Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark GM.
I'll agree, what a unnecessary dramatic title. But, I would just like to take the time to recognize the direction the franchise was in and what has happened under his reign as GM. I had hoped that he would remain as the GM for a few more years to enjoy the success that will come from his work as a GM, but he has decided to move on. This post is a bit of a back story on him, and a travel through his tenure as GM of the Buffalo Bills. If you don't want to read an optimistic piece on what has been on paper a dismal tenure as GM then you should stop now.
From 1993-2000 Buddy was the regional southeastern scout for the Buffalo Bills. With a massive shake up amongst the Bills organization, he moved with John Butler and AJ Smith to San Diego. Butler passed away as GM and AJ was named the GM while Nix was named the Assistant GM. Buddy was said to be an equal to AJ and the two worked worked well together. It is a general consensus amongst Chargers fans that Nix was the better half. Their drafting record speaks for itself: LT, Drew Brees, Quinten Jammer, Eli Manning, Michael Turner, Sean Philips, Sean Merriman, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Antonio Cromartie. Nix left the Chargers following the 2008 season. The team in my opinion has fallen extremely far from the contender that they once were while Nix was with the team.
His early Buffalo tenure
In 2009 he was named a National Scout under Tom Modrak. The team had one of its most productive drafts ever in his first year with the team with the exception of Maybin. Eric Wood, Jarius Byrd, Andy Levitre and Shawn Nelson all followed the pick that lost Modrak his job. Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards were battling for the starting QB spot and the roster was a dismal mess. TO was the main attraction on the team and the team was a joke. No one wanted a part of the team, no one wanted to associate with the mess that was the Buffalo Bills.
His GM tenure: 2010
Buddy's first move similar to his first move in San Diego and LT was to draft an All-Pro running back in CJ Spiller. Yes, the move was undeniably controversial and seen as a luxury pick. Looking back on it, CJ is one of the brightest parts of our roster with hopefully his best years ahead of him. Buddy chose to build through the trenches while working with QB talent currently on the roster. He selected Torell Troup, Alex Carrington Marcus Easley and Arthur Moats. Looking back, Troup and Easley both seemed to have so much potential, but due to injuries have hung on the the roster by a thread. This offseason will be the defining moments in their careers. The coach which was selected from a dismal pool of applicants was Chan Gailey as head coach and offensive coordinator with journeyman George Edwards as his defensive coordinator. The team started 0-8 with Trent Edwards being cut from the team and Fitzpatrick finishing the season "strong" with a 4-4 record.
Tom Modrak was finally fired and the Donahoe" era was finally circumcised from the Buffalo Bills. With the 3rd pick in the draft Buddy would have prefered to pick Cam Newton but chose not or was unable to trade up. He chose to pass on Patrick Peterson and AJ Green, both pro bowlers to pick Marcell Dareus. Looking back this pick is seen as a failure because of the success of his peers. In my eyes, Marcell has been hampered to no end by his defensive coordinator. His success will come through as he utilized correctly instead of the joke that are George Edwards and Dave Wannstedt. Aaron Williams was scouted to be a safety from day one, Kelvin Sheppard has shown he was not the ILB we had hoped while Chris Hairston will finally be given his chance to start after 2 years of maturing as NFL offensive lineman. This draft's potential will be unlocked by pettine in my eyes. The group of Dareus, Williams and now Hughes can be put into positions to succeed as opposed to positions where they were asked to read and react. I truly think that Hughes and Williams will be given new life as players this year and Dareus is going to shine.
The team started 5-2 with Fitz at the helm and broke a 15 game losing streak to the Pats. The Buffalo Bills were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time in my life with Drayton Florence returning a Tom Brady interception for 6 points. On October 28, 2011, Fitzpatrick signed a six year, $59 million contract. On October 30, 2011 London Fletcher hit Fitz and broke 2 ribs. Fitz attempted to lead the team with cracked ribs and failed miserably by going on a 7 game losing streak. The team looked bright against the postseason bound Denver Broncos and a heaven sent Tim Tebow by winning 41-10 led by an unbelievable defensive effort. They ended the season a disappointing 6-10.
With the disappointing end to the 2011 season, Fitz looked to re work his mechanics and become a stronger, more accurate passer. Mario Williams was signed to an unbelievable contract completely blowing out of the water the stereotype that big name stars do not want to come to Buffalo. The team went on to draft Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, TJ Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks and Zebrie Sanders. Stephon and Glenn were immediately the best 1/2 combo picks the Bills had seen in 10 years while TJ was underutilized by a weak armed QB. Bradham shined as a 4th round pick and Brooks filled in the nickel CB role as a rookie. Zebrie is an enigma who looked good in training camp but tore a labrum and had bone spurs and was placed on IR for the whole season.
The 2012 season was supposed to be the year for the Buddy Nix plan to all come together. Fitz was supposed to look good and the defense had a dominant defensive line with a new CB and on paper looked amazing. Several people expected the Bills to be a strong wild card contender due to a weak schedule. But Chan Gailey and Dave Wannstedt had other ideas.
The 2012 season is the reason the Buffalo Bills will succeed in the future. It highlighted the weak points of the team and was a perfect evaluation tool for Buddy and Doug Whaley. The season opened with a 48-28 lost to the Jets. This dismal effort showed exactly how inept Wannstedt was as a coordinator. The 48 points was a season high for the Jets and Mark Sanchez, the worst QB in the league threw for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. The only bright spot was CJ, he had 14 attempts and ran for 169 yards. You'd think he was primed for a season to be remembered. But Chan decided mid season he needed to not be winded. It showed his inability to call a game. I wrote a second fan post entitled, "An Alternate Universe 2012: The 11-5 Bills." It highlights everything that went wrong this season and why the team should have been 11-5.
With the team finishing yet again 6-10, major changes come about. The Bills fire Chan, Dave and make major personnel moves. Fitz, Jones, Nelson, Levitre, Rinehard, Kelsay, Barnette, McGee and Wilson all are unsigned and a new era is brought about. You could say that Nix is part of this needed cleansing but I could not disagree more. I think that he along with Russ and Doug Whaley were what assembled the core of this new team.
Fitz's contract: Buffalo was 4-1 and Fitz had just been named the offensive player of the month for September. Against the Raiders we scored 5 straight touchdowns to come from behind and win. The Pats game was unforgettable, and possibly one of the best games in Bills history. We had just beat the dream team Eagles which followed a loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champs, the Giants. Given those games it is impossible to says Fitz's contract was a mistake. Then he breaks his ribs and is never again the same QB.
Chan Gailey: If you read the man's Wiki you wonder why he was hired as a Head Coach. He was an excellent offensive coordinator back in the day but had very little success. In the beginning of his reign Buffalo, he was able to get the most out of what he had but towards the end he just failed at being a true head coach and failed at successfully managing his offense.
Dave Wannstedt: I have nothing. I hate this man, but he is the reason we drafted 10th so I must thank him. His schemes in preseason were identical to the regular season and he just failed as a defensive coordinator. His schemes gave up rushing yards 247, 311, 182 and 197 to the Pats, 49ers, Cardinals and Titans respectively and an average of 600 total yards to the Pats and 49ers. A drunk monkey would have been better.
Nix's definitive positives:
Mario Williams, Kyle's contract extension, Stevie's contract extension, Freddy's contract extensions, CJ Spiller, Marcell Dareus, Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, the offensive line rebirth. All part of Nix, a GM who can take the state of the franchise in 2009 to what it is now should be commended and deserves better than a 6-10 record.
On paper the record may seem embarrassing but if you dig through the past and how seasons unfolded, he is not at fault in my eyes. The blame falls on the coaches, the talent is there and the best support of that argument that I have is Mike Pettine. Mike Pettine is an up-and-coming defensive mastermind. He was the Jets secret weapon and Rex's statement regarding Pettine leaving the Jets, "I wish him all the best unless he goes to Buffalo." Here is an unbelievable article on Pettine. It talks about his impact in NY and how he called the majority of the plays. Why would a coach like that come to a division rival? It is because we have tons of defensive talent that has been massively under utilized. Mario, Kyle, Dareus, Byrd, and Gilmore are all core talent that could be pro bowl players if used right. Leodis, Alonso, Lawson, Bradham and Williams all have tremendous upside in this defense. This defense was constructed by Nix, it was his child. If used correctly, I see this defense being a beast in the very near future.
I liken Nix to Batman because here in Buffalo, all that matters is results. He is vilified by countless people because of the record on the field. Things which went wrong were out of his control. The injuries to Troup, Easley and Fitz. The misuse of players: CJ not being used at all last season, Aaron and Leodis being put in terrible positions for their skills, TJ being thrown to by a noodle arm and the whole d-line underperforming. These are all things which Nix after the offseason has no control over. Do I think Wannstedt should have been even hired, no. Do I think Chan should be an offensive coordinator and not a Head Coach, yes. But Nix worked with what he was given and made the best of a miserable miserable team.
Him leaving following the 2013 draft is an appropriate end. He is able to have his legacy left in the hands of those who can make the most of it. He was able to get his QB, and some hopefully amazing receivers (just on offseason workouts, I know they don't mean anything but its optimism.) If we can stretch the field and play a similar offense to the Orangemen and play a similar defense to the Jets, this team is headed to the playoffs in the very near future and it will be because of the efforts of Buddy Nix. It may be credited to Doug Whaley and Maronne, but Nix was the man who put this plan into motion. Nix, in my eyes, you turned a franchise that was wallowing into an up and comer. You deserve more recognition than I believe you get and should be commended for it. Enjoy your family and thank you for helping to revitalize a team I love.