Bills fire GM Doug Whaley and scouts

Apr 30, 2017

The Buffalo Bills fired General Manager Doug Whaley and the pro and amateur scouting departments Sunday morning.

Former Bills General Manager Doug Whaley
Credit WBFO News File Photo

Whaley was relieved of his duties a day after he and his scouting staff had participated in the NFL draft. He spent four seasons as Bills GM.

Owner Terry Pegula released a statement saying Whaley was informed of the firing this morning. Pegula said it was not an easy decision but was the right one for the future of the Bills. Watch his entire news conference here.

With this firing, both Pegula run teams are currently without a GM. WBFO Beyond the Playbook Commentator Matt Sabuda said it's understandable the Bills are looking to start over.

"You can't blame them with Doug Whaley's recent tenure. Particularly trading up for Sammy Watkins in a WR class that was absolutely stacked," said Sabuda. "Along with missing on EJ Manuel. Even though that was in the last year of the Buddy Nix era, it was a major part of it."

Manuel is no longer on the team. In the case of Watkins, Buffalo has until May second to pick up his fifth-year option. The Buffalo News recently reported the Bills are unlikely to do that.

Sabuda added contract gaffes like losing wide receiver Chris Hogan and running back Mike Gillislee to the division rival New England Patriots didn't help when reviewing Whaley's performance.

"They're in uncharted territory every year as they continue this unprecedented playoff drought," said Sabuda. "So to have a complete and total rebuild is not something that is completely unusual in that it's completely unusual to be out of the playoffs for 17 years."

One of the questions being asked about this decision is why wait until the day after the draft to fire your GM? Sabuda said that is due to the timing of the draft and the relationship the scouting staff has with the GM.

"You needed to fire him months ago or you have to let him get through the draft because he's the one in your organization that's done all the prep work on many of these players coming out of college. If you were to have fired him before the draft, it is very unlikely you would have been able to put together a team that had much familiarity with the guys who are coming in."

Sabuda said it's a situation where the guy in control of the draft knew he was going to be fired.

When asked how much of a say Doug Whaley had in the draft and if he thought the draft went well, Terry Pegula responded, "He put the whole thing together... I think it went pretty well."

One of the highlights from the 2017 NFL draft was the record amount of traded selections. The Bills had one of the biggest deals, trading their pick at 10 in exchange for the Kansas City Chiefs pick at 27, third-round pick (91st overall) and their first-round pick in 2018. Many sources around the NFL felt the Bills made out very well with that trade and some speculated Sean McDermott was in full control.

"Sean didn't lead the charge," said Pegula. "It was a collaborative effort in our draft process."

Terry and Kim Pegula will now lead the search for new GM's
Credit Buffalo Bills

Sabuda said it's a small world, with very few job openings in the NFL.

"Doug Whaley still will look at this and this will go down as, while having a lot to do with Sean McDermott and him having more control than Doug Whaley, this will still go down on Doug Whaley's resume," said Sabuda. "Having a good draft, personally for him... for future job opportunities can only help. "

Pegula didn't reveal much about why Whaley was being let go only adding when asked, "We have certain aspects we need to get a little better in."

It was made clear the decision was made by Terry and Kim Pegula after talking to everyone in the organization. Sabuda said the Pegulas probably don't know what they are doing, but that shouldn't be a surprise.

"Being a sports owner is really unique in the world business and experience," said Sabuda. "It's one of the very few avenues where someone steps in with virtually no experience from the ground up and is the CEO of a large organization."

Sabuda believes you have to learn on the job as an owner of an NFL team. It's not uncommon for newer owners like the Pegulas to make mistakes. It is how you learn from them moving forward that fans should pay attention to.

With the Bills playoff drought currently at 17 years, it feels like more of the same for many native Buffalo fans.

"There's just no city that's had this level of dysfunction across their entire sports landscape," said Sabuda. "Unless you want to add cities that have lost their teams. St. Louis, San Diego... they might beg to differ with Buffalo's plight."

Cleveland is often compared to Buffalo when talking about most tortured fan bases, but Sabuda says it's not even close. That's something Buffalo wins hands down.

"If fans could walk down Washington (street) to enter the arena and watch LeBron James win a championship for the Buffalo Braves, they'd be thrilled with that scenario."

The search for Whaley's successor will begin immediately.

Here is Pegula's full statement:

After a thorough review of our football operations over the past several months, Kim 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.