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Gailey, Fitzpatrick appear ready to live or die together

By Tim Graham

PHOENIX -- Head coaches often are only as good as their quarterbacks.

Of the 23 modern-era quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, all but seven of them played for a coach who also has been inducted.

Conversely, bad quarterback play usually will doom a coach.

They live and die together, and that's apparently what Chan Gailey intends to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Gailey reaffirmed his commitment to Fitzpatrick after Sunday's 45-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick Park and explained why the next day.

"I've got a great deal of confidence," Gailey said. "I've seen him do it too many times. He hadn't hit a couple of passes that we all wish he had, but I think he can do it and I think he will do it."

Gailey has changed his mind on quarterbacks before.

In 2010, after extensive film study, an entire summer of practices, minicamp and training camp, Gailey found Trent Edwards to be the more viable starter compared to Fitzpatrick -- so much so that Edwards started all four preseason games. Fitzpatrick didn't play in one of the exhibitions and attempted just 23 passes all preseason.

Yet after two regular-season games, Edwards not only lost his job, but he was cut from the team, suddenly deemed not good enough to be a backup. Fitzpatrick went from limited reps to the unquestioned starter.

This summer, Gailey all but named Vince Young the No. 2 quarterback one week and released him the next. The team traded for Tarvaris Jackson, who hasn't been activated for a game yet.

As it stands, Gailey is placing his future as Bills coach on Fitzpatrick.

I asked Fitzpatrick on Monday what he thought about that.

"That's something, for me, I don't need to sit and put that on my shoulders every week and every play," Fitzpatrick said. "I think if you do that and you start pressing that you're not going to be effective.

"I've got to go out there and just play. I guess that's the biggest thing for me. I don't think about that stuff when I'm out there. I don't think about, 'I've got to make this play, or else.' Or, 'We've got to win this game, or else.' For me, it's just trying to go out there and execute the offense."

Fitzpatrick also talked about the gratitude many players on the Bills roster should have toward Gailey for trusting them enough to give them NFL opportunities.

"Now, for us, we've got to be able to repay him with the confidence he's shown in us and go out and get the job done," Fitzpatrick said.

But at what point should an opportunity come to an end?

"This is a production business," Fitzpatrick replied. "I think everybody knows that. You've got to be able to go out there and produce, produce consistently at a high level.

"For us, as a team and really as an offense, we've got to do a better job than we have the last few weeks. I think we will."

Gailey also dropped a "production business" reference when discussing the team's tenuous situation.

"I want you to know I'm always worried about the job I do," Gailey said. "I don't worry about employment. I worry about doing the job I've been hired to do.

"We haven't done an acceptable job the last couple of weeks, and I understand that. We're in a production business. That's where we are. If we don't get it straightened out, it's going to be a long, hard season."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |