It appeared Monday Buffalo Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon would coordinate the team’s next moves in the wake of the firing of head coach Chan Gailey.
Brandon was summoned to Detroit Monday morning to confer with owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and team treasurer Jeff Littmann. Wilson has the final call on any important move the team makes.
Exactly where General Manager Buddy Nix fit in the Bills’ brain-trust remained unclear. The fact Nix made no public statement about the removal of Gailey didn’t look promising for him. Neither did the fact he didn’t go to Detroit.
It’s possible Nix could be retained in some type of senior advisory capacity or shift to that role after the draft, a league source with former ties to the Bills’ organization said Monday evening. Exactly what a change in Nix’s status would mean for assistant general manager Doug Whaley was unclear, as well. He could be in line for increased duties.
The verdict from Wilson and Brandon was awaited.
Why lessen Nix’s influence? It’s hard to imagine the Bills doing so if they did not think they had a quality alternative likely to fill his void.
That could take the form of a younger football chief who they’re ready to elevate, such as the 39-year-old Whaley. Nix is 73. It could take the form of a high-profile head coach who may want more say in personnel, although that prospect is a longer shot.
The Bills inquired about high-profile coaches in their last search, in 2010. But big names such as Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan were not interested. Former Oakland and Tampa head coach Jon Gruden is interested in leaving the ESPN broadcasting booth this year and returning to the sideline, according to numerous media reports. He might be the biggest marquee name available. Gruden makes $5 million a year with ESPN, more than a Bills coach ever has been paid, and can afford to be choosy in his next coaching destination.
A source in Arizona said the Bills will seek to interview Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton. ESPN reported Syracuse coach Doug Marrone would interview with the Bills. NFL.com reported that ex-Chicago coach Lovie Smith, also fired Monday, was interested in the Bills.
If Brandon has his sights set on another personnel chief, it could be someone like David Caldwell, who oversees both college and pro scouting for the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell, 37, is from Buffalo and would have the endorsement of Bills Wall-of-Famer Bill Polian, who groomed him in Indianapolis. Caldwell also could be pursued by numerous teams in the coming weeks.
Nix is given widespread credit for upgrading the overall talent level of the Bills in his three seasons as general manager. However, Nix has not been able to find a franchise quarterback and has not added a young prospect to the roster.
And Nix’s first crack at hiring a head coach ended in failure. Gailey was informed shortly before 11 a.m. he was out.
His three-year Bills tenure ends with an overall record of 16-32 and a 4-14 mark in the AFC East.
“The first thing I want to say is thanks to the Bills organization, to Buddy (Nix) and Mr. (Ralph) Wilson for the opportunity,” Gailey told reporters. “I understand this is a business. We didn’t get the job done. I’ve been called two other times to get things turned around, was able to do it. We weren’t able to get this one done soon enough, and I understand that completely.”
Gailey got a bit choked up when talking about the Bills’ fans.
“I want to thank the fans,” he said. “Great Buffalo fans. Great football town. These are loyal, loyal fans, and I understand that. I think that the next staff will have a great opportunity for success and to make this another great football franchise.”
“This will probably be - and I say probably, but I think it will be - the first place that’s ever fired me that I’ll pull for,” Gailey said.
With that, Gailey exited the Bills’ fieldhouse, similar to the way Gregg Williams left in 2003, when he made a statement directed to the fans upon his firing.
Gailey is believed to have two years remaining on his contract. Most NFL coaches’ contracts are guaranteed. Gailey’s entire staff was dismissed as well.
The primary reason for Gailey’s demise was his defense. Despite replacing George Edwards with Dave Wannstedt at the coordinator’s spot and adding $100 million free agent Mario Williams, the Bills actually got worse on defense, by various measures. They gave up 435 points, second worst in Bills history and one more point than they allowed in 2011. They ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, down four spots from the year before.