Doug Whaley

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Decker, Dolphins

Eric Decker is one of several big-name free agents still looking for a home in June and we haven’t heard his name mentioned much since his spring visits with the Raiders and Ravens. However, Decker has some thoughts on where he might fit in.

I think the Patriots would be a good fit [especially since I was] drafted by Josh McDaniels in Denver,” Decker told SiriusXM (on Twitter). “I talked with New England last year during the Free Agency process in June. That is always an option that I would definitely love to entertain.”

The Patriots will be without Julian Edelman to start the season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to go out-of-house for a free agent addition. The Pats still have Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson to hold down the fort while sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios and Malcolm Mitchell are among those fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. When you also consider the presence of special teams ace Matthew Slater, there might not be room for someone like Decker in New England.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports posits that the Dolphins are among the potential fits for free agent safety Ron Parker. Parker was arguably the most consistent member of the Chiefs’ secondary in 2017, though he was out of place playing in the box to make up for Eric Berry‘s absence. Paylor also suggests the Bucs and Cowboys as potential suitors.
  • The NFL Players Association has named former Bills GM Doug Whaley as the director of college scouting for their annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He’ll head up recruitment, evaluation, and the selection process of players as he continues to stay involved in the league. Whaley interviewed for the Packers’ GM job this year before the team promoted Brian Gutekunst to the position.

Packers Interviewed Doug Whaley

Before settling on Brian Gutekunst as their new GM, the Packers interviewed Doug Whaley for the job, as Michael Cohen of the Journal Sentinel writes. Whaley was the only out-of-house candidate to interview for the job. Doug Whaley

[RELATED: Packers Notes: Whitt, O’Neil, Graham, Staff]

Doug Whaley really did a job with the interview,” Murphy said. “I think it was not confirmed, but he was the fourth interview. I knew him a little bit, so I enjoyed having a chance to spend some time with him. I’m a Bills fan, so I follow the Bills a little more closely than some of the other teams. But he put together that roster, and it’s a playoff team without a great quarterback. It made the playoffs. They have a good roster. I think that was a tribute to him. Very interesting candidate. Fascinating background. Was a stockbroker for a year, about to be a pilot and done a lot of good things. And obviously served as a GM and his background with the Steelers was intriguing, too.”

The Bills didn’t win a ton of games under Whaley’s watch, but they did snap their playoff drought this year with a roster that has Whaley’s fingerprints all over it. That was enough to garner Whaley interviews for the Packers’ opening as well as the Browns’ GM job, though it’s unlikely that Cleveland genuinely considered any candidate other than John Dorsey.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers Interested In Doug Whaley As GM?

Doug Whaley could be a candidate for the Packers’ GM vacancy. Whaley is “expected to draw interest” from Green Bay, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Doug Whaley (vertical)

Whaley was fired by the Bills less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the 2017 draft. The timing of the move puzzled many in the football world, but it was not an overall shock to see the Bills move on from him. During his time at the helm, the Bills’ best record was 9-7 and they did not qualify for the playoffs in any of his four seasons. He also made some big blunders, like the team’s trade to land Sammy Watkins in the 2014 draft and the onerous contract given to Marcell Dareus.

Still, it seems as though Whaley is receiving some credit for his role in the Bills’ current success. Although coach Sean McDermott and longtime ally Brandon Beane are running the show, the roster has Whaley’s fingerprints all over it. This year, the Bills ended their 17-year playoff drought and they could make some noise if they can get past the Jaguars in the Wild Card round.

In December, the Browns interviewed Whaley for their GM post before giving the job to John Dorsey. Many speculated that the interview was a sham and done only to satisfy the Rooney Rule.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

Pollard Alliance To File Complaint Against Browns

The Browns say that they satisfied the Rooney Rule by interviewing Doug Whaley for their GM job. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, however, is not satisfied with their explanation. John Wooten, the chairman of the group, says that the Browns failed to comply with proper procedure by not telling the league about the Whaley interview. Browns fans (vertical)

[RELATED: Pollard Alliance Releases HC, GM Candidates]

For whatever reason, [owner Jimmy] Haslam or whoever is running their operation there did not report that they had interviewed a minority candidate before they announced that they had signed John Dorsey,” Wooten told PFT. “That threw the whole thing into question, because everybody was asking, ‘Who did they interview?’ Well, we checked with the league, and the league said it had not received any information on who they interviewed or anyone that they intended to interview. Under league rules, the fact that Doug Whaley and John Dorsey were not in the league, they could in fact talk to those guys, but you still have to report you talked to Doug Whaley, and they didn’t do that.”

Initially, Wooten said he was “livid” about the team’s quick hiring of Dorsey because the Whaley interview had been kept under wraps. He’s not quite as angry now, but he has asked civil rights lawyer (and former candidate for the NFLPA’s top job) Cyrus Mehri to file a complaint with the league.

That’s where we are,” said Wooten. “We’re still waiting for the league to clear this up. We’ve put it on their table. It’s their responsibility. It’s the team’s responsibility to tell the league, and the league gets it to us. We’ll let the league decide what they want to do there [as far as any punishment].”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Interviewed Doug Whaley

Prior to hiring new GM John Dorsey, the Browns also formally interviewed former Bills GM Doug Whaley, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). They also informally touched base with a few other possible candidates. Doug Whaley

A cynic might look at the Whaley interview as a cheap ploy to satisfy the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which stipulates that a minority candidate must be interviewed for every GM and head coaching job. As soon as Sashi Brown was shown the door, it was reported that Dorsey was the frontrunner for the job. Less than 24 hours later, Dorsey was hired. It seems unlikely that Whaley ever had a real chance of landing the position.

Before news of the Whaley interview came out, John Wooten, the head of Fritz Pollard Alliance, said he was “livid” over the Browns’ immediate hire of Dorsey.

I think John Dorsey is a very top quality GM,” Wooten told Jarrett Bell of USA Today Sports. “I am livid that the Browns would totally ignore the work all of us to make the Rooney Rule meaningful.”

With multiple GM vacancies expected to open up this offseason, it’s possible that Whaley will get some real bites. Then again, he might have to rebuild his reputation before landing another NFL GM job. The Bills’ best record during Whaley’s tenure was 9-7 and they did not qualify for the playoffs in any of his four seasons at the helm.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Doug Whaley On Draft, McDermott, QBs

Making his first public comments since being fired from the Bills, Doug Whaley touched on several issues. The former Buffalo GM and Pittsburgh executive discussed the Bills’ new head coach, his former bosses, the trade that ended up sending Patrick Mahomes to the Chiefs, and other topics.

Whaley mentioned he left the Bills with an extra first-round pick in 2018, seeming to indicate he was involved in the deal that moved Buffalo from No. 10 to No. 27 and sending Mahomes to Kansas City. While Whaley was not believed to be calling the shots in the draft room, ceding top decision-making responsibilities to Sean McDermott, the since-ousted GM was said to have helped complete the trade talks with the Chiefs’ John Dorsey.

It wasn’t uncomfortable at all. We worked well together,” Whaley said of he and McDermott’s draft-weekend dynamic during an interview with Sirius XM Radio (via NewYorkUpstate.com). “It was a great working relationship not only with the coaching staff but with the Pegulas and our personnel department. I think what came to fruition during draft day was a testament to how well we worked together in that short amount of time. Not only did we fill needs with guys at the right value with Tre’Davious White as a corner since we lost Stephon Gilmore and Zay Jones as a receiver since we lost two receivers and didn’t have a No. 2.

“… Not to mention, setting the Bills up in the future by having two first-round picks next year. Obviously we gave up one to go up and get Sammy (Watkins). I’ll have to say as a parting gift, we left them with two going into next year.”

Tyrod Taylor remains atop the team’s depth chart, but Whaley may not have regarded the former free agent flier as a player destined to become a franchise quarterback. This isn’t surprising since Whaley was believed to have been against bringing Taylor back for a third year. Whaley drafted the since-departed EJ Manuel, who did not come close to justifying the first-round investment. He emphasized the need to have a franchise passer, should he receive another chance as a GM.

It’s an easy business because if you get a franchise quarterback, everything else is a lot easier. But it’s hard finding that franchise quarterback. I think putting all your effort into trying to find that franchise quarterback but also building that team until you get that. That’s a tricky business and it’s not easy. If I get a shot again I’m going to try to map out a road map to accomplish both at the same time but try to get that franchise quarterback as quickly as possible.”

Regarding McDermott, Whaley said the Bills are going to be a disciplined team.

The one thing that really impressed us during the interview process is how detailed he is and methodical in his approach in everything he does. The one thing I feel very confident that the Buffalo Bills, he will have them in position to win a lot of games. They won’t be beating themselves. He will have them prepared as well as any coach in the NFL and the game won’t be determined on them beating themselves because he will have them prepared.”

The longtime Bills exec also addressed the decision not to match the Patriots’ RFA offer sheet submitted to Mike Gillislee, who was productive in the Bills’ No. 1-ranked rushing attack last season. It’s the second straight offseason the Patriots signed an RFA from the Bills.

(The Patriots) can bring in complementary pieces that they just use as a bag of tricks. We look at Mike Gillislee. For us, we look at is we got a guy off the street, got production out of him and were able to get a fifth-round pick for him. They’re looking at it as, ‘We can use him in a specialty role and pay him $4 million.’ They have the luxury to overpay certain people.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Bills’ Front Office Shakeup

The Bills deciding to trade out of their No. 10 slot, when the Chiefs surrendered their 2018 first-rounder to headline a package that netted them Patrick Mahomes, indicated Doug Whaley was not going to be around much longer, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Buffalo moving down 17 spots — a move the Bills were believed to be pushing for prior to the draft — signaled a long-term plan more than one designed to help an embattled GM’s team win now. (However, Chiefs GM John Dorsey told B.J. Kissel of KCChiefs.com — Twitter link — Whaley was involved in talks that originated early this week.)

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com notes the Bills’ chaotic front office situation goes back to 2014, when Terry and Kim Pegula took over and were surprised when Doug Marrone exercised an opt-out option that garnered him $4MM and left the Bills without a coach despite having completed a rare over-.500 season in 2014. The current Jaguars HC’s 9-7 campaign, aided the Patriots resting starters in Week 17 of that season, represents the most the Bills wins since 2004.

La Canfora notes Whaley has not gotten along especially well with any of his coaches, describing less-than-ideal relationships with both Marrone and Rex Ryan, and the one with Sean McDermott did not take off. Bill Polian declined to join the Bills in January of 2015, and La Canfora notes that decision kept Whaley in charge and helped lead to Marrone bolting on his contract.

Now running the show in Buffalo, McDermott was not happy the Patriots plucked Stephon Gilmore in free agency, La Canfora writes. The RFA decisions on Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee did not help, either. The CBS-based reporter notes some of Pegula’s confidants advised him to fire Whaley years ago. The Bills signed Whaley to an extension last year, however.

A source categorized the Bills’ draft room this weekend as “one of the weirdest three days,” per Breer, due to the fact a leadership component wasn’t entirely present. McDermott, though, was the one who was providing the final say, Breer reports. The first-year HC was given autonomy to remove prospects from the draft board as well. Pegula said today Whaley put together the draft and the organization decided to fire him after the three-day event, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com relays.

Scouts were upset with Ryan’s program last year, Breer notes, adding that Bills coaches felt some of Whaley’s draft decisions — be it the trade-up for Sammy Watkins or selection of injury-risk Shaq Lawson — didn’t fit the schemes they were using. As for Watkins, it’s possible the Bills made his injury situation worse. Breer reports that the wideout’s foot injury was too severe for him to complete walkthroughs, but no one put a stop to his comeback attempt, and the pain worsened as he pushed through it to lead to a two-month shutdown. Watkins returned for the final six games but only cleared 80 receiving yards twice, albeit on a run-centric team. Already rumored to be set to decline Watkins’ fifth-year option, the Bills are probably more likely to go in that direction now that Whaley is gone, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets.

Further complicating things with McDermott: Anthony Lynn was Whaley’s first HC choice, according to Breer, and ownership went with the former Panthers DC — with whom Whaley did not have much of a relationship — while letting Lynn proceed to the Chargers’ job. Tyrod Taylor‘s return on an adjusted deal also went against Whaley’s wishes and was more in line with new OC Rick Dennison‘s. The latter was the Broncos’ OC when the team pursued Taylor in 2015.

As far as the selection of the next GM, the Pegulas might not lean on team president Russ Brandon too much, with Terry Pegula saying today the owners would ask Brandon questions if they believed they need to (Twitter link via Breer). Former Eagles president and Browns CEO Joe Banner understandably expects the new GM to be someone with close ties to McDermott, the longtime exec told Sirius XM Radio (Twitter link). Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane could well become a candidate.

Bills Fire GM Doug Whaley, Entire Scouting Staff

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.”

Doug Whaley

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.

Changes Coming To Bills’ Front Office?

It sounds as though this week’s NFL draft could be the last hurrah for several members of the Bills’ front office. It’s possible, in fact, that the Bills will clean out their entire scouting staff after the draft, a league source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

“We are all getting fired next week,” said one of the Bills’ scouts.

In responding to Florio’s report, the Bills didn’t deny that changes could be on the horizon.

“Right now, our focus is on the preparation for this week’s draft. Like every year, evaluations of our player personnel staff take place following the draft. And this year will be no different,” stated the team.

Doug Whaley

Firings in Buffalo may go above the scouting staff, as general manager Doug Whaley is seemingly losing clout while rookie head coach Sean McDermott‘s voice gains prominence. McDermott has essentially taken over for Whaley as the Bills’ spokesman on important football matters, notes the Associated Press, which reports that the former Panthers defensive coordinator is going to “have a significant say” in the team’s draft process.

The Bills haven’t allowed Whaley to speak to reporters since the Senior Bowl in January, per Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, which is reminiscent of the gag order the Redskins placed on GM Scot McCloughan before firing him earlier this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bills were to give Whaley the ax sometime between after the draft and the end of next season, tweets the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham, who adds that McDermott would choose the Bills’ next GM (Twitter link).

This isn’t the first time Whaley has come up as a potential chopping block victim recently, but last month, owner Terry Pegula refuted the notion that he’s on the outs. McDermott, meanwhile, expects him and Whaley to continue working together going forward, telling the AP that the GM is still running the 53-man roster and will have plenty of say during the draft.

“Doug has great familiarity with the players because he’s been looking at these players for a long time, so I’m trusting Doug on that,” McDermott said. “At the end of the day, it’s a decision that Doug and I will make together.”

The Bills are set to pick 10th overall in the first round, the result of a 7-9 campaign in 2016. In Whaley’s four seasons as the GM, Buffalo has gone 30-34 and extended its league-worst playoff drought to 17 years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.