Pegula Era Facing Irrelevancy Pending the “Tough Decisions”
Part 1: Whaley Must Go
December 21st, 2015
I will begin this piece by stating that I got suckered this season and not only drank the kool-aid but became one of the biggest cheerleaders of the move to get Ryan in Buffalo. I guess I’ll just have to file this in a large drawer of “what the hell was I thinking’s” throughout my life. Sadly I cannot even claim that alcohol was involved. While a diehard Bills fan that was personally at every home playoff game during the Kelly era, among many regular season games as well, my fan status had been in dormant mode for a number of years until this past offseason. Myself and a fellow Bills fan friend that lives in Florida even went to the Cincy game this season, our first in years, expecting bigger things. Well, pending some quick and hard-hitting decision-making on Pegula’s part my fan status is getting ready to pack right back up hit dormancy again until such a time as the franchise pulls its head out of its ass.
The current situation for Pegula is, believe it or not, actually worse than it was at this same time last season. And yes, it is difficult to believe. This team needs a good housecleaning, it is obvious to anyone with a clear and accurate understanding of the issues of this franchise. The situation is not merely worse for Pegula now than it was last year at this time, but pending what he does to correct things, ironically, he might very well cement himself as an owner that is worse than Wilson ever was for as lackadaisical Wilson was about creating a winner.
Wilson at least has a little luck and the results of that luck in his corner in the late-80’s and early 90’s in establishing whatever legacy there is regarding the on-field performance of his franchise for over 40 years. Pegula has nothing except that he kept the Bills in Buffalo at this point, but sorry, that simply is not good enough. I think that I can speak for most fans when I say that we would prefer a winner in our current and old stadium than a loser and continued tradition of losing in a modern state-of-the-art stadium even if it is downtown amidst many amenities.
Pegula was responsible for bringing Ryan in, but has there ever been a bigger coaching flop in the history of the Bills in terms of the drop from the welcome to the fanfare to the final result in less than a season? I cannot think of one. Ryan makes the failures that were Mularkey, Jauron, Gailey, and Marrone seem like relative successes. The results certainly were not much different but the big difference is that Ryan has had more talent than any of them yet has posted no better if not worse results. Apparently Jets’ fans attempting to warn us were 100% correct.
We will get to Ryan in Part-Deux of this expose, but suffice it to say that it’s highly unrealistic to have a coach with a defensive system so complex that seasoned top-caliber veterans are just starting to get it only after a full season of play. This is impractical in an NFL era where a team can be considered fortunate to keep a defensive roster together for two or three seasons much less longer.
Part one of this piece is about Whaley and why he has long overstayed his welcome. In fact, the support for Whaley amongst certain contingents of fans is equally mindboggling as the play on the field was yesterday vs. the Redskins or on the season as a whole. Same for a regional media that apparently does not want to face facts, the facts on Whaley. Facts are facts and we’ll stick to those instead of opinions which appear to be all that Whaley supporters have anymore.
First, Whaley was hired by the Bills in 2010, February 10th, 2010 to be exact. According to the team’s official site, and corroborated by the wealth of parroting sports media sites polluting the ether, Whaley was hired to oversee player personnel!
From this link at the team’s official site; http://www.buffalobills.com/news/article-3/Whaley-named-Asst-GMDirector-Pro-Personnel/f2444030-483e-403c-bb59-204c46f3d4d8
“The Bills addressed a vacancy in their front office Wednesday announcing the hiring of Doug Whaley, who was named Assistant General Manager/Director of Pro Personnel. Whaley will have a multi-faceted role with respect to football operations.
He will oversee the franchise’s pro personnel department …”
This made at least some sense at the time given the well-known fact that Nix was not brought on for his awareness in the arena of personnel, rather Nix was brought on for his ability to navigate the NFL scene and for his established ties to all things NFL. There should be no confusion, particularly since Nix, who hired Whaley, did not have personnel as a specialty as Nix was hired because of his connections within the NFL and his administrative savvy, in theory anyway as it always seems to be for the Bills, “on paper only.”
Speaking of “on paper only,” for a laugh let us look back at how the news of Whaley’s promotion to GM was marketed, shall we, again, according to the Bills’ official site; http://www.buffalobills.com/news/article-2/Doug-Whaley-named-Bills-general-manager/49e2e920-3b2a-48ff-950a-2c5d0b4004fd
From that announcement … ;
“In his three short years with the Bills his track record has been solid if not exemplary. When entrusted with fortifying the roster with pro free agents, Whaley acquired offensive linemen like Kraig Urbik off the waiver wire and Chad Rinehart as a street free agent. He and Bills Special Assistant Buddy Nix also picked Scott Chandler up off waivers from Dallas and filled what was a largely vacant tight end role on the club.”
Urbik, Rinehart, and Chandler? Boy Howdy! Ironically, the most successful of the three is not even on the team any longer. And what, no mention of Andra Davis, Nick Pears, Nick Barnett, or Mark Andersen? How could anyone possibly have doubted Whaley’s prowess. (deep-rooted sarcasm fully intended)
Seriously, if those were the reasons for his promotion, then those doing the promoting are out of their league. (pun intended)
Fans and media supporting Whaley cite the acquisitions of players like Mario Williams, Hughes, and the handful of draft picks that have actually turned out as Whaley and the personnel office under his supervision claimed that they would. But in the case of Mario the team grossly overpaid lest we forget. Overpaying for players is neither good, shrewd, nor wise management of the team’s precious resources. As to Hughes, Hughes for Sheppard was a nothing-for-nothing trade at that time hoping that a change of venue would actually be good for both players for both teams, and which happened to hit for us, but was hardly a shrewd move to steal a highly sought player on the free-agent market.
Under Whaley’s supervision some draft picks have worked out, but of those that have they have not worked out well enough overall and the ones that did not more define Whaley’s tenure with the Bills than those that did. For example, Spiller in Whaley’s inaugural season as “overseer of personnel” was a fully predictable horrible reach-gone-wrong for a gadget player that has amounted to nothing.
But in what should be the complete undoing for Whaley, the coup de grace if you will, and what should have gotten him fired no-later-than last season, was the massive reach for EJ Manuel in the 2013 Draft and the ensuing draft antics in Whaley’s own personal interests but not the team’s interest. To start, reaching for Manuel in a draft in which most credible draft analysts had him pegged for no sooner than the mid-2nd round to anywhere in the 5th, took buffoonery to an art. The only player from that Draft that is helping this team otherwise is Woods and even then, only marginally.
Whaley followed up that horrific decision by trading away the farm to get Watkins, a player whose collegiate accolades obviously did not translate to the NFL game nearly as much as the pundits were all saying, something that has been fully corroborated since then.
Of all of the WRs available in the 2014 Draft, two have exceeded Watkins’ performance to date, Mike Evans and most notably Odell Beckham, and by a huge margin, but numerous others have performed comparably including but not limited to Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry, all 2nd-round picks, Brandon Cooks, and Allen Hurns who went undrafted. Kelvin Benjamin also outperformed Watkins in his rookie season prior to having been lost for this season. All but Evans would have been available with the Bills’ original 1st-round pick and without the need to have given up the 1st and 4th the following season. In fact, Whaley could have traded down, gained additional picks, and still landed a comparable WR in a draft forecast to have been rich in WRs. Again, horrible GM-ship.
Why did he do it? While it may not have been obvious at the time to those not wanting to see the truth, the reality is that he did it to attempt to resurrect the blossoming “bust” status that Manuel had rapidly been acquiring. Whaley himself is on record, on video even, indicating that he even realized that should Manuel, who according to him had the “It” factor, not work out, then he should be looking for a new job. Again, let’s not let facts stand in the way, watch and listen to it for yourself;
To quote Whaley from that video, … “we wanna get to the point where people see us on the schedule, those players sit there and say ‘hey, we gotta be ready, we better button-up our chin-strap ‘cause we’re gonna be in for a fight.”
Has that happened since then? Clearly not.
Unfortunately, expending draft picks for players like Manuel, overpaying for players like Mario and making him the highest paid defensive player in the league when his play did not warrant that status, and then attempting to salvage his reputation by giving away the farm for a WR that was not even the best, by a margin, in his own draft class, is clearly not the way to accomplish that. Even draft analysts that believed that Watkins would be as good as his draft hype stated that the Bills gave up too much to get Watkins. The fact that Watkins has not lived up to that hype merely renders that decision even worse.
Furthermore, and here’s where Whaley recognizes what his apologists apparently cannot even manage to see, he says the following;
“… as Mark says, that in three years maybe he’s not [the quarterback of the future], then I’ll be sittin’ there sayin’, hey guys, anybody got a job for me?”
Whaley realizes it, so why do his apologists not realize what Whaley himself does?
Not only is Manuel not the quarterback of the Bills’ future, but he also was no better than any of the other quarterbacks in his draft. He should not even be taking up a roster spot at this point but is only because of Whaley, who has gone rogue. He was a reach at the time, in hindsight he was a day-three selection at best and has absolutely no future as a starting QB in the NFL. Yet, Whaley continues to attempt to shove a rhinoceros into a snack-bag regarding Manuel.
OK, so that was then, this is now. Here is why Whaley should be let go, and why today, with two games remaining would not be too soon even.
First, he has been and is now acting in his own personal best interests, not in the team’s best interests. It was foolish to acquire Watkins in the method that he was acquired, but Whaley did so in order to hopefully make Manuel look competent. Both of those moves appear to be epic failures and if Watkins cannot manage to keep himself on the field for all 16 games next season his utility to the team as a reliable playmaker dimishes significantly on top of already not even being able to prove that he was anywhere close to the best WR in his own draft class much less prolific as many expected. As it is his play is drastically inconsistent. As it is, only one of his 100-yard games this season has come against a team that has a winning record, and then in a loss in which he disappeared in the 2nd-half.
Second, Whaley also clearly has a massive ego and apparently believes that he can do whatever he wants apart from any other opinions as to what may be best for the team and franchise. In other words, instead of treating the team as if it is an asset that he is entrusted to properly manage, he runs it now as if it is his own personal toy and fantasy team.
It is now well-publicized that it was Whaley that singlehandedly released Fred Jackson, the heart and soul of the team’s lockerroom and on-field leadership amongst the players, without input from anyone else and contrary to the wishes of others . The move was lamented by both player and fan alike. While Jackson was clearly no longer the player that he had been, he still had value as a depth and situational player to be sure, but also as a leader that the team now sorely lacks. Whaley did similar with Cassel, and while Cassel is probably not much better than Manuel, he was somewhat better and for sure more experienced.
On a side note, if Jackson were to retire following this season, a distinct possibility, it would behoove Pegula to bring him back next year at the season opener to allow him to retire a Bill!
Either way, acting as a renegade regarding personnel matters can only spell trouble for a franchise, but also shows a massive disrespect and disdain for other elements of team administration and particularly for Pegula himself. If Pegula does not realize this then he has already lost control of this franchise.
Third, Whaley is a Donahoe pupil. Donahoe plucked him for service in Pittsburgh. Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Bills should root out all elements of Pittsburgh friends-and-family ties and move on from anything Pittsburgh related, it has done absolutely nothing but keep this team among the ranks of the mediocre at best.
In hindsight the team’s drafts while Whaley has “overseen personnel decisions” in hindsight can be graded on or about the following:
2011: B+ (because of Dareus and Aaron Williams only)
2012: B (because of Gilmore and Glenn only)
2013: C (because of Woods and Kiko (McCoy) only)
2014: C (because of Watkins and Henderson only, but the Bills could have done much, much better without sacrificing the 2015 draft)
2015: C+ (because of Darby only who was widely known to have been the best cover-corner in the draft, Steward, O’Leary, and Lewis have contributed nothing significant, Miller is injury-prone and inconsistent in his play, and Karlos Williams has had two good games against Miami but has done little else averaging fewer than 4 yards-per-carry otherwise)
Ironically, this past offseason was perhaps the Bills’ best in a while, particularly given the lack of a 1st-round selection in this past draft. But questions linger as to who was more in charge, was it Whaley, was it Ryan, was it Pegula, was it a group effort, etc. Ryan was clearly the one that wanted Taylor, not Whaley. It probably grieved Whaley to bring Taylor to Buffalo. Either way, even if it was primarily Whaley it is far too little and far too late and does not change his status with this team from being one of a conflict-of-interests between him and Pegula and the franchise.
There may be slight variation among objective draft raters, but not much, and this is simply not nearly enough to dismiss the rogue and bumbling elements to Whaley’s methodologies. Again, he should have been fired following last season, to not do so now renders Pegula’s ownership status as being worse than Wilson’s so soon with no hope.
It also does not help when the owner’s own son, clearly an avid Bills fan, has his opinions, which match the blatant reality, shut up and retracted in social media. Pegula is walking a fence here with incompetence and terminal sorry status on one side and correction and hope on the other. The first step in falling into the court of the latter is to get rid of Whaley, and now would be a grand time to let the search for the best available candidate commence immediately.
It’s no secret, this season is over. Whaley and Ryan have done not only the unimaginable, but also the unlikely, they have actually taken last year’s team, added talent, and rendered a worse on-field product. It truly boggles the mind!
We will see what Pegula does, but if he believes that caution and conservative decision-making is on his side, he is sorely amiss. He can ill afford to take his time in this matter. It is blatant as to the initial steps that must be taken, namely fire Whaley, and there is absolutely no reason, other than personal reasons of a friends-and-family nature, but this is a business, not a holiday party, to wait any longer. And while Pegula’s at it, let him get rid of the other elements of this cancer that has plagued and plagues this team’s personnel approach by firing Overdorf, Monos, Fisher, and Majeski as well, or be prepared to hire a new GM that will clean house as such.
Anyone thinking, which was unthinkable one year ago at this time, that the team could possibly have devolved to this state, but that it cannot collapse even further, is sorely mistaken. Sheer and utter hopelessness is next pending some “tough decision making” here very, very soon!
Part Deux on Rex Ryan next. In short however, I disagreed with a fellow Bills fan, reader, and friend, that talk of Ryan being fired would not exist after one season and when the Bills were 6-6 that they would not finish any worse than 8-8. At this point the Bills would be fortunate to finish 7-9 and I can think of no defense against firing Ryan who has underachieved with the talent placed before him as no coach in my memory has with the Bills.