Ever since the Buffalo Bills hired head coach Sean McDermott to take over as the face of the organization, speculation has been rampant about the immediate future of general manager Doug Whaley.
That speculation came to a halt on Sunday after the team announced that Whaley, the Bills general manager since 2013, was fired by the organization.
Owner Terry Pegula issued the following statement:
“After a thorough review of our football operations over the past several months, Kim and I informed Doug this morning that we will be moving in a new direction. We have enjoyed working with Doug. He is a good person and we want to thank him for his work and commitment to our football team. This was my decision. It was not an easy decision but I believe it’s the right one for the future of the Buffalo Bills. Our search for a new general manager will begin immediately.”
The future for Whaley was left unclear after McDermott addressed the media following their final selection in the 2017 NFL Draft on Saturday. When asked about the future of Whaley and the player personnel department, McDermott replied with an answer that was noncommittal by nature:
Q: As the voice of the organization, are you prepared to give a vote of confidence to Doug Whaley and his scouts because the rumors persist that they’re going to get fired before long?
A: Right now, I’m focused on this draft. Honestly. I’m going to focus on this draft and what we have in front of us going on right now with this priority free agent market right now. I will say that Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job. I will say that.
Q: That’s not a vote of confidence though.
A: Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job, okay. This is about the draft. Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job and we are focused on finishing this draft and looking at the priority free agents right now.
There was a report on Saturday night from Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports that detailed Carolina assistant general manager as a potential candidate for the job, though no new general manager has been appointed at this point in time.\
McDermott had taken the place of Whaley in representing the organization all through the offseason at events that had generally been addressed by the team's general manager. That included the NFL Scouting Combine, the buildup to the NFL Draft, and even after the picks were made in the NFL Draft itself.
The last time Whaley spoke to members of the media was in late January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In Whaley's four years as general manager, the Bills had a record of 30-34.
Joe B's Take
This was the outcome that became more and more clear with each decision made over at One Bills Drive, adding up to what seemed to be the inevitable removal of Whaley as general manager.
It's the right move for an organization that is looking to start fresh and do things differently than they have been for years and years on end. The Bills wanted a clean slate all across the board.
Even through several head coaching changes, many pieces inside the organization stayed the same.
Since McDermott walked through the door at One Bills Drive, things have been changing throughout the organization. There have been changes to many departments in the building, looking for fresh perspectives and not the same operating system as it once was.
As for Whaley's decision making, while he was given the keys to be more aggressive in free agency and the draft, a clear mismanagement of the salary cap and how it would impact them in the future put the Bills in a bind this offseason, to where they couldn't compete for more than one or two bigger name free agents to help the roster immediately.
He will also be forever linked to the trade up in the order that yielded wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a move that surrendered the team's first round selection in 2015 -- in addition to their first round pick in 2014. Even though he made some good lower-tier signings, trades, waiver pickups, and late-round draft picks, Whaley's tenure will likely be defined by three things:
Not being able to put a franchise quarterback in place in four years with the team, his move up to get Watkins when the Bills were without their answer at quarterback, and a mismanagement of the salary cap along the way. There were also reports of tension between Whaley and both head coaches he worked with -- Doug Marrone and Rex Ryan -- which must not have helped his case, either.
Now the Bills will move on and put a person in place as the general manager that comes with the Sean McDermott stamp of approval. And with how entrenched McDermott is as the number one guy at One Bills Drive to owners Terry and Kim Pegula, they wouldn't have it any other way.
We have no idea if this experiment is going to work, or even if McDermott has too much power in Orchard Park too quickly. At the very least, they're trying to do things a bit differently, and that has been sorely needed for a long, long time.