What We Learned from Doug Whaley's Introductory Press Conference as Bills GM
With Buddy Nix stepping down on Monday, the Bills announced Doug Whaley as their new general manager at a press conference on Wednesday.
This completes a slow offseason build toward a brand new infrastructure. In January, owner Ralph Wilson stepped out of the day-to-day operations and promoted Russ Brandon to team president. The coaching staff was completely turned over, as well
Thus, this truly looks like a brand new era of Bills football. What do we know about that new era now that we didn't know before?
Whaley's Steelers influence
Doug Whaley spent 11 years within the Steelers organization as a scout and as the pro personnel coordinator. He has seen what it takes to build a successful franchise.
"They don't accept losing," he said of his former team. "They set the standard of winning and competing for championships. I think if we instill that here, we'll be on the right direction."
The Steelers were 109-67 in Whaley's 11 years in Pittsburgh (1999-2009), winning Super Bowl XLIII in the process and getting to Super Bowl XLV the year after he left.
The year before getting to the Super Bowl, though, Chase Stuart of the New York Times ranked the Steelers second among teams with the bulk of their production coming from players they had drafted. While Whaley was not the front man in the operation, he was a part of the successful process, and can take the lessons he learned there and apply them in Buffalo.
The three-and-a-half years he's spent in Buffalo since leaving Pittsburgh have helped him grow into his new role.
"In 2010, I had extensive background in the pro personnel department," Whaley said. "The last couple of years, I've been able to manage the draft process, so I think I got a handle on the complete football operation department and drafting."
Who will have the final say on signings?
At his final press conference on Monday, Buddy Nix gave a message to the next general manager to get ready for this question.
Whaley said he would do whatever he needed to assist Bills VP Jim Overdorf in negotiations, but Russ Brandon said that Whaley's main responsibilities will be the 53-man roster and the player personnel department. Brandon added that Whaley will have final say on the 53-man roster and that he will "pull the tag" on draft picks.
What if there are disagreements, though?
"I think one of the great myths in sports," Brandon said, "is that there are some situations, especially in the draft, where everyone is completely against where you're going and the general manager pulls the tag on it. That never really ever happens."
A reporter followed up by asking about free agents, and Brandon said, "We will be in lockstep on everything that we do—Coach [Doug] Marrone, Doug [Whaley], J.O. and I. On everything we do, it will be a collective effort at the end of the day."
Jairus Byrd negotiations will continue
The Bills placed the franchise tag on free-agent safety Jairus Byrd earlier this offseason. It was an important first step, but the process is far from done. The Bills still have to find a way to get him back on a long-term deal. Those negotiations, Whaley said, will continue:
Well, first of all, we recognize Jairus is a good player, and we're in the business of collecting good players. We're going to continue the negotiation process, but we will also continue not negotiating in the press.
Top safeties earned top dollar in free-agency this offseason.
Former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract with the Buccaneers. Former Jets safety LaRon Landry got four years and $24 million from the Colts after playing his first injury-free season since 2008.
Getting Byrd inked to a long-term deal will be Whaley's first true test as general manager. The Bills have until July 15 to negotiate that deal before Byrd is locked into the $6.916 million franchise tag for 2013.
Off to a fast start
Russ Brandon mentioned that he didn't know if it would be one day or one month as the Bills restructured their personnel department, but "Doug was able to get that done in short order."
And now that one big item is checked off the to-do list, it's on to the next one.
"Right now," said Whaley, "we're focusing on OTAs and the minicamp coming up, and personally, I'm leaving this weekend and starting on the 2014 draft, attending the BLESTO meetings."
Whaley, Marrone and the Bills may not be able to get things turned around in one day or even in one season, but with all the pieces now in place, they have a good start on the process.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise noted, all contract info obtained from Spotrac, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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