Terry Pegula

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.

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.

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.

Bills, GM Doug Whaley Working On Extension

1:20pm: Dunne has published his full story on the Whaley extension talks, citing a source who says Pegula did not give a one-year ultimatum to the GM and head coach.

12:51pm: General manager Doug Whaley and the Bills are working on a new contract that would lock up Whaley beyond 2016, according to Tyler Dunne of The Buffalo News (Twitter link). Jeremy White of WGR and Adam Benigni of WGRZ (Twitter links) each reported today that the two sides were working out the final details of the new deal, though Dunne says it hasn’t yet been presented to ownership.Doug Whaley (vertical)

On the heels of a morning report from Dunne’s Buffalo News colleague Vic Carucci, who suggested that owner Terry Pegula was giving Whaley and Rex Ryan one more year to make the playoffs and secure their jobs, news of a possible extension for Whaley comes as a surprise — particularly since Benigni indicates Whaley’s new deal would coincide with Ryan’s, meaning it would run through 2019.

It’s possible that Carucci’s report was inaccurate, though it’s hard to believe the Bills would stand pat again if the team has a sub-.500 season in 2016. It’s also possible that Pegula would consider making changes a year from now even after extending Whaley. For someone who spent $1.4 billion to buy the franchise in 2014, eating a few extra million dollars to replace a GM is probably viable.

Still, if that’s the case, extending Whaley seems somewhat unnecessary, unless the team simply doesn’t want its GM entering the year as a lame duck. Even if Pegula wants to express confidence and optimism heading into 2016, there’s likely a less expensive way to do it.

As we try to sort out what’s happening in Buffalo, here a few more Bills-related updates:

  • Speaking to reporters yesterday, Ryan was unwilling to say definitively that defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman would return in 2016, says Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
  • Veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams has told the Bills he wants to continue playing next year, so as his long as his medical information checks out, he’ll likely be back, tweets Joe Buscaglia of WKBW.
  • Whaley downplayed the importance of signings outside free agents this offseason, joking that reporters covering the team can probably go on vacation during the first week of free agency. However, he referred to re-signing tackle Cordy Glenn and guard Richie Incognito as a “major point of emphasis” (Twitter links via Dunne and Buscaglia).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: Taylor, Whaley, Pegula

After hearing a little more about the deteriorating relationship between the Bills and disgruntled defensive end Mario Williams this morning, let’s take a look at a few more links out of Buffalo:

  • By playing over half of the Bills’ offensive snaps, Tyrod Taylor voided the third year of the three-year deal he signed with Buffalo this season. He is due just $1MM next year, his final season under club control, and although the team could lock him up long-term, GM Doug Whaley and OC Greg Roman are reluctant to label him as the team’s quarterback of the future. Per Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News, Whaley expects to deal with Taylor’s contract at the end of the 2016 season, which may not be the wisest decision. Sullivan believes the team should at least offer Taylor some sort of bridge deal, something along the lines of a three-year, $27MM pact. Although Taylor, who has “outsized belief in his ability,” would likely reject such an offer, Sullivan thinks the Bills should at least try. Taylor is still relatively raw, but if his 2016 season is anything like his 2015 effort, he would likely be in line for a highly-lucrative deal in free agency, and as a result, the Bills may once again be without a quarterback when that time comes.
  • Whaley, of course, may not even be the one to make the decision on Taylor’s future. Per Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News, Bills owner Terry Pegula is seeking outside NFL consultation as to what steps he should take to rid his club of the problems it has faced in recent seasons, and most of that advice is not favorable for Whaley. For instance, Pegula is hearing that the team needs to move on from EJ Manuel as the backup quarterback–something that Whaley has been steadfast in not wanting to do–and Pegula is reportedly “open to the idea of hiring someone to provide big-picture oversight of the football operation while also finding a new GM.” After all, the Bills nearly parted ways with Whaley last offseason, when they reached out to Bill Polian to run the team’s football operations, and the fact that Whaley has now had problems with two head coaches is viewed as a black mark on his resume.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports confirms that Whaley is “at odds” with the Bills’ coaching staff, and La Canfora expects there to be a “showdown” between Whaley and the staff this offseason. Whaley is especially frustrated that the team does not regularly feature Sammy Watkins–for whom Whaley traded a bounty of draft picks–and he would also prefer the team move on from Roman and others. Pegula, however, is a big Roman supporter, and Whaley’s decision to invest so much draft stock in one player, along with his decision to draft Manuel, may be too much for the GM to overcome. It appears as though Whaley may be on his way out, while Rex Ryan and Roman will be given a chance to right the ship and continue to mold the team within Ryan’s ground-and-pound, defense-oriented vision.

AFC East Notes: Wallace, Caserio, Bills

Dolphins‘ receiver Mike Wallace was benched during today’s game against the Jets for what was apparently an attitude problem, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com (via Twitter). Breer highlights this as a situation to watch going forward into the offseason.

Wallace is signed through 2017, with cap numbers of $12.1MM, $13.7MM, and $13.7MM the next three seasons. The team would only save $2.5MM by cutting him this offseason, according to OverTheCap.com.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC East:

  • The Patriots extended the contract of director of player personnel Nick Caserio earlier today, and one reason for this could be the opinion of head coach Bill Belichick, writes Phil Perry of CSNNE.com“He contributes in a lot of different ways, and I’m glad I have him. I need him,” Belichick said. “He probably does more than any other person in his position in the league in terms of his amount of responsibility and the number of different things at the coaching and scouting level. He’s really a valuable guy that has great working knowledge of really everything that we do on the scouting end and the coaching end.”
  • Bills‘ CEO Russ Brandon and head coach Doug Marrone both confirmed that they do not have any scheduled meetings with new owners Terry and Kim Pegula, writes Mike Rodak of ESPN.com“I’m sure at some point we’ll get into some more in-depth meetings,” Brandon said. “There’s nothing scheduled at this point. I talk to Terry all the time, and I have nothing on the books right now for any meetings.” Marrone confirmed that he had not been contacted regarding a meeting.
  • Marrone has three days after the end of the season to opt out of his contract with the Bills due to a change in ownership, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Florio does not believe Marrone will exercise this clause in his contract.
  • Bills‘ running back Fred Jackson earned an incentive of $150,000 in the team’s Week 17 victory over the Patriots, reports Rodak (via Twitter).

Terry Pegula To Make No Immediate Changes

New Bills owner Terry Pegula says he has no immediate plans to makes changes to the team’s administration, writes Vic Carucci for the Buffalo News. Pegula said, “We recognize, A, that we’re in the middle of a season and, B, the season’s not going too bad right now. So I think the smart thing right now is to just let everything be and let the season play out.

However, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out, no owner buys an NFL club fully intent on maintaining that club’s head coach and GM, and Pegula’s comments are consistent with the prevailing notion that he will hire a new coach and/or GM at the end of the season unless the incumbents “do so well that the fans wouldn’t tolerate change.” That probably means a trip to the playoffs at least.

Indeed, Carucci points out that the Pegulas had a similar approach when they bought the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, eventually making major changes after allowing some time to pass. So one way or another it appears as though Bills fans will have something to look forward to in 2015; the club will be either coming off a long-awaited trip to the postseason, or it will be entering yet another new coaching era under new ownership.