I don’t envy Russ Brandon.
You see, the Bills’ CEO has a problem that directly affects his expertise.
Brandon’s skill isn’t football, per se — though technically he’s general manager Buddy Nix’s boss — he’s a marketing guy with a proven success record dating back to his days with the Florida Marlins.
But right now he’s stuck with a tough sell.
Buffalo fans have tired of coach Chan Gailey’s questionable decision-making, quizzical play-calling and horrendous clock management.
At 5-8 the Bills are going nowhere and Gailey’s fingerprints are all over three of those losses which — if reversed — would have the Bills in the thick of the wild-card race, rather than out of the postseason for the 13th consecutive year.
And as his team has spiraled into the abyss of mediocrity, or worse, Gailey has gone from being one of the most quotable and forthcoming of NFL coaches to Dick Jauron with a beard.
His explanations of the inexcusable losses to the Titans, Patriots and Sunday afternoon to the Rams, seemingly come from a man who’s overwhelmed by his job with no earthy clue how to rescue his free-falling team.
Worse, his refusal to make more extensive use of running back C.J. Spiller, one of the most potent weapons in the league with the ball in his hands, comes off as arrogance.
It almost seems as if the more the media and fans call for Spiller to be a bigger part of the offense, the more Gailey has taken the “I’ll show you ... I’m smarter than other coaches” posture and even more rigidly sticks to alternating him with Fred Jackson.
Clock management and decision gaffes abound.
Post-game press conferences have devolved into banal, cliched “we didn’t make the plays” fests ... the refuge of so many terrible teams and clueless coaches.
OF COURSE, it doesn’t help that Gailey is unrelenting in his support of flawed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
In fact, it’s a pyramid: Nix staunchly defends Gailey who unfailingly touts his QB.
On Sunday, Fitz’s numbers were respectable — 25-of-33 through the air for 247 yards with a touchdown pass, an interception and a 93.9 passer rating. Missing, though, were the big plays that separate victory from defeat.
The Rams’ Sam Bradford had a lousy day — 19-of-39 for 209 yards, with a TD, a pick and a 62.9 passer rating, a miserable 14.6 in the first half — until the final drive. That’s when he had five of those completions, including a 13-yard connection with wideout Brandon Gibson for the winning touchdown with 48 seconds to play.
Which quarterback would you rather have ... the one with decent numbers rendered meaningless by the loss of a game that should have been won, or the guy who struggled the whole day but had the winning touch come crunch time?
Fitzpatrick is who he is, an extremely bright, likable, even charming QB with a weak arm who’s saddled with Gailey’s god-awful game plans.
Worse, both the coach and the quarterback have seemingly become delusional.
Their press conferences take on a repetitious mantra that the strategy is solid and the Bills are merely a little tweaking from being a very good football team.
Yeah, and with a few physical adjustments, Roseanne Barr could become Cindy Crawford.
HENCE Brandon’s problem.
How does he sell this team — with an increasingly unpopular coach and a totally debunked quarterback — to a disenchanted public which has seen and heard enough from both?
Worse, this is a team that’s expected to leave Western New York when it’s sold after the death of 94-year-old owner Ralph Wilson. Couple the Buffalo’s continuing struggles on the field with the likelihood of a major attendance hit next season and the Bills’ exit could eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In 2013, besides division foes New England, Miami and the Jets, Buffalo will also host the Ravens, Bengals, Falcons, Panthers and either the Raiders or Chiefs.
Not a bad schedule ... unless you’re trying to repackage the GM, coach and QB to an increasingly cynical fan base.
It’s unlikely Brandon, without Wilson’s blessing, could fire the 73-year-old Nix, who’s a separate issue, or Gailey. And the coach and or GM would have to waive Fitzpatrick.
Thus, the CEO faces the greatest marketing job of his career and its difficulty only proliferates if he has to sell Nix, Gailey and Fitzpatrick as part of the package.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)