On Wednesday, two different articles at two reputable establishments speculated that the Buffalo Bills may be facing significant front office changes this off-season.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cited the team's massive number of unsold tickets of late as a reason that team owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. may pull the plug on the Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey experiment. Florio's take is the more reputable of the two articles, but here, it seems he's merely posing the idea for discussion, rather than reporting anything concrete - or even passing along a rumor, at that.
A blog post by NFL.com blogger Dan Hanzus also brings up the idea that the team may be looking to shake things up. Again, the manner in which it's presented seems speculative. That was preceded on Tuesday by a blurb from NFL.com's Jason La Canora, who says that a front office move is "not out of the question."
On the one hand, this regime has put up eight- and seven-game losing streaks in 30 games on the job; literally half of their games have contributed to massive runs of losses. On the other hand, Wilson and CEO Russ Brandon have repeatedly expressed their public support of both Nix and Gailey, and there has been zero concrete indication that change is afoot.
It would shock me, quite frankly, if Wilson made any major changes to his organization this off-season. We're talking about the man who gave Dick Jauron a fourth year, after all. He's not going to give Nix and Gailey only two, in my opinion - regardless of the long dry spells the team has suffered through.
There's also this consideration: Nix only recently finished putting the final touches on his pro personnel and scouting departments this past May, when he gave Assistant GM Doug Whaley more responsibility and hired cohorts Chuck Cook and Tom Gibbons to head up the college and pro scouting departments, respectively. We can question why it took Nix two full off-seasons to get to that point all we like, but if Wilson came calling, Nix would have a persuasive "wait and see" card to play right there.
Let's assume that this speculation - and the rumors that said speculation, as well as posts like this, will ultimately produce - has some basis in truth. We're assuming, then, that something might change in the front office this off-season. Allow me to pose a little speculation of my own: would anyone be surprised if the 72-year-old Nix called it quits and retired from pro football?
That's an idea that has some basis in reality - not just because Nix is 72 years old and an avid golfer (something his current job likely prevents him from getting to very often), but because the Bills went through this when Marv Levy called the shots. Levy was hired after Tom Donahoe's firing following a pitiful 2005 season; Levy hired Jauron and stayed around for 2006 and 2007, but then he retired, leaving several prominent members of the front office to operate autonomously, with no true final decision-maker, in 2008 and 2009.
Nix also went out of his way to snag Whaley from the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving the Bills their first Assistant GM in what felt like decades. Then he gave Whaley more power, provided more architecture for the scouting departments that the organization has had in years, and voila: the Bills looked like an NFL organization again, with Nix sitting atop the football department flow chart as a de facto "final say figurehead." (Yes, that term is mine.)
My belief? If you remove Nix from the equation and give Whaley the GM job, not an awful lot would change - but a GM change would certainly fit the theme of those speculative reports from yesterday.
What do you think, Bills fans? Do you expect Ralph Wilson to change anything this off-season? Are the likes of Florio, Hanzus and others (including yours truly, since I freely threw my hat into the ring) just blowing smoke? And would it shock you if Nix retired and Whaley got his job? Speculation can be fun!