How will we remember Buddy Nix’s tenure as Buffalo Bills general manager? With the help of beat reporter Mark Gaughan, we look back on his three seasons and four drafts.
Buddy’s biggest hits:
1) Success with first-round draft picks. You can argue whether the Bills should have drafted a running back with the ninth overall pick in 2010, but you can’t dispute Nix selected a good one in C.J. Spiller. He also drafted opening-day starters Marcell Dareus and Stephon Gilmore.
2) Spending big money. Ralph Wilson trusted Nix to acquire big-ticket free agents, and Nix shocked the football community by nabbing star pass-rusher Mario Williams last year.
3) Trolling the waiver wire. Nix was adept at collecting other teams’ castoffs and turning them into starters. The list includes offensive linemen Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart and Erik Pears and TE Scott Chandler.
4) Dumping Aaron Maybin. It takes guts to jettison an 11th overall pick two years after he was drafted. And it was the right move.
5) Stability. Nix provided credibility for a front office that had been reeling since Wilson fired Tom Donahoe. The stunt to bring back Marv Levy as GM was a joke, and Russ Brandon’s stint as GM was just as silly.
Honorable mention: Success with undrafted rookies such as receivers David Nelson and Donald Jones; signing linebacker Nick Barnett; trading receiver Lee Evans for a fourth-round pick.
Buddy’s biggest misses:
1) Hiring Chan Gailey. When Chan Gailey was hired in January 2010, I wrote, “The Buffalo Bills went to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, examined the menu and went with the grilled cheese.” That wasn’t Gailey’s fault, but after Nix spent weeks wooing the likes of Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, the Gailey choice was tough to swallow.
2) Failing to identify long-term QB needs. Prior to last month, Nix drafted only one quarterback: 2010 seventh-rounder Levi Brown. Nix drafted bad cornerback Aaron Williams ahead of playoff quarterback Colin Kaepernick and traded up for receiver T.J. Graham when Russell Wilson was on the board.
3) Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2011 contract extension. The Bills were 4-2 and had legitimate playoff hopes when Fitzpatrick got his new deal. He was on the final year of his contract, and if the Bills had made the playoffs, then they would have risked losing a fan favorite while owning a late first-round pick to draft a quarterback. The deal kept Buffalo from addressing the position moving forward.
4) Letting Gailey hire defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Red flags should’ve been waved over the decision to go from a 4-3 scheme under previous head coach Dick Jauron to a 3-4 under Gailey’s first coordinator, George Edwards, and then back to a 4-3 under Wannstedt.
5) Drafting Torell Troup instead of Rob Gronkowski. This entry isn’t so much about Troup being a bust as it is about Nix’s inability to identify how the evolution of tight ends would impact the NFL.
Honorable mentions: Trading Marshawn Lynch for draft picks that turned out to be Chris Hairston and Tank Carder; re-signing pass-rusher Shawne Merriman when injured and cutting him when healthy; giving defensive end Chris Kelsay an extension; drafting kickoff specialist John Potter and then cutting him in-season; too many returned phone calls to Bucs executive Mark Dominik.