The Bills are looking for a new coach. Their current General Manager will be leading the search. And that necessarily will limit the search to those candidates who will accept working with, and ultimately for, their current G.M..
It’s an important factor to consider when making lists of potential candidates for the job. Big names will emerge, but some of those big names will want to run the show and/or to nudge Doug Whaley out of the way. That will make those candidates less inclined to take the job.
The same dynamic applies with respect to the two other existing vacancies. In L.A., COO Kevin Demoff surely won’t be recommending candidates who would be inclined to recommend neutering or firing Demoff. In Jacksonville, where G.M. Dave Caldwell is leading the search, he won’t be giving the thumb’s up to anyone who ultimately would want the ability to give Caldwell the thumb’s down.
It’s arguably the most applicable to the Bills, given rampant rumors of conflict between Whaley and Ryan. The conflict is understandable; with reports emerging a year ago that both Whaley and Ryan would be out if the team didn’t make the playoffs, both men had a clear incentive to position the other to take the blame for another lost season. Whaley won. The next time around, he likely will want to avoid that kind of turmoil
Whaley’s status with respect to the search could be a factor, then, in the question of whether Western New York native Tom Coughlin becomes a serious candidate for the job. When ownership, team president Russ Brandon, and former coach Rex Ryan met last year with Coughlin, Whaley wasn’t involved; unless Whaley simply wasn’t available at the time, his omission from the meeting could make him inclined to omit Coughlin from Whaley’s personal wish list.
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, whose early-season promotion to offensive coordinator sparked a four-game winning streak, could become a viable candidate — especially if the players aren’t thrilled with the decision to fire Ryan after only 31 games on the job. That decision also could make the job less attractive to external candidates with options elsewhere, since they will want to know why and how ownership went from loving Rex less than two years ago to wanting to get rid of him now.
It’s also possible that the Bills already know who they want, and that they pulled the trigger on Ryan after developing an appropriate degree of confidence that they will land him. Few coaching searches begin with a blank slate; whether it’s ownership or Whaley or the officially-not-involved-but-unofficially-very-involved Brandon (who also won’t want to be undermined by the next coach) calling the shots, the process most likely will be starting with a preferred ending point in mind.
The challenge will be to keep that preferred ending point close to the vest, so that whoever eventually takes the job can be sold to the fans and the media as the team’s first choice. And then everyone can hope that new ownership won’t be dumping its first choice before he finishes his first two years on the job.