ORCHARD PARK -- When the Bills promoted from within to find their next general manager this week, it was a move typical of the franchise.
Doug Whaley, 40, has worked for the Bills since 2010 as lead assistant to Buddy Nix, 73, who resigned his post May 13, two weeks after conducting his fourth draft and free agency signing period for the club.
Whaley, who worked 11 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers, oversaw the pro and college personnel departments for Buffalo and assisted Nix in every capacity.
His promotion was long foreshadowed when he signed a long-term contract extension three months ago.
"Doug has been involved in every level of player personnel throughout his career and he will lead our efforts in re-establishing a winning tradition for this organization and our great fans," team president Russ Brandon said. "Doug is a passionate and committed leader who will work tirelessly with his department to build a team our fans and all of Western New York will be proud of heading into the future."
Whaley is Buffalo's fourth GM in eight seasons and 12th overall. He inherits a team that hasn't made the NFL playoffs in 13 years, three that he's part of.
"This is a culmination of a lot of hard work," said Whaley, who thanked his wife and parents for their years of support as he worked up the ranks. "When someone says hard work doesn't pay off, I'd tell them to look at me because it does. But it's not about me, it's about us. It's about putting this organization back to where it needs to be, to consistently compete for championships."
Taking over for Nix at this juncture puts Whaley in an awkward position as he'll have to live with major decisions he was part of, but were ultimately made by his predecessor.
Perhaps sensing this public perception of a power gap, the Bills emphasized Whaley was an "integral" part in the organization's search for a new coach that landed Doug Marrone and the decision to tab Florida State's EJ Manuel as their franchise quarterback, using the 16th overall pick in last month's draft.
The team also said Whaley was "a key factor" in the team's 2012 offseason signing of free agent DE Mario Williams, who produced a team-best 10.5 sacks. While true, the Bills defense also ranked 31st against the run and 26th in points allowed and Williams didn't have the impact anticipated when he was awarded a record $100 million contract.
Still, Whaley represents a young, fresh face the franchise desperately needs, a former college football player who has more than paid his dues over the past 17 years with various NFL scouting and personnel related jobs.
These include being area scout for the Seattle Seahawks from 1996-98 as well as working as pro scouting coordinator for his hometown Steelers from 1999-2009. During his Steelers tenure, Pittsburgh made the playoffs seven times and won two Super Bowls.
"Doug Whaley has done his job professionally and with high-quality," said Bill Cowher, the Steelers head coach from 1996-06 and current CBS analyst. "I know from working with him in Pittsburgh he's a guy who put due diligence towards every opportunity and task he was given. He has a wealth of knowledge, a good feel for people and a good eye for talent.
"I think when you talk about people that earn the opportunity to advance and earn the opportunity to have more responsibility that Doug is a guy who has proven along the way at every step that he can equal the challenge and then surpass it," Cowher added. "It does not surprise me that he has been named general manager."
When asked if there was a "Steelers way" of doing things, Whaley said yes there is.
"They don't accept losing," he said. "They set the standard of competing for and winning championships. If we instill that here, we'll be headed in the right direction. It's an organizational effort from top to bottom. If we're committed to accountability and hard work, the sky's the limit."
For Brandon, Whaley's promotion completes an eventful re-organization of the front office, which included his ascension to team president, a title relinquished by owner Ralph Wilson.
"It's new and different but it all comes down to wins and losses and we're all about accountability as well," Brandon said. "Every person in this organization. I mentioned on Jan. 1 we share our fans' frustrations over the past 13 years but you won't hear us talk much about that. It's about moving forward and with Doug Whaley and Coach Marrone at the helm, we feel very good about our future."