Gailey left the NFL in 1991 to become the head coach of the World League of American Football's Birmingham Fire. After serving two seasons in Birmingham, Gailey returned to the college ranks to become the head coach at Stamford in 1993. In 1994, Gailey returned to the NFL as the wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being named the team's offensive coordinator in 1996. Gailey served as the Steelers' offensive coordinator for two seasons, and his units were among the league's best in scoring (11th in the league in 1996; seventh in 1997) and rushing yards (second in the NFL in 1996; first in 1997), but they were less impressive in passing yards (13th in the NFL in 1996; 23rd in 1997).
Gailey was hired in 1998 as the head coach of the Cowboys, a job he held for two seasons. In 1998, the Cowboys offense finished ninth in the league in scoring, eighth in rushing yards and ninth in passing yards. In 1999, they finished 11th in the NFL in scoring, seventh in rushing yards and 24th in passing yards. As the Cowboys head coach, Gailey posted a combined record of 18-14 in two seasons, and the team fired him following the 1999 campaign. After leaving Dallas, Gailey became the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins from 2000-01. During Gailey's tenure, the 2000 Dolphins finished 16th in scoring, 14th in rushing yards and 27th in passing yards. In 2001, they finished eighth in scoring, 23rd in rushing yards and 19th in passing yards. Gailey left Miami in 2002 to become the head coach at Georgia Tech, where he served until 2007. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, Gailey's offenses usually emphasized running the ball.
Though many of the teams that Gailey coached featured offensive attacks with a balance between the run and the pass, his offenses usually emphasized a strong running game. Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards has stated that he would like to stress a ball-control offense, and Gailey's offensive philosophy should fit Edward's plans quite well. Though the 2008 Chiefs offense will likely feature a more balanced offensive than the "smash-mouth" attack featured by former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer, it is a safe bet that Gailey will have the team running the ball early and often.
What He'll Need to Succeed
After featuring a sometimes spectacular offensive attack under former head coach Dick Vermeil, Edwards inherited a team with an aging and depleted offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf retired following the 2005 campaign and Pro Bowl right guard Will Shields followed suit after the 2006 season. The Chiefs had no competent successors for these players and suddenly one of the best offensive lines in the NFL become one of the league's worst units in 2006-07. The Chiefs offensive line allowed an NFL-worst 54 sacks in 2007; numbers that quickly neutralize any offense. In order for Gailey's offense to succeed, a personnel upgrade along the Chiefs offensive line is essential and is perhaps the team's most glaring need.
The jury is still out on second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle. While making some solid throws at times, Croyle's 2007 performance was erratic, and the club could look into adding another quarterback either through the draft or free agency.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez continued to play at an All-Pro level in 2007, but he'll be 32 in February, and the club might have to look at a tight end of the future. Rookie wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had an excellent rookie campaign, but the club needs to make major upgrades to the rest of its wide receiver corps. Running back Larry Johnson (foot) suffered a foot injury in Week 9 that brought his 2007 season to an end, but he should return healthy and ready for the 2008 campaign. Backup running back Kolby Smith proved to be a pleasant surprise in Johnson's absence, as the rookie rushed for 407 yards and scored two touchdowns in relief of Johnson.
The Chiefs offense will likely require many personnel changes, meaning Gailey's offensive philosophy won't likely revive the team overnight. As alluded to earlier, Gailey's offense won't likely be effective in Kansas City until the team improves the talent level on its offensive line, gets more consistent play at quarterback and replaces aging or ineffective receivers. If even some of these pieces of the puzzle can be obtained, Gailey has the potential to vastly improve the Chiefs' offensive production. With a run-first offensive approach the fantasy implications for Johnson are obvious. Johnson should return to the upper echelon of fantasy running backs provided the team upgrades its offensive line. Croyle remains a work in progress while Bowe has some upside, and Gonzalez remains among the elite at the position.