When the Bills gave up, as a practical matter, more draft picks for receiver Sammy Watkins than it would take to get tight end* Jimmy Graham away from the Saints, it seemed fairly obvious that the current stewards of the football organization weren’t worried about losing future picks they may not be there to use, given the looming ownership change.
Current CEO Russ Brandon — who could be former CEO Russ Brandon after the new boss takes over — tried to downplay the notion that the franchise’s future was mortgaged to ensure that key employees would have a future with the franchise.
“It has nothing to do with the future,” Brandon told Judy Battista of NFL Media. “It is everything about the future is now. [G.M.] Doug Whaley and our player personnel department are empowered and have full autonomy to make football decisions. That was a football decision, and it wasn’t tied to the future of the organization. It is business as usual.”
If it was business as usual, it was an unusual move to give up so much future value to move up five spots. Especially when Whaley’s philosophy is to build through the draft.
“We’re making football decisions, no matter what,” Brandon said. “We’re making business decisions as we would, in a very prepared and methodical way. Doug Whaley did a great job preparing for the draft — they stayed true to doing what they wanted to do, and that was to move up to take Sammy Watkins. Everything is about winning. I know it’s a cliché. It has not one iota of an impact on who the future owner may be.”
Brandon is saying that because he has to. But the truth is that Brandon and Whaley and coach Doug Marrone and everyone else currently employed by the football side of the operation — and a lot of people on the non-football side of the operation — instantly saw their prospects become incredibly cloudy once Ralph Wilson passed.
New owners want to hire their own people. Jimmy Haslam has cleaned house in Cleveland — twice in less than two years. So the folks currently in the house in Western New York need to show they deserve to stay. And if they can get the fans on their side by quickly becoming a true contender, the new owner will need to show patience, especially in light of the broader dynamics relating to the future geographic location of the team.
So, yes, they’re trying to enhance their chances of sticking around. And, no, they’re not worried about giving up 2015 draft picks that they may not be there to use. And, yes, they’ll only be there to not use them if the Bills do so well that the fan base would never accept a flurry of pink slips in January that would be nearly as intense as the lake-effect snow.