The Buffalo Bills have parted ways with general manager Doug Whaley after four seasons, the team announced Sunday. The news comes hours after the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Whaley joined the team as assistant general manager in 2010 and was later hired as general manager in 2013 after Buddy Nix stepped down following that year’s draft. In Whaley’s four seasons as general manager, the team finished 30-34 and had just one winning season (2014).
The Bills also terminated the professional and amateur scouting departments, Pegula said at a press conference Sunday.
Whaley seemed to at least be on the hot seat, if not nearing the end of his tenure when he admitted he wasn’t included in the conversations surrounding the firing of head coach Rex Ryan.
The timing of Whaley’s firing was curious, of course, considering it came less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft. Bills owner Terry Pegula said keeping Whaley (and the scouting department) around through the draft completed the group’s work.
“The decision was made now because this is the end of the scouting year,” Pegula said. “We ran a process and as a result of that process after the draft we made the decision.”
“He put the whole thing together,” Pegula said of Whaley’s involvement with the 2017 draft.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the scouting community expected the move, adding new Bills head coach Sean McDermott had a heavy hand in Buffalo’s draft-night trade.
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In addition, Don Gregory, the Panthers’ director of player personnel is considered a potential candidate for the vacancy as is Brett Veach, the Chiefs’ co-director of player personnel, Rapoport reported. Buffalo has also received permission to interview Texans director of pro personnel Brian Gaine, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
McDermott will be consulted by ownership during the GM search, Pegula said.
“Sure, I will ask Sean questions,” Pegula said. “We will use every resource available.”
Whaley’s draft tenure was marred by injuries to his lone two first round picks — receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Shaq Lawson — and later-round selections that failed to stick, as well as the albatross he immediately inherited and for which he was forced to find an alternative in E.J. Manuel. The Watkins selection became uglier after repeated struggles with foot issues, as well as the fact Whaley dealt away a 2015 first-round pick (and fourth-round selection) to move up to grab the wideout.
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“During our search for a new general manager, Brandon stood out to Kim [Pegula] and I as he embodies the type of leader and type of person we want in our organization,” Bills owner and CEO Terry Pegula said in a statement released by the team. “Brandon has excelled in a variety of roles for a Panthers team that has consistently competed at a high-level in this league. We feel his vast understanding and experience in many facets of football operations will be invaluable to our club moving forward.”
In Carolina, Beane worked under one of the league’s top GMs in Dave Gettleman. The understudy also had a front-row seat to watch McDermott evolve into a bright and sought-after defensive mind.
“I am very excited for Brandon Beane. Brandon is a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way up,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “He started as an intern here, starting in the football operations department and eventually became the head of the football operations department. He started evaluating talent and learned that part of the business as well. He became our assistant general manager and has been a tremendous help to me over the last few years as we made our runs in the playoffs – three straight NFC South division champions. Brandon played a big part in that.”
If the timing of Whaley’s firing was somewhat surprising, the decision itself was long coming. McDermott has been given considerable power to shape the Bills in his image and select his own lieutenants.
There’s no question McDermott and Beane believe they can make this work. The issue in Buffalo is whether team brass — one rung up the ladder — will exhibit the requisite patience to allow the Bills to grow and develop over the course of multiple seasons.