ATLANTA - Georgia Tech's Chan Gailey will make a play call during Thursday's Emerald Bowl that gets fans grousing.
Maybe it will be a draw on third-and-long, like the one he called earlier this season against Virginia Tech. The coaches will see the defensive ends are rushing wide, leaving the middle exposed.
Somehow, though, a Utah interior lineman or middle linebacker fights off two blockers and makes the tackle. The fans won't see a great defensive play, only a conservative offensive call.
And Gailey, who's accomplished enough as a play caller to have done it for three NFL teams, will be vilified.
"No matter what anybody else says, you have to do what's best for the team," Gailey said.
For three of his four years at Georgia Tech, that's meant the head coach calls the plays. Bill O'Brien, a holdover from the staff of Gailey's predecessor, George O'Leary, worked as a play-calling offensive coordinator in 2002.
O'Brien left for Maryland following that season, though, and Gailey assumed the play-calling duties. The offense has been consistently below average from a yardage and points scored standpoint in the three seasons since, averaging between 331 and 346 yards and 18 and 21 points in that span.
The Yellow Jackets have finished no better than eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total and scoring offense in that same timespan.
Public pressure for Gailey to surrender the play-calling mounted this fall. He received a new five-year contract last month, and during the press conference announcing the deal, Dave Braine, Georgia Tech's athletic director, was asked if it included stipulations regarding Gailey's staff.
It doesn't, Braine said. But asked his thoughts on head coaches calling plays, Braine gave a revealing answer.
"I think it's very difficult for a head coach to do it," said Braine, who coached football for 12 years before becoming an administrator.
Calling plays certainly makes a head coach an easy target for fans.
Ohio State's Jim Tressel, who favors the conservative, ball-control style of offense Gailey does, is lambasted daily. So is Georgia's Mark Richt, who fans seem to forget established himself as the orchestrater of Florida State's high-powered offense for seven years.
Clemson's Tommy Bowden, once an offensive guru, gave up the play-calling duties this year in the face of public criticism.
Gailey is again considering turning over Georgia Tech's duties for next season. He offered no hints on his thought process when asked last week, saying, "I haven't decided that 100 percent yet."
"If you're not calling the plays and you're the head coach, the coordinator has to understand your philosophy of winning games," Gailey said.
Even if fans don't.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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