Chan Gailey took over as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2010, leading the team to a disappointing 4-12 record. Now, in his second season, the 59-year-old coach is in position to match last year's win total just five games into the season.
His 3-1 Bills have improved their defensive ranking from 28th in the league to 16th and are scoring nearly twice as many points per game this season (33.2) than they did last season (17.7). Despite the fact that the Bills have had just one winning season since 1999, Gailey says his team's recent success has come as no surprise to the players and the coaching staff.
"Every game we go into, we expect to win," he said. "It's more surprising for us to lose than it is for us to win. We have a good quarterback who understands what it takes to win in this league and who understands how important it is to take care of the ball. He's been around the block and he's playing great football right now."
The quarterback to which he is referring is Harvard-alum Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be making his 37th career start Sunday against the Eagles. The former seventh-round pick has steadily improved in each of his three seasons as the primary starter in Buffalo, especially in his two seasons under Gaile. Fitzpatrick's passer rating grew from 69.7 in 2009 to 81.8 in 2010. IT now stands at 96.9.
The 11-year NFL coach knows, however, that the Eagles pose a unique challenge for the 7th-year quarterback and understands that the Eagles are a team that can "give offenses headaches." The league's sack leaders will try to put pressure on Fitzpatrick early and often.
"The Eagles are an excellent pass-rushing team," said Gailey. "They get up the field and force bad passes. With our starting left tackle, Demetrius Bell, out, we are going to be playing a new guy (Chris Hairston) there. Needless to say, he's going to be baptized in a very bad way against this defense.
"They don't try to get fancy. Their defensive linemen just explode off the snap and come right at you with great technique and athleticism."
Although the Bills lost last week to rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, the Eagles are not expecting Buffalo to repeat last week's mistakes. Gailey has his team believing, for the first time in many years, that they have the talent to be a playoff team.
"We plan to win. We're going to prepare the same way we have for the last few weeks, he said. "If you have a knee-jerk reaction to a loss, you're in trouble. The key is to bear down on the fundamentals and play the way you know how to play."