Doug Whaley remains the Buffalo Bills’ general manager-in-waiting.
Just how long that wait will last, however, is something that neither Whaley himself, current General Manager Buddy Nix nor team president and CEO Russ Brandon was willing to specify Tuesday.
In announcing that Brandon will inherit the team presidency from owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., and thus total control of the organization, the Bills drastically shifted their power structure. A similar shift from Nix to Whaley also will be made at some point.
“Our plan hasn’t changed with Doug since the day we hired him. I said the same thing when we hired him,” Nix said. “We’re bringing in a guy that’s very experienced. He’s done some really good things on good teams. He’s a smart guy. He’s the kind of character we want, and he’s gotten better every day. The plan’s the same. We want somebody that the transition’s going to be smooth. He can make the next step.”
The natural follow-up question to Nix’s answer, then, was “when?”
“We’ll let you know when we announce that,” he said.
In an interview with WGR Radio following Tuesday’s press conference, Brandon said, “we’re working on the parameters to keep him here long-term; Doug’s not going anywhere.”
Given the vast experience he has at a young age, the 40-year-old Whaley would be an attractive candidate for any of the five NFL teams with current job openings at general manager. But he said that’s not his focus.
“Right now I accepted a challenge when I took this position, to get this franchise back to where we know it should be, and that’s my focus,” Whaley said. “I’m a competitor. ... There’s nothing been promised to me, but to give me the resources to do my job to help those guys [Brandon and Nix] put this franchise on the right track. I love a challenge. That’s what I signed up for, and I hope to be here long enough to see it completed.”
Asked whether he had received any assurances from either Brandon or Nix that he’d be the next GM, Whaley said, “I look at it this way. They said it’s a results-based business. And if we don’t get the results, I may not even be here. As long as the results turn out to be positive, everything else will take care of itself. I’m not worried about that.”
Whaley came to the Bills in 2010 after 11 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he served as the team’s pro scouting coordinator. He was promoted to his current position of assistant general manager and director of player personnel on May 6, 2011.
During the season, Whaley would typically spend the early part of the week scouring roster moves made around the NFL, then scout top college talent later in the week. He’d then evaluate the Bills on weekends.
“Basically, I try to give Buddy the most accurate information [for] what he needs to make his decision – be it personnel-wise, or scout-wise, or salary cap-wise, or anything,” he said. “I’m here to filter information and give him the best options out there to make an educated decision.”
That’s a role that will not change, at least for the current time.
“I’m going to work my hardest to help Buddy and help this organization put a winning product on the field,” Whaley said.
Eventually, however, with Nix being 73 years old, it will be Whaley’s show to run.
“I think when you come in at 70 years old, you don’t expect a 20-year run, or I don’t,” Nix said. “The whole thing when we started this thing is to get it on solid ground both in the personnel department and on our roster. We’re going to continue to do that, but again, you’re not talking about another 15 years.
“You have to have a transition into something. A man only has got so much of this in him seven days a week about 15 hours a day.”
Whaley will join Brandon, Nix and senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf on the team’s coaching search. The group was off to Arizona right after Tuesday’s press conference.
“We’re going to have to go from top to bottom with a new coach and see how far we are [from contention] and get some moves to make us relevant,” Whaley said.