FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Chan Gailey was out of football for two years, spending his Sundays on the golf course instead of the gridiron. At 63, he figured his coaching days were over and he was fine with that. Then Todd Bowles offered him a job as the New York Jets' offensive coordinator.
And so ended his retirement.
"There's one big reason, and it's a personal reason," Gailey said Wednesday, explaining his decision to return. "I want to win a championship."
After two decades as an NFL assistant and head coach, Gailey still is chasing that first Super Bowl title. He coached in four Super Bowls (three with the Denver Broncos, one with the Pittsburgh Steelers) and lost them all. In some respects, he can relate to two of his star players, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall. They've played a combined 21 seasons and neither has appeared in the postseason.
Remember the great "gaps" line from the original "Rocky" movie? Rocky, explaining his attraction to Adrian, tells Paulie, "She's got gaps, I got gaps. Together, we fill gaps."
The Jets have gaps, too, especially their leaders on offense. They're chasing championship glory -- the old coordinator, the kicked-around quarterback and the well-traveled receiver. At 8-5, they're in position to claim a wild-card berth.
"But as Todd likes to say, 'We haven't done anything yet,'" Gailey said.
Gailey has done a terrific job with the Jets' offense, which is ranked No. 9 in total yards. That's no small accomplishment, considering they haven't fielded a top-10 offense since 1998. He was a curious choice by Bowles, considering they had no previous relationship, but Gailey was recommended by a mutual friend, George Edwards, the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator. Bowles identified Gailey as his coordinator choice a year before he was hired to replace Rex Ryan.
"I completely thought I would not coach again," Gailey said. "Coaching is not my life. I've got other things going on in life. I had no idea that I would [return] until this right opportunity presented itself."
It was a calculated risk by Bowles, considering Gailey's time away from the game. Two years is a long time, and he had re-familiarize himself with personnel and schemes around the league. Some people outside the organization questioned the choice, wondering if the game had passed him by.
"You could make that assumption, that he's been out of the game and it has changed, but I didn't get that," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "I never had that mindset because of the success he's had in the other places he's been."
One place was Dallas, where the Jets play on Saturday night. Gailey was the Cowboys' head coach in 1998 and 1999, finishing 10-6 and 8-8, respectively, and making the playoffs in both seasons. It wasn't good enough for Jerry Jones, who fired him.
Three days from his return to Dallas, Gailey was asked to describe his experience under Jones.
"It was interesting," he said. "He's a hands-on guy. He's probably the most hands-on guy I've been around as far as an owner goes. It was different, but he was not unfair. He didn't come in and change meetings. All those horror stories you heard, they're not true. He treated us well and allowed me to do my job. It just didn't work out."