Think of Chan Gailey as the football equivalent of Gene Shue. For you young ‘uns, Gene Shue coached five different NBA teams, making the finals twice but never taking a title. You could, NBA men believed, do a lot worse than having Gene Shue coach your team. But you could also do better.
Not two full years after getting fired by Georgia Tech, Chan Gailey got fired Monday by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’d been the offensive coordinator. Not many assistant coaches get fired in training camp — sometimes they get punched (see: Raiders, Oakland) — but that has become the Gailey signature. He’s a solid football man. Alas, solid isn’t a synonym for “inspired.”
Gailey has had 14 different jobs over 34 years, bouncing between the NFL and college football and even the old USFL. The longest he has stayed in place is six seasons, first as the Denver Broncos’ special teams coach and later at Tech. He has, over time, coordinated both offenses and defenses. He knows a lot about football. You could do worse than having him around. But you could also do better.
Georgia Tech learned as much last fall. In six seasons Gailey never had a losing record but never beat Georgia. He could take a team so far — in 2006 the Jackets won the ACC Coastal but lost the conference title to Wake Forest in the worst game ever played — but no further. If he wasn’t quite the definition of mediocrity, he was close.
Playing under a different coach, Gailey’s recruits beat Georgia in 2008. To say that Gailey left Tech is disarray would clearly be incorrect. He left the program essentially as he found it, which is more than Bill Lewis did. (Around Tech, Bill Lewis is known as “he whose name can never be mentioned.”) But he didn’t take it forward.
And that’s Chan. People hire him because he’s a nice fellow and he knows football, and then they dump him, as Jerry Jones did in Dallas after two playoff seasons, because he doesn’t inspire a team to higher heights.
But not to worry. Even after getting sacked after three exhibitions by one of the worst teams in the NFL, he’ll find work soon enough. Because that’s Chan Gailey, too. At getting hired, he’s among the very best.