Terry Pegula

AFC East Notes: Bills, Mims, Tua

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made it clear that the Bills need to address their stadium situation in the near future to keep the club in western New York, and Bills ownership remains committed to that goal. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears from team and league sources that owners Terry and Kim Pegula have not even investigated the possibility of moving the team to a different city. Instead, the Pegulas continue to work towards building a new stadium near the current one.

The Pegulas will push for the issue to become a top priority for state and local government, and they are optimistic that the recent change in New York leadership will help their pursuit. New governor Kathy Hochul has strong ties to western NY and good relationships with many members of the Buffalo organization who would be working on the project, and as of now, the sense is that the Bills will be staying put.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • Much has been made of Denzel Mims‘ future with the Jets and whether the second-year wideout could be a trade candidate, but Rich Cimini of ESPN.com hears that Mims is not going anywhere, which jibes with a recent report from the NFL Network. Indeed, as Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv writes, Mims is going to get a real opportunity to shine when Gang Green takes on the Titans this afternoon. Head coach Robert Saleh said Mims “is going to get some opportunities. Hopefully he takes advantage of them. We’re expecting him to.”
  • Cimini adds that, at this point, WR Jamison Crowder is the most likely player on the Jets‘ roster to be traded in the coming weeks. Although safety Marcus Maye could theoretically be on the move — his agent recently tweeted that Maye will be recovered from his ankle injury by the trade deadline, a clear attempt to drum up interest — his salary could be prohibitive for many clubs. Maye will still be owed another ~$6MM for 2021 by the time the trade deadline rolls around.
  • Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is eligible to come off IR for the team’s October 17 matchup with the Jaguars, and he will be ready to return to action by that date, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Of course, it remains to be seen if Tagovailoa — who is dealing with multiple fractured ribs — will be reinserted into the starting lineup at that time, or if Miami will continue to roll with Jacoby Brissett. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson trade rumors continue to swirl.

Bills’ Ownership Urging Teams To Hire DC Leslie Frazier As HC

When an offensive or defensive coordinator has success, he often finds himself as a hot head coaching candidate. And while the team that loses its successful coordinator will invariably wish him well in his next endeavor, it will nonetheless lament having to fill his shoes.

But according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are actually “leading the charge” to get Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier the head coaching consideration the Pegulas believe he deserves. La Canfora says the Pegulas have reached out to owners around the league to make them aware of Frazier’s key role in the Bills’ turnaround over the past several seasons and to express their belief that he would make a terrific HC.

Of course, Frazier served as the Vikings’ head coach for three-plus seasons earlier this decade. He took over on an interim basis in the middle of the 2010 campaign after Brad Childress was fired, and he had the interim tag removed at the end of that season. That was a difficult time for the Minnesota franchise, as QB Brett Favre announced his retirement the day before Frazier was named the permanent HC, and the roster as a whole was trending in the wrong direction. Still, after a horrible 3-13 season in 2011, Frazier led the Vikings to a 10-6 showing and a playoff berth in 2012.

He was fired after a disappointing 5-10-1 record in 2013, and after stints as the Bucs’ DC and the Ravens’ secondary coach, he became Sean McDermott‘s defensive coordinator when McDermott was hired as the Bills’ head coach in 2017. While McDermott rightfully gets plenty of credit for turning Buffalo into an AFC power, Frazier’s contributions should not go unnoticed. Though his defense is not as stout in terms of yards allowed per game in 2020 as it has been over the past two seasons, the Bills are poised to host their first playoff game in 25 years, which will certainly help Frazier’s cause.

Plus, the 61-year-old is highly-respected around the league and is beloved by his players. Many teams are seeking out the next great offensive mind in their HC search, but Frazier — who received the added title of assistant head coach back in March — could garner plenty of attention as well.

Terry Pegula: No “Financial Pressure” On Bills

Yesterday, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula fired the GM of their other sports franchise, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. In so doing, Terry Pegula cited his need to make the Sabres “leaner,” which naturally led to some concern from Bills fans that the financial situation of their owners would have an impact on the fortunes of the football club.

But as Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic writes, Terry Pegula downplayed any such fears. “First off, there is no financial situation,” he said. “I don’t know where that rumor started. … [W]e don’t have any debt on our oil and gas business. We need to do better moving forward in the sports business like every team is going to do have to do. … Talking about the Bills right now, there is no financial pressure that’s negative on the franchise.”

Terry Pegula implied that the lack of fans in the stands is much more harmful to an NHL club than an NFL team, which is true and which could be why he says he does not have any financial worries about the Bills. However, Fairburn cites an April report from Tim Graham of The Athletic in which Bills head coach Sean McDermott, among others, were said to be worried that the issues with workplace culture the Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment were facing could impact the Bills’ own culture.

Similarly, if there is any belt-tightening on the Bills’ side of the Pegulas’ operation, it could impact McDermott and GM Brandon Beane first. Both men have two years remaining on their current contracts, and extension talks for McDermott were supposed to be on the table this offseason. COVID-19 has delayed the start of those negotiations, but with the HC market trending upwards, it remains to be seen whether the Pegulas will be able to make a competitive proposal when the time comes.

Of course, underlying this entire discussion is the looming issue of the Bills’ future in Buffalo. Last June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it very clear that the Pegulas will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills where they are, and he reiterated those sentiments earlier this year. Though the Pegulas may not be feeling any negative financial pressure with respect to the Bills right now, it’s hard to say if that will change when — or if — they decide to build a new stadium.

Latest On Bills’ Future In Buffalo

The Bills will remain in Buffalo in 2020. There never seemed to be any notion that another outcome was on the table, but technically it was a possibility that the Bills could be playing elsewhere as soon as next season.

The team’s lease with New Era Field expires in July 2023, but the lease contains an early termination clause that the Bills could have exercised by February 28 of this year. If they had done so, the lease would have terminated on July 30, thereby making the club a geographic free agent.

Per Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Erie County Executive Marc Poloncarz pressed Bills ownership for a commitment, and Terry and Kim Pegula informed Poloncarz on Friday that the team would not be exercising the early termination option. But the team’s future in western New York remains in doubt.

Last June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made it very clear that the Pegulas will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills in Buffalo, and he reiterated those sentiments on Wednesday. Goodell said the Bills and the local government need to settle on an approach within the next several months, and he noted that the team’s stadium will need to remain competitive with other sites around the league.

The Pegulas have not yet wavered in their commitment to keeping the Bills where they have been since they joined the AFL in 1960, and they want to either renovate the current stadium — which opened in 1973 — or build a new one. They issued a statement on Wednesday indicating that a study into potential stadium sites, designs, and financial options had been completed, but it’s unclear if that study has pushed this matter any closer to a resolution.

Florio suggests that, the longer the Bills go without a long-term plan in place, the more offers will come flooding in from other cities anxious to get an NFL franchise. Those offers could be especially tempting to the Pegulas, who do not have the personal resources to fund a stadium themselves.

Toronto has long been rumored as a potential future home for the Bills, but when asked about the possibility of a team north of the border, Goodell reiterated his usual stance, saying that one of the foremost requirements is a stadium that meets NFL standards (Twitter link via Farhan Lalji of TSN).

Bills Ownership Remains Committed To Buffalo

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ruffled some feathers in Buffalo earlier this month when, speaking at Jim Kelly‘s annual charity golf tournament, he said he believes that a new stadium is essential to the stability of the Bills’ franchise. He went on to say that team ownership will need to address the club’s stadium situation at some point in the near future to keep the Bills in Buffalo.

That is not the first time Goodell has made comments of that sort, but it still set off a few alarm bells. Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, though, attempted to downplay the ominous nature of Goodell’s remarks. In an interview with the Associated Press (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Kim Pegula said, “Roger knows where we stand. We weren’t at all upset or thought that he was trying to say anything differently.”

The Pegulas are committed to keeping the Bills right where they are, but they also acknowledge that getting a new stadium to make good on that commitment won’t be easy. Kim Pegula said, “It’s a big, big nut to crack. It’s going to take some patience on everyone’s part.”

As Florio observes, it remains to be seen whether the Pegulas can secure enough private funding from the league and enough public money from the city to make a new stadium feasible, and whether the new stadium would even be a viable long-term investment. One factor that could have a major impact on the Bills’ fate could be stadium credits, a system in which revenue that would otherwise be shared by management and players would instead be funneled into the construction and renovation of stadiums. That issue is not being talked about much right now, but it is likely to become a key component of the upcoming CBA negotiations between the league and the union.

Florio also opines that the Pegulas’ commitment to Buffalo may not be the best way to maximize their leverage with the city, and if they want to get as much public funding as possible for a new stadium, they may need to threaten relocation and stop attempting to placate the fan base.

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.

Draft Rumors: Watson, 49ers, Texans

Here’s a rundown of the latest NFL Draft news:

  • Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is visiting the 49ers on Monday and Tuesday before meeting with the Cardinals on Wednesday, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Niners, of course, own the No. 2 overall pick and the Cards are at No. 13.
  • The Bills worked out UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky on Sunday, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Owner Terry Pegula was there, along with head coach Sean McDermott. In our mock draft from last week, Dallas Robinson has the Bills passing on Trubisky in order to take a wide receiver.
  • The Texans worked out Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson on Friday before flying to the 49ers over the weekend. Next up is a Panthers workout on Tuesday (Twitter link via Rapoport). Carolina has already met with Robinson, so this could be a sign of serious interest. The Panthers own the No. 8 overall pick.
  • Safety Jamal Adams, who had a strong showing at LSU’s Pro Day, is visiting the Panthers today (Monday), Rapoport tweets. Rapoport wonders aloud whether he’ll be available at No. 8.
  • Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman has workouts for Steelers, Bills, Chiefs, and Patriots, according to a source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).

AFC Coaching Notes: Jaguars, Broncos, Jets, Raiders

It hasn’t been the best two-to-three weeks for the Bills organization. The team fired Rex Ryan in late December, and general manager Doug Whaley held a subsequent news conference that left some questioning his competence. Then there’s the whole Tyrod Taylor fiasco, as the organization could potentially be stuck with the quarterback’s $27.5MM salary.

Following the hiring of Sean McDermott as their new head coach, Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula made it clear that their organization is not dysfunctional.

“I know how I run my life, run our business,” Terry Pegula told Tim Graham of The Buffalo News. “I know how we treat people, and I know the people we have in our organization. You can’t pin 17 years [out of the playoffs] on the Pegulas. We’ve been around for X-number of years.

“There’s no foundation, no truth to this dysfunctional talk. I consider it an insult to our organization and the Bills and the good people with the Sabres. They can’t be real happy to hear that.”

Let’s take a look at some more coaching notes coming out of the AFC…

  • The Jaguars have hired Joe DeCamillis as their new special teams coordinator, reports Mike Klis of 9News in Denver (via Twitter). DeCamillis, 51, spent the past two seasons serving in the same role with the Broncos, and he previously served as coordinator for the Bears and Cowboys. This will be a reunion of sorts for DeCamillis, who served as a special teams coach with the Jaguars from 2007 through 2008.
  • With all of the changes to the Broncos coaching staff, there will be at least one member sticking around. Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post reports (via Twitter) that Tyke Tolbert will continue on as the team’s wide receivers coach. Tolbert reportedly turned down an offer from the Titans for the same role.
  • Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville has already interviewed for the Jets offensive coordinator vacancy, reports ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini (via Twitter). The writer notes that the organization has “strong interest” in the long-time coach.
  • League sources tell Brian Costello of the New York Post that the Jets will have a tough time convincing “any candidate with options” to take their offensive coordinator gig. The writer notes that Todd Bowles‘ lack of job security and the Jets’ questionable quarterback depth may scare some potential candidates away.
  • The Raiders are making some coaching changes under new offensive coordinator Todd Downing. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports (via Twitter) that the team will be promoting senior offensive assistant Jake Peetz to quarterbacks coach. Peetz has spent seven years coaching in the NFL.

Coughlin Takes Meeting With Bills’ Owners?

Tom Coughlin hasn’t made any secret of his desire to return to coaching, and the two-time Super Bowl-winning leader may have met with Bills ownership over the weekend. However, multiple parties are denying this summit occurred.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Sal Maiorana reports a meeting between Coughlin and Terry and Kim Pegula occurred (Twitter link), but he did not detail whether it was a consulting session or a job interview. Both the NFL — for which Coughlin currently works in the operations department — and his agent, Sandy Montag, deny this took place, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. The Bills did not comment on whether or not this meeting occurred due to a team policy.

Prior to this season, the 70-year-old Coughlin had coached for 20 of the past 21 seasons with the Jaguars and Giants. He’s working alongside Troy Vincent as a senior advisor participating in all game-related committees while having responsibilities relating to the draft and Pro Bowl.

Before their upset victory over the Cardinals, the Bills were dealing with turmoil due partially to the early dismissal of OC Greg Roman and subsequent fallout that may have put Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley on notice. Buffalo’s home triumph may have stalled that speculation, but Ryan’s job status likely isn’t going to fade into the background this season, leading to potential links between the Bills and possible Ryan successors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: Whaley, Ryan, Backup QB

Two somewhat conflicting reports on the Bills surfaced on Tuesday from The Buffalo News, with Vic Carucci suggesting owner Terry Pegula had issued a playoffs-or-else ultimatum to head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley when he decided to bring them back for the 2016 season. However, Tyler Dunne suggested no such ultimatum had been issued, reporting that the Bills were actually nearing a contract extension for Whaley.

We attempted to make sense of those reports at the time, but Dunne and Carucci have since added more details, so let’s dive in and round up the latest from them, as well as the rest of the day’s notes out of Buffalo…

  • Whaley’s extension could get finalized this weekend, with the GM and the rest of the Bills’ brass planning to meet to recap the 2015 season and make plans for 2016, writes Dunne.
  • Within the same piece, Dunne notes that Pegula sent a text message calling the alleged ultimatum “BS,” and those close to the team’s owner indicate that it’s not in his nature to do something like that. However, Dunne also points out that there have been multiple instances in recent years where Pegula extended a coach or GM for his Buffalo Sabres, then fired him less than a year later. In other words, with or without an extension or an ultimatum, Whaley and Ryan will likely have to show improvement next year to keep their jobs.
  • It sounds like Carucci is sticking to his report on Pegula’s ultimatum, suggesting that Pegula and other sources who are denying it are simply unhappy that it leaked in the first place. Within the same piece, Carucci also discusses the future of Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.
  • Tyrod Taylor will enter the 2016 season as the starting quarterback for the Bills, but who will back him up? Mike Rodak of ESPN.com examines the team’s options.
  • Earlier today, we passed along word of the Bills signing former Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to a reserve/futures contract.