(Eds: Updates throughout. With AP Photos.)|
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Acknowledging the Buffalo Bills have spent a portion of this season spinning their wheels, coach Chan Gailey maintains that the team is headed in the right direction - and he's already making plans for next year.
``Now, we don't have many wins to show for it at this point, but I believe we can get there,'' Gailey said Monday. ``And I have a great deal of confidence in the direction we're headed.''
Gailey was forthright in assessing the state of his team. And he didn't shy away from answering questions regarding his job security in the face of mounting criticism now that the Bills (5-8) are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a 13th straight season.
``When you don't win, all that stuff comes up. We know that,'' Gailey said. ``We haven't gotten over the hump. We're close. ... To me, we're a better football team than we were three years ago when we got here.''
Optimism aside, Gailey is disappointed by how the offense has sputtered over the past month. And he's unhappy with how the team has faltered in failing to close out victories.
The Bills, who ``host'' Seattle (8-5) at Toronto this weekend, are coming off a 15-12 loss to St. Louis in which they squandered the lead in the final minute. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford directed a 14-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds left.
That was reminiscent of a 35-34 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 21 in which the Titans scored the go-ahead TD with 1:03 remaining.
The Bills are 15-30 since Gailey took over in 2010. This season's record is a considerable disappointment based on the high expectations the Bills raised after signing free-agent defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million deal in March.
Fans and members of the media are faulting Gailey.
Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News called for Gailey to be fired in a column in Monday's edition. WGR-Radio, the team's broadcast partner, posted a poll on its website asking whether a coaching change is necessary.
Gailey has at least one year left on his contract and general manager Buddy Nix has insisted he has no intention of firing the coach. Nix explained that maintaining continuity is important for a team playing under its fifth head coach since Hall of Famer Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season.
Bills players maintain their support for Gailey.
``Those people who want him fired, they must not understand football, including yourself,'' running back C.J. Spiller said, referring to a reporter who suggested Gailey should be fired. ``He's my coach, and I've got his back.''
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is fully behind Gailey, too, and also took exception to a reporter's line of questioning.
``I don't know what you want me to say,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``There's still belief in this locker room. I know you don't believe, which is fine. But there's still belief in this locker room in each other.''
Gailey has been second-guessed for under-utilizing Spiller, who was limited to just seven carries - only three in the second half - against St. Louis. That's despite Spiller averaging 6.55 yards per attempt, the NFL's highest total through 13 games since Jim Brown averaged 6.61 in 1963 with the Cleveland Browns.
Gailey defended his decision to limit Spiller, saying his plan has been to split the duties evenly with co-starter Fred Jackson. Spiller will now get his opportunity to carry the load with Jackson set to miss the rest of the season after spraining his right knee against St. Louis.
Gailey was also criticized for mismanaging the clock in the final minute of the first half against the Rams.
Despite facing first-and-10 at the St. Louis 34 with 1:02 left, and having all three time outs, the Bills managed just 12 yards on three short passes and a run before settling for Rian Lindell's 40-yard field goal.
Even Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas expressed his disappointment in a message posted on his Twitter account. ``Not good calls,'' Thomas wrote as the half ended.
Gailey defended his decisions by saying he was afraid to attempt a long pass for fear Fitzpatrick would be sacked. The Bills gave up five sacks on Sunday and had difficulty protecting the quarterback with two offensive linemen making their first NFL career starts in place of injured regulars.
The production on offense has dropped off. After averaging 24.4 points through the first seven games, Buffalo's averaged 19.67 over its past six.
``I don't want to make excuses. We're not getting the job done. And I'm responsible,'' Gailey said. ``I expect us to do better. And I plan for us to do better.''
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