Whaley was classy. He took responsibility for his failure as a GM with the Bills, citing the team not winning enough during his tenure at the top of the football department. He didn’t say a bad word about the Pegulas or new head coach Sean McDermott.
The only comment that could’ve conceivably been construed as “a shot” at someone was Whaley’s mention of his thought that McDermott’s teams won’t beat themselves.
And even reading that as a direct knock on Rex Ryan’s undisciplined teams would be somewhat of a stretch. I do think Whaley purposely uttered that sentence knowing it’d be interpreted a few ways and was fine with that.
Whaley pinpointed the selection of Ronald Darby as his proudest moment as the Bills GM, and there’s a lot to unpack with that simple designation.
As a recently fired GM whose teams went 30-34 during his tenure and failed to make the playoffs of course what he labels as his crowning achievement isn’t going to be magnificent.
However, I found that Darby statement to be telling for a variety of reasons. That pick back in 2015, when the Bills secondary consisted of Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Corey Graham, Aaron Williams, Ron Brooks and Bacarri Rambo.
But, at No. 50 overall, Whaley decided to pick who he truly believed to be the best available player.
While I don’t think Whaley constantly prioritized “need” over “value” — which isn’t a shrewd draft strategy — I do think his Bills drafts would have been better if he lived by the “Darby best available player” strategy more often, especially early on.
Beyond that, by not mentioning his famed trade up to pick Sammy Watkins, Whaley essentially admitted he made a mistake with that fateful draft-night decision.
Not because Watkins is a bad player... simply because Whaley overpaid for Watkins in an supremely loaded wide receiver class.
After the trade, I theorized that, after the Bills traded down in the 2013 draft — a move that doesn’t get enough pub because EJ Manuel was picked in the first round that year — Whaley felt he was playing with house money in 2014 having landed Kiko Alonso with one of those extra picks in 2013.
I still think that could be part of the logic Whaley used when pulling the trigger on the Watkins trade in 2014. But, clearly, it was an unnecessary act of aggression in Round 1, and he would’ve been smarter to keep that house money instead of spending it a year after he got it.
Also, Whaley said if he got another shot as a GM, he’d make more of a concerted effort to land a franchise QB quicker... well, yeah, duh. But I actually took the comment more as a change in his philosophy learned through experience... that, while enticing, quarterback prospects who are raw but “have all the tools” -- like Manuel — rarely succeed in the NFL.
As for the “parting gift” comment regarding the two 2018 first-round picks the Bills now have... no I don’t think Whaley had the final say in the draft room this year. But did he have some input? Yeah, probably.
And Whaley used the term “we” when referring to the parting gift, so I don’t believe he was attempting to take full credit for it. Sean McDermott and one of his mentors, Andy Reid, certainly discussed the idea of the trade pre-draft, but Chiefs GM John Dorsey publicly stated he and Whaley talked the parameters of the trade every day in the week leading up to the draft.
In the end, Whaley gave a professional interview in which he took all, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he lands another gig in the NFL, likely in a team’s pro personnel department.