[Editor’s note: On Monday, Bills G.M. Doug Whaley made himself available to the media for the first time all season. The Bills have circulated a full transcript of the lengthy session. PFT has edited the transcript to include relevant questions and answers relating to the decision to fire coach Rex Ryan and the search for a new coach.]
Q: A press conference of this consequence, why do we not have ownership or the team president here with you and why are you out here on your own?
A: As season-ending review of the football operation department, I speak for the ownership and the team president, and I speak for our football operation department.
Q: Doug, you said that you represent ownership so we haven’t had a chance to hear from Terry or Kim [Pegula] regarding Rex Ryan’s firing. Walk us through. Why was he fired? What was the thought process?
A: We had just finished our weekly phone conversation with Terry, myself, and Rex. Rex asked to speak to him privately. After that, I was informed that Rex would no longer be our coach. I wasn’t privy to the conversation so I cannot get into those details.
Q: Did his not making the playoffs have anything to do with his firing?
A: Again, I was not privy to the details of the conversation.
Q: Doug, you mentioned the last coaching search was done by committee approach. What was your personal recommendation in January of 2015 on Rex Ryan?
A: I will not get into that.
Q: So are you not responsible for the hiring of Rex Ryan? Was that not your guy?
A: It’s a Bills hire, so I’m part of it. Yes.
Q: Along those lines, why do you think they didn’t have faith in you to make that hire yourself? You’re the General Manager, that’s one of the jobs that a General Manager does. What gives you any more credibility now?
A: Back then, we’d have to talk to the Pegulas but we decided, as a group, that we would make it a committee approach and they would have the final say. This time, I have faith – the ownership has faith in me and I have faith in myself. We’ll see where it goes. And I understand the gravity of the situation and I understand that it’s falling square on my shoulders and I accept the challenge.
Q: But you not taking ownership of the previous thing, you know part of that committee — you said you don’t want to get into it. If you agreed with the hire —
A: I did.
Q: You agreed with it?
A: I did. It’s a Bills hire. Correct.
Q: Does that give you even less credibility now, then, considering what happened with the hire?
A: I’ll let you debate that but I would say that it was —
Q: Well, there’s a lot of debate about it.
A: Then we won’t debate it.
Q: Who was part of that committee two years ago?
A: It was myself, [team president] Russ Brandon, Kim and Terry Pegula.
Q: Will Russ be part of the committee this time?
A: With Russ’s expanded responsibilities with [Pegula Sports Entertainment], he will not be.
Q: My follow-up is because you just made a reference to Russ’s expanded role with [Pegula Sports Entertainment]. Is something new or are we just talking about the fact that —
A: Yeah, he’s in charge of all — yeah, I don’t even know what he’s in charge of. I just know he’s in charge of a lot.
Q: The decision to made Rex Ryan was made weeks ago I was told.
A: I’ll answer that one; then you have a lot more information than I did. I wasn’t privy to any part of Rex Ryan being fired until I was told by Terry Pegula.
Q: Really? Not even as the General Manager?
A: We usually have those discussions at the year-end evaluation along with all the players, all the staff, all my staff. So again, I wasn’t privy to that information so I can’t answer that and maybe you can shed some light on that. Now, according to Tyrod [Taylor], we’re still in the playoff hunt and until it’s zero, we’re trying to win every game so we’re trying to put the best team out there to win.
Q: Regarding an explanation to the fans, how can you speak for ownership if you were not privy to the details?
A: I can’t give you the particulars of what happened in that conversation. I can just tell you that I was informed that he would not be our head coach going forward.
Q: How does that happen though? You’re the G.M.
A: Because, again, we usually hold those conversations after the season. Season-end evaluation of not only coaching staff and my staff but players.
Q: You had no input?
A: Again, I was not privy to that conversation.
Q: You said you understand the narrative earlier when Rex was fired and you or ownership didn’t speak. Do you worry about how that makes the organization look when you are trying to appeal to prospective head coaches?
A: I don’t because there was going to be a narrative no matter what we had done that day. That painted us any picture that you guys wanted to paint us.
Q: Did you ever get the sense that Rex was in trouble with the Pegulas? Were you ever moved to maybe come to his defense?
A: I’ll have to say this again, we hold those conversations at the end of the year, usually for the evaluations. So I had no need to go and talk to them about Rex. We were focused on the season. We always focus on the game ahead.
Q: You had no word that he was in trouble though?
Q: You didn’t know that he might get fired?
Q: Speaking for ownership, have they communicated or given an explanation to you why, with regards to all of this, why they would only put out a statement and do not want to directly address the fans?
A: They haven’t talked to me about it and I don’t need them to talk to me about it.
Q: Just to be clear, you didn’t have full responsibility in the hiring of Rex, you didn’t have responsibility in the firing of Rex, you said you never had a hunch that he was on a hot seat with ownership. So to you as the G.M. of the team, is it frustrating that you don’t have that sort of power, any sort of say in the situation? Because on the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like you have much power here.
A: Everybody has a boss, and the Pegulas, when the hiring of Rex, it was a committee approach, Pegulas had to sign off on it. This one, I will lead the search, the Pegulas still have to sign off on it. The head coach reports to the Pegulas.
Q: As the head of football operations, it seems like you’re not making all of the football decisions. Some of those decisions are coming from the Pegulas and if they want to fire the coach, they’re the owners. Is that the owners job to be making football decisions, or do they have somebody—you—who runs the football department and if they succeed, congratulations. If they fail, you’re in trouble.
A: I mean it doesn’t matter, no matter what. It’s their organization, their franchise. So they’re going to have the ultimate stamp no matter what. If it’s on me in charge over the coach, or the coach and I at the same level, it’s still ultimately their decisions.
Q: Did you agree with the decision to fire Rex?
A: I won’t get — I’ll say this much, I haven’t even thought about it. My focus now is going ahead.
Q: You didn’t have any kind of ‘Well, OK I agree,” or ‘Wait a minute, I’m a football guy and you’re not football people. Maybe we should talk about this?’ Just to have a discussion?
A: That wasn’t in my thought process.
Q: So you have not thought about the decision to fire Rex Ryan?
A: I have not because my job is to go from the decision, and move this organization forward. So that would be wasted time, and I’d rather put that time and effort into going forward.
Q: So whether it was a good call or bad call, that never came up in your mind?
A: No. It’s onward and upward.