Buffalo Bills GM Doug Whaley spoke to the media on Monday afternoon, and it was, well... interesting.
Here’s everything you need to know from his end-of-season press conference:
On the Bills’ 2016 season:
Whaley: 7-9 not good enough. I’ll say this much it starts with me and I have to do a better job. #Bills— Nick Filipowski (@NICK_WKBW) January 2, 2017
Bills GM Doug Whaley: "We're 7-9. We're close. We just gotta get over the hump."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 2, 2017
This is up for debate. I, personally think the Bills are closer to making the playoffs than they are to being a legitimate bottom-feeder, but there are definitely people out there who’d disagree with that sentiment. And that’s fine.
On the hiring and firing of Rex Ryan:
Whaley: "Rex asked to speak to Terry privately. After that I was informed Rex would no longer be our coach. I was not privy to details."— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
"Rex was a Bills hire. I was a part of it," says Whaley, but won't go into specifics or answer if it "was his guy"— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 2, 2017
Doug Whaley give a "NO" she asked if he had input into Rex Ryan being fired.— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 2, 2017
Whaley - I had no information on the firing of Rex until it had already happened #Bills— WGR 550 (@WGR550) January 2, 2017
Whaley: Rex Ryan recommended Anthony Lynn to be the interim head coach.— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
Doug Whaley now says he had no idea Rex Ryan was even in trouble of being fired. Also says he's responsible for language in contracts.— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) January 2, 2017
On the surface, this was the most troubling and unusual takeaway from Whaley’s press conference.
The fact that he was basically kept in the dark about Rex being on the hot seat and wasn’t involved (or in the room) during the firing is extremely unusual for a GM and proves the Pegulas were the essentially the sole decision-makers in giving Rex the axe.
Even when pushed on multiple occasions, Whaley made sure he didn’t say anything damning about the decision made by the Pegulas — you know, his bosses — which is frustrating for those who want answers directly from Terry and Kim but completely understandable.
On Tyrod Taylor’s future with the Bills:
Whaley- new HC will take part in making decision on Tyrod as QB of the team. New staff will evaluate roster. #Bills— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrownBills) January 2, 2017
This shouldn’t be surprising, and makes plenty of sense. It’s why I think Tyrod was kept on the sidelines for Week 17.
The Bills didn’t want to force Tyrod on the next head coach. An injury in the final game would have done that.
On the Bills’ current head-coach search:
Why will third time be charm for him? First he was assistant, second was by committee, third is his pick that he will recommend to owners.— Leo Roth (@leoroth) January 2, 2017
Whaley: "This coaching search will be different... This one falls squarely on my shoulders."— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
Doug Whaley says he leads coach search but Pegulas have final decision on hiring a coach.— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) January 2, 2017
President Russ Brandon will not be part of the coach search.— Leo Roth (@leoroth) January 2, 2017
Rex reported to owner, not Whaley. Whaley says next head coach and that structure of reporting will be determined in interview process.— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 2, 2017
Whaley: We are searching for continuity. We're searching for a coach that can be here 10-15 years. That search begins when I leave the stage— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
This is good news for the Bills, as it’s logical for the senior-most football guy to be the one leading the search for the next head coach. Those tweets provide more evidence that Whaley didn’t exactly “lead” the head-coach search in 2015.
This also indicates exactly what I was suspecting and wrote about a week ago — Whaley kept his job as GM because the Rex hire was, almost entirely, a Pegula/Brandon hire.
More to that -- Brandon’s expanded role with Pegula Sports and Entertainment will keep him out of this coaching search, so when the new coach is hired, we won’t read a “don’t let him out of the building” line from Brandon.
Whaley repeatedly called the hiring of Rex a “Bills decision” but also made mention of Rex reporting directly the ownership during his time as Buffalo’s head coach.
The fact that the Pegulas have the final say on the hire is normal.
On rumors his “reputation” may limit Bills in head-coach search:
Whaley: "I have full confidence in my reputation in league circles that Bills won't be prohibited" in coaching search based upon perceptions— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) January 2, 2017
#Bills GM Doug Whaley says the coaching search will be an open search, understands why people would connect the dots on Anthony Lynn.— Andy Young (@AndyTWCNews) January 2, 2017
This was a non-starter for me. If a head coach wants full control of the 53-man roster, he won’t like a GM being in the way, regardless of what team it is.
But that demand is quite bold, seeing as though just a few head coaches have that power in today’s NFL, and Bill Belichick is one of them. Over the past few years, head coaches who were given full control of personnel have flopped. Miserably. See: Josh McDaniels and Chip Kelly.
On Tyrod Taylor not playing in Week 17:
Doug Whaley says Tyrod Taylor had a "tremendous year." Says it was a "business decision" to sit him Sunday. #bills— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) January 2, 2017
Whaley on Lynn speaking for the decision to bench Tyrod: "Anthony and I have talked. We are fine."— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
Whaley on Tyrod: "I would be upset if he wasn't upset [with benching]." Calls it a business decision.— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
On Lynn not part of Taylor benching? "The final (decision) was in consultation'' with him.— Leo Roth (@leoroth) January 2, 2017
Really nothing to see here. The “business decision” makes perfect sense and it’s what the Bills have been saying ever since news broke of Tyrod not playing in Week 17.
Of course, if Buffalo was in contention on Sunday, Tyrod would have been the starter. That’s really not a revelation of any kind.
On EJ Manuel selection in 2013:
Whaley says he shouldn't have said if EJ failed, he'd be out of a job.— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) January 2, 2017
Whaley took ownership of the bad Manuel pick and the confident comment he made soon after that pick.
On reported “leaks” coming from inside the Bills’ building:
Whaley - we can't confirm the numerous reports are coming from our building. We're going to look into it and try to shut it down #Bills— WGR 550 (@WGR550) January 2, 2017
Whaley dismayed by large number of media reports that leak from his building. "We'll investigate and shut it down.'' Slow down now.— Leo Roth (@leoroth) January 2, 2017
It’s never good when there are leaks from within an organization, and Whaley is correct in saying the team should do whatever it can to stop them from happening. Remember, though, agents can provide “inside” info too.
This end-of-season press conference was what has become the norm during Whaley’s tenure as the Bills GM. It was a contentious and awkward.
We learned Whaley was not involved in the decision to fire Rex, which is strange given his title as GM. No question about that.
Then again, although Whaley labeled the Rex hire “a committee hire,” he somewhat distanced himself from being the guy banging the table to hire him in the first place, therefore, it’s not so ridiculous to find out he wasn’t in the room when Rex was fired.
During his time as Bills GM, Whaley clearly hasn’t had nearly as much power as other GMs around the league, particularly when it comes to dealing with the team’s head coach. Will that change? We’ll see. It should. Keep it mind though, he’s in charge of the Bills’ draft and endeavors in free agency. Those two job responsibilities are the most important of any front-office employee. Whaley said a decision has yet to be made regarding whether the next head coach will report to him or directly to the Pegulas.
It sounds like, without Brandon’s presence, Whaley will be the central figure in this head-coach search, as ownership has realized the lapse in judgement made in 2015. Lastly, a final decision on Tyrod Taylor will not be made until the Bills have a new head coach.