on May 16, 2013 - 7:17 PM
, updated May 17, 2013 at 2:28 AM
Doug Whaley’s resume says he’s as ready to succeed as any first-time NFL general manager could reasonably hope to be.
Even though you never know how someone is going to perform when the buck stops with them for the first time, Bills president Russ Brandon says he’s confident Whaley’s 18½ years in the NFL show he has the right stuff.
“He deserves this opportunity,” Brandon said Thursday at a news conference introducing Whaley as the Bills’ new general manger. “Doug has every quality you look for in a leader. He has great work ethic. ... He is one of the most humble guys I have ever met, and everything is about us. It is about us. He has been in the trenches. He has been scouting his entire career on the pro and the college side.”
Whaley, 40, groomed for the job for the past 3½ years as Buddy Nix’s right-hand man in the Bills’ organization. Before that he spent 12 years working mostly in pro scouting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the winningest organizations in the NFL. He also spent three years scouting for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bills are about to find out if all that training can help lead them out of pro football’s wilderness.
“Our main goal is to give the fans of the Buffalo Bills a team that consistently competes for championships,” Whaley said.
Why does he think the Bills’ are committed enough to winning after 13 straight non-playoff seasons?
“I’d say the shared responsibility from Russ all the way down to everybody in this organization to realize that what we’ve put there recently is not what we want to be known for,” he said.
Whaley is a Pittsburgh native who played safety and linebacker for the University of Pittsburgh. He was a team captain, along with Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, as a senior. He spent nine months after college working toward becoming a stock broker on Wall Street when former Bills personnel chief Tom Modrak lured him to the Steelers. Whaley has been scouting ever since.
“Doug Whaley, to me, has paid his dues,” said former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
“His body of work is in a lot of different areas and circumstances – player, intern, scout – he didn’t go to the end of the movie first,” said Modrak. “He went through the whole process. I never saw him back away from a tough circumstance.”
Asked what quality Whaley possesses that gives him an eye for football talent, Modrak said: “His core is he knows people. He has a feel for the room. He has a sense for what’s right and what’s wrong, and I think that all carries over when he analyzes players.”
Like new Bills coach Doug Marrone, who was pursued by other teams, Whaley would have been an attractive GM candidate if he was on the open market. The Bills signed him to a contract extension in February in anticipation of promoting him to GM. Whaley becomes the sixth African-American GM in the 32-team league. Seven other teams hired GMs this offseason, but all seven of those jobs went to white candidates.
John Wooten, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, compared the Whaley hire to how the New York Giants handled the transition from esteemed GM Erie Accorsi to then-coveted aide Jerry Reese six years ago. (The Pollard Alliance works with the NFL to promote diversity in front offices and among head coaches.)
“There was quite a bit of interest in Whaley,” Wooten said. “That’s why Buffalo stepped up to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you that position. Just stay here with us rather than take an interview.’ ”
To a large degree, the die already is cast on Whaley’s short-term chances for success due to two big decisions he helped Brandon and Nix make: hiring Marrone and drafting quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round.
If Manuel succeeds, Whaley is going to be in line for a pay raise and a contract extension three or four years from now.
If Manuel fails, Whaley probably will be on a hot seat.
“When you spend two minutes with the guy, you know this guy has a presence,” Whaley said of Manuel. “He has a presence on and off the field. We are excited for everything EJ brings to the table, as well as the rest of our draft class. We think the sky is the limit.”
Whaley wasted no time putting his own stamp on the organization.
The Bills announced the hiring of Jim Monos as director of player personnel and Kelvin Fisher as director of college scouting.
Monos spent the past eight years serving a key role as Southeast college scout for the New Orleans Saints. He becomes Whaley’s right-hand man, overseeing pro and college scouting.
Fisher, who spent the past 13 years as a college scout with the Steelers, becomes the Bills’ new director of college scouting. Chuck Cook, who held that title with the Bills the past two years, gets demoted to the role of national college scout.
Whaley was not as colorful as Nix or as expansive in his answers as his old boss during the news conference. Nix was among those whom Whaley thanked for getting him ready for the promotion. Whaley spent a lot of time scouting top college prospects the past several years.
“In 2010, I had an 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.”
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work,” Whaley said. “When anybody says hard work does not pay off, I am going to have to say look at me because I believe it does.”