Less than 24 hours after the 2017 draft wrapped up, the Bills announced that they have fired GM Doug Whaley. The move does not come as a major surprise, as we heard earlier this week that major changes could be coming to the Buffalo front office, and it was clear that Whaley was losing clout to new head coach Sean McDermott. Indeed, the Bills hadn’t allowed Whaley to speak to reporters since the Senior Bowl in January, and that did not change during the draft. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets, McDermott “had taken over this team in every way. [Whaley] had been phased out, well before today. Now it’s just official.”
Whaley, who became the team’s GM prior to the 2013 season, did not have much success in that position, as the Bills’ best record during his tenure was 9-7, and they did not qualify for the playoffs in any of his four seasons at the helm. He also made several notable missteps, like the aggressive draft trade for Sammy Watkins and the ill-advised extension for Marcell Dareus, and he failed to identify a franchise quarterback. Nonetheless, Whaley was given the rare opportunity to hire his third different head coach after Rex Ryan was let go towards the end of the 2016 campaign (Whaley also had a hand in hiring Ryan’s predecessor, Doug Marrone). Team owner Terry Pegula also insisted several times over the course of the past several months that Whaley’s position was secure, which Mike Rodak of ESPN.com called an “awkward charade” that the Bills would have been better off avoiding.
Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, though, feels differently. He believes, since the Bills clearly felt comfortable with McDermott running the show, it made sense for them to keep the spotlight off their rookie head coach during the draft and to bring in a new GM now to help clean up Whaley’s (and Ryan’s) messes and handle post-draft matters (Twitter links).
As Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports tweets, multiple members of the Panthers’ front office could become candidates for the Bills’ GM position due to their connections with McDermott, including Carolina’s assistant GM, Brandon Beane. Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer expects McDermott to push for Beane, and while the Panthers will try to keep him, they cannot block him from accepting a GM job elsewhere (Twitter link).
Another potential candidate to replace Whaley is Chiefs’ co-director of player personnel Brett Veach, as suggested by former NFL exec Joe Banner (via Twitter). Veach worked with McDermott when both men were in Philadelphia and is highly-regarded in Kansas City.
Pegula issued the following statement on Whaley’s dismissal:
“After a thorough review of our football operations over the past several months, Kim [Pegula] and I informed Doug this morning that we will be moving in a new direction. We have enjoyed working with Doug. He is a good person and we want to thank him for his work and commitment to our football team. This was my decision. It was not an easy decision but I believe it’s the right one for the future of the Buffalo Bills. Our search for a new general manager will begin immediately.”
In addition to Whaley, the Bills also dismissed their entire scouting staff, as Rodak reports.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.