Thursday, May 16, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Doug Whaley was promoted to take over as the Buffalo Bills general manager, making the team's near top-to-bottom offseason overhaul complete.
The much-anticipated decision to elevate Whaley from his position as assistant GM was announced Thursday, three days after Buddy Nix stepped down as GM.
The 40-year-old Whaley has spent the past three years being groomed for the position. After working mostly in various scouting capacities with the Bills, Whaley's influence grew this offseason when he had input in hiring coach Doug Marrone in January, as well as the team's decision to select Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in the draft last month.
In becoming the Bills' 12th GM and fifth in 12 years, Whaley's challenge now becomes turning around a franchise that has not finished with a winning record since 2004, and has not made the playoffs in 13 years — the NFL's longest active drought.
"It's an organizational focus, and our main goal is to give the fans of the Buffalo Bills a team that consistently competes for championships," Whaley said, during a news conference. "We feel good about the people that we have on the roster now. We're excited about EJ. We're excited about the coach. And we're just looking to show it on the field."
Though it was unclear when Nix would step down, the Bills began laying the groundwork for the transition in February by signing Whaley to a long-term contract extension.
"Doug has every quality you look for in a leader," team president Russ Brandon said. "He's the perfect guy to lead this organization and lead our football operation. And I don't know of a guy that's more deserving of this opportunity than Doug Whaley."
Among his first priorities will be negotiating to sign star safety Jairus Byrd. Though the Bills secured Byrd's rights by placing a franchise tag on him this offseason, the player has yet to sign his contract.
Byrd is instead holding out in a bid to secure a long-term deal.
"We recognize Jairus as a good player, and we're in the business of collecting good players," Whaley said. "We're going to continue the negotiating process, but we will also continue not negotiating in the press."
Whaley, who is black, snaps an NFL trend this offseason during which no minorities were hired to fill eight coaching and seven general manager vacancies. He becomes the Bills first black GM and the league's sixth.
From Pittsburgh, he spent 12 seasons working in various capacities as a scout with the Steelers.
Whaley played both linebacker and safety at Pitt and broke into the NFL in 1995 as a Steelers pro personnel assistant. He then spent three years as a scout with the Seattle Seahawks, before returning to Pittsburgh.
He's leaning heavily on his experiences with the Steelers, one of the NFL's most stable and competitive franchises.
"They don't accept losing. They set the standard of winning and competing for championships," Whaley said, referring to the Steelers. "And I think if we instill that here, we'll be in the right direction."
His promotion comes at a time when the Bills are essentially starting from scratch in rebuilding what Brandon described as having a "tarnished" reputation.
Brandon began the transition immediately after the season ended, when he was elevated by team owner Ralph Wilson to his new position and awarded full control of the entire organization. Brandon's first moves were firing Chan Gailey and then hiring Doug Marrone less than a week later.
The Bills are a very young team. They have only nine players on their roster who have been with the team since before the 2010 season.
And with the selection of Manuel, the Bills hope to have addressed a quarterback position that's been unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
In related moves, the Bills also announced they've hired Jim Monos to take over as director of player personnel and Kelvin Fisher as director of college scouting.
Monos spent the past eight years working as an area scout with the New Orleans Saints.
Fisher joins the Bills after spending the previous 13 seasons in various capacities as a scout with the Steelers.