With the Buffalo Bills taking a page out of the Redskins’ playbook and hiring a new General Manager at a time when it wasn’t even clear they were looking for one, the Bills have invited plenty of criticism.
By announcing the elevation of Buddy Nix from National Scout to General Manager in the mid-afternoon of New Year’s Eve day, the Bills managed to escape the immediate national scrutiny that the Redskins’ experienced two weeks ago, when Vinny Cerrato left less than two hours before Bruce Allen arrived.
Though it generally was known that the Bills were exploring the idea of removing the G.M. title from Russ Brandon and hiring a genuine “football guy” to take over the position, there was no external search. As Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News points out, the other finalist was John Guy, the team’s director of pro personnel. It appears that Guy, who is African-American, received genuine consideration for the position.
Unlike the situation in Washington, Bills didn’t focus on an outsider and interview an in-house minority candidate simply to comply with the letter of the rule. As Sullivan explains it, owner Ralph Wilson decided to entrust the gig to someone from within the building — and the decision came down to Nix and Guy.
“Russ [Brandon] and I scanned a list of possible candidates,” Wilson said Thursday, per Sullivan. “We didn’t know them. I
didn’t know them. I don’t think Russ did. We narrowed it down to two candidates for the job of
general manager of football, two in-house candidates.”
And we wonder whether Wilson took into account the fact Brandon has a strong interest in avoiding an outsider whose first order of business might have been to marginalize Brandon and/or eventually lobby for his termination. It’s a common dynamic in situations like this; last year in Detroit, for example, an 0-16 finish resulted in Martin Mayhew being promoted to the job of G.M., likely due to the significant influence that Tom Lewand has over ownership.
Regardless of whether Brandon nudged the process toward Nix or Guy in order to preserve Brandon’s turf, one league insider expressed strong opinions regarding the decision to go with Nix.
“The Buffalo hire is a joke and a slap in the face to all hard working people in the NFL,” the source said. “The Bills have not been to the playoffs in over 10 years and that run will continue for years to come. The owner has made three hires in a row that shows he only cares about mediocrity.
“Four years ago he brings back Marv Levy, who was in his 80’s. That didn’t work. Two years ago he elevates his marketing director to G.M. and COO and again it doesn’t work, and now he elevates a 70-year-old scout to a position that requires work and energy. . . .
“The eight years he spent in San Diego he had the titles Director of College Scouting, Director of Player Personnel, and Assistant G.M. yet he never lived in San Diego. He lived somewhere in Tennessee. . . . Someone who lives in another city is away from the day-to-day operations.
“Bills fans can rest assured that, a year from now, two years from now, and three and four years from now, the team will still be in last place in the AFC East. The Jets, Patriots, and Dolphins continue to make moves to get better while the Bills just tread water. There are good people who were very interested in that job, like Dave Gettelman, Scott Studwell and Doug Whaley that never got a chance. All those guys could have helped that team. The best hope for Bills fans is that the owner decides to sell the team and then someone who cares about winning takes over and brings in qualified people.”
(Please, source, feel free to be candid.)
It’s hard to disagree with the source’s opinions. Though the experiences with Tom Donahoe as G.M. might have made Wilson reluctant to bring in another outsider, a team has to be willing to take chances on talented candidates who currently work for other franchises.
There’s only one way hiring Nix makes sense to us — if it’s part of a broader plan to hire Bill Cowher to be the head coach. Nix has ties to Cowher’s mentor, Marty Schottenheimer, and Tim Graham of ESPN.com has speculated that Nix possibly could lure Marty Schottenheimer to Buffalo as head coach.
But Schottenheimer has said that he has no interest in returning to coaching. (Then again, “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”)
Still, if Brandon has enough sway to steer the owner away from viable external G.M. candidates who might have wanted to put a boot in Brandon’s butt, Brandon likely will be able to keep Wilson from chasing a head-coaching candidate like Bill Cowher, too.