Going into the 2013 NFL draft, I knew one thing was certain. The Buffalo Bills draft would include several players from colleges and universities located in the South. Or at least that had become their common trend.
Buddy Nix grew up in the South. He played football and coached in the South. He was once a regional scout with the San Diego Chargers, who specialized in the Southeastern area.
Odds are it was Nix who convinced then-Chargers general manager A.J. Smith to target quarterbacks Eli Manning (Ole Miss) and Philip Rivers (North Carolina State) over wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the 2004 NFL draft.
As the story goes, Manning did not want to be a Charger, and a trade was arranged for San Diego to acquire Rivers instead. Rivers remains San Diego's starting quarterback today.
It may sound like a story of good fortune for the Chargers, yet it was actually one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history. A guy by the name of Drew Brees was already in place at quarterback before they foolishly let him go in favor of Rivers.
So why not take Fitzgerald with the first overall pick and form what possibly could have been one of the best QB-and-receiver tandems of all time?
When Nix became GM of the Bills in 2010, we began to see more of that favoritism toward the South.
In 2010, Buffalo drafted C.J Spiller (Clemson), Torell Troup (Central Florida) and Alex Carrington (Arkansas State) with their first three picks. They later selected Ed Wang (Virginia Tech), Arthur Moats (James Madison) and Levi Brown (Troy).
In 2011, their entire draft was devoted to the South.
There was Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Aaron Williams (Texas), Kelvin Sheppard (LSU), Da'Norris Searcy (North Carolina), Chris Hairston (Clemson), Johnny White (North Carolina), Chris White (Mississippi State), Justin Rogers (Richmond) and Michael Jasper (Bethel [TN]).
Finally there were last year's selections, Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina), Cordy Glenn (Georgia), T.J. Graham (North Carolina State), Nigel Bradham (Florida State), Zebrie Sanders (Florida State) and Tank Carder (TCU).
Nix was gradually attempting, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to turn the Buffalo Bills into a Southeastern powerhouse.
Problem is, very few of the moves he made progressed the team.
Signing veterans Mario Williams (North Carolina State) and Mark Anderson (Alabama) to aid the defensive line and releasing players like James Hardy and Terrell Owens were good moves. Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a huge long-term contract (only to release him this year) as well as, losing Paul Posluzny and Donte Whitner to free agency were some of the bad moves.
The hiring of Chan Gailey was also a questionable decision. I understood, however, why the move was made.
Gailey is what I would call a Buddy Nix-type of coach.
He spent several years coaching on the collegiate (Troy and Samford) and professional level (Birmingham Fire of the World League of American Football) in Alabama, where Nix is a native. There is a great chance they had become friends or familiar with each other at some point during that time.
Gailey was head football coach at Georgia Tech from 2002-2007. Above all, he had extensive experience coaching in the NFL, which included a brief (yet successful) stint as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Gailey was simply a winner everywhere he went, and Nix expected a similar result in Buffalo. Things just were not meant to be. I even found myself wondering if the Bills were truly willing to keep Nix around.
The 2013 NFL draft answered that question.
I knew Nix would not take Ryan Nassib in the first round. Geno Smith was a maybe. A receiver was needed and receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter were still on the board. Offensive lineman Menelik Watson was available as well.
Or perhaps Buffalo does not trade down to the 16th pick. Had they stayed at No. 8, they had the option of D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack and Tavon Austin.
The selection of Florida State's EJ Manuel with the 16th overall pick came out of left field.
Prior to the draft, Nix stated he wanted to find the Bills' franchise quarterback. So using a pick on a quarterback was not a surprise, but Buffalo could have found their guy in the second round or later. Yet they made a decision to choose their potential franchise quarterback with their first pick.
I began to suspect all was not well in the Bills' front office, especially when Robert Woods (USC) and Kiko Alonso (Oregon), decent picks true enough, were selected in the second round. Taking it a step further was the selection of Duke Williams from Nevada in the fourth round.
That is not to say Nix did not want these players. It just did not feel like his typical draft.
It felt more like the front office looked at the Bills lack of success in recent years and what they were missing to have a winning roster—only to come to the realization that Nix was not making enough smart decisions as the GM.
What has to make you feel worse is seeing the success of talent like Earl Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jason Pierre-Paul, Rob Gronkowski, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and the list goes on. All of whom were guys the Bills passed on.
A change was needed.
Nix stepping down was clearly the best route to go for the team to improve.