The tumultuous end to the 2016 regular season was not pretty for the Buffalo Bills organization. The benching of Tyrod Taylor, the firing of Rex Ryan, and General Manager Doug Whaley’s season-ending press conference inflamed an ongoing theme in Buffalo’s media about the effectiveness of the structure.
For those reasons, and a myriad of others (too many to restate in this article) the local media has taken to calling Buffalo’s front office “dysfunctional.” Owners Terry and Kim Pegula took exception to that word, addressing the label in a interview with Tim Graham of The Buffalo news in order to the set the record straight.
Graham conducted a lengthy, thorough interview; a real must read. While the answers sometimes tended toward the content-free platitudes that have come from Buffalo’s front office of late, here are some excerpts pertaining the Bills organizational structure and chain of command as defined by the Pegulas themselves:
On their accessibility to the media as owners:
Terry Pegula: I guess there's been a perception we're inaccessible. But I've been consistent from Day One when I bought the Sabres and then with the Bills, by owning these teams it's about the players and coaches. We didn't buy teams to be visible in the media. We bought teams to keep them in the area and to flourish with them. I let the coaches and the players be out front and be the story.
On whether or not the Bills are dysfunctional:
TP: I know how I run my life, run our business. I know how we treat people, and I know the people we have in our organization. You can't pin 17 years on the Pegulas. We've been around for X-number of years. There's no foundation, no truth to this dysfunctional talk. I consider it an insult to our organization and the Bills and the good people with the Sabres. They can't be real happy to hear that.
On the Bills chain of command:
TP: Very simple. Coach and GM report to the owners. And Russ is running the business side [Pegula makes swift stiff-arm motion with his right hand to illustrate distance]. It can't be any simpler. I don't know where this confusion is coming from.
On President Russ Brandon’s role:
TP: If Doug Whaley wants to walk down the hall and ask Russ Brandon a question, he's totally free to do that. If Russ wants to come down the hall to talk to Doug or the coach, we encourage that. That's a good, healthy organization.
Kim Pegula: As [Brandon] says repeatedly, his department and everyone in the organization is there to support the football staff in whatever way ... they need and with whatever it may be. Football and hockey are businesses. There has to be collaboration. You cannot put a wall up between the football department and the business side. Someone has to be that bridge to collaborate and understand the day-to-day things. There's going to be crossover.
On Whaley’s role:
KP: Doug, as far as football operations go, is in charge, and if he wants Russ to go to the combine and talk contracts, then Russ is going to go. That's up to Doug.
On why the chain of command differs between the Bills and Sabres:
TP: That's the way we want it. Either one of these structures is very common in both leagues. I'm not saying they're all the same, but they're common.
Where does that leave Sean McDermott?
Despite the Pegulas reiterating that McDermott will report directly to them, they were pretty mum on what kind of power he will, or will not, wield. WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio potentially has some insight into how some things will work for the coach.
One of differences in org structure you may see in Bills next regime is support staff such as equipment, medical, video will be under HC...— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 11, 2017
There were no conditions of being named HC by McDermott relating to 53 man roster. He will have input (as always), but Whaley oversees it.— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 13, 2017