I'll be honest with you. I initially wasn't a fan of hiring Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator, the man whom the New York Jets seemingly have their eye on (as of this writing, it isn't official). I actually said at the time that it should disqualify Todd Bowles.
I was wrong.
I've been learning more about Gailey and realizing that my preconceived notions weren't very accurate. The man may not be a good head coach, but he's a solid offensive mind. He isn't going to blow the doors off like Chip Kelly, but he's leagues above the crap the Jets have been throwing against the walls of Florham Park. Here is what I learned:
Gailey is similar in at least one way to Bowles. He's very good at getting production out of inferior players. That's extremely important, especially on a talent deficient team like the Jets. He coached Tyler Thigpen for eleven games in 2008, and was able to coax out over 3,000 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns. He elevated Ryan Fitzpatrick's game enough that he was given a six-year, $60 million contract.
Now, onto his scheme. At its core, it's a spread offense. There are a lot of 11, 10, 01, and 00 personnel, which means lots of receivers. As a side note, personnel groupings are defined by the number of running backs and tight ends. One RB and one TE is 11 personnel. One RB and no TEs are 10 personnel, and no RBs and 1 TE is 01 personnel. If you subtract the sum of those two numbers from five, that's how many wide receivers are on the field (since there are eleven spots on the field, and six are taken by the offensive line and quarterback). That means a lot of receivers on the field on any given play. It's actually somewhat rare for there to be less than three on any given play.
It also means that ground and pound is dead. This is a pass-heavy offense, as Gailey been moving to more passing sets since 1995 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a zone-based scheme ("ZBS"), and there isn't much power running. There are very few two-back sets. As I mentioned, there's almost always 11, 10, or 01 personnel. There's always someone extra back there to help protect the quarterback, so you won't see many sacks, but there's little emphasis on a power run game. This could mean more Bilal Powell, or perhaps the team will sign C.J. Spiller, who had his best year under Gailey in 2012.
In fact, there's generally some sort of deception involved. Gailey's offense rarely just lines up and runs the ball straight up the gut. There are often motions to uncover what the defense is doing, and the offensive line is constantly moving. It requires athletes on the line, because along with the ZBS, there are a lot of pulling of the guards and moving pockets. Although there isn't much in the way of play-action, it isn't uncommon to see the quarterback on the move.
One of the biggest questions, I presume, will be about the quarterback situation and how Gailey will handle that. From what I've seen on tape, Gailey is very adaptable, also like Bowles. As our own John B. has noted, in Kansas City, he ran a lot of pistol formations before it became popular to take advantage of Thigpen's mobility. Gailey didn't have much of an offensive line in Buffalo, so he ran an uptempo offense to have Fitzpatrick get the ball out quickly.
Geno Smith would look good in Chan Gailey's offense. #BillsMafia— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 7, 2012
If you look on the timestamp on that tweet, it was over two years ago when Geno Smith was just a draft prospect. Now, I am absolutely not saying Smith will guaranteed turn into an All-Pro under Gailey. Furthermore, just because this is a spread offense doesn't mean it doesn't have significant differences from the Air Raid that Smith ran in college. That said, Smith will likely be more comfortable in this style of offense, and considering the bleak options in the 2015 NFL Draft (although Marcus Mariota may be a good fit with this offense) and free agency, he may be the team's best shot.
The system is designed to stretch the field, particularly horizontally. Gailey has a tendency to use the outer edge of the field, outside the hashes, for his passing plays; there aren't a ton over the middle. This is intended to stretch the defense out, make them cover boundary-to-boundary, and strain them to the breaking point. There are a lot of short passes to get guys in space and let them do their thing. Although I could see the team signing Randall Cobb in free agency, Percy Harvin would make a very interesting fit as well... if they can get his salary cap number down.
But that's ultimately what this offense is predicated on. There's a lot of wide receivers on the field and the goal is to get them in space. Smith will find himself comfortable in a system that uses the shotgun formation heavily. What makes the offense interesting is that, unlike Brian Schottenheimer's playbook, there really aren't a whole lot of plays. What Gailey does instead is to change the formation and personnel, but running the same core concepts from each, to give you fifteen different looks of what is, at its most basic function, the same play. For further reading, I suggest you take a look at BuffaloRumblings.
Ultimately, Chan Gailey was a victim of the Peter Principle. He was not a good head coach. However, he is a decent offensive mind that, while not the best you'll find, may in fact what the New York Jets truly need.