COMMENTARY | Doug Whaley represents the present and the future for the Buffalo Bills, and he must learn from the past mistakes made by former general manager Buddy Nix to ultimately flourish in Western New York.
Enough time has passed for everyone to write their Nix retrospectives and reflect on the job he did from 2010 to 2013.
It's much harder to determine whether or not he had a successful tenure than it is to have admired his expertly candid yet calculated verbal gymnastics, unmistakable humor and that darn southern drawl.
When Nix took the team's GM job, the Bills hit what appeared to be rock bottom in terms of league-wide relevance and respectability.
The Terrell Owens experiment embarrassingly exploded in Buffalo's face, Dick Jauron redefined the word milquetoast, and any confidence Trent Edwards had coming out of Stanford was sucked from his quarterbacking soul from opposing defenses.
Oh, and the Bills hadn't made the playoffs in a decade.
Let's just say, Buffalo wasn't exactly a destination landing spot for any players or coaches.
Though Nix made a few shrewd decisions--most notably the questionable-turned-brilliant pick of C.J. Spiller in 2010 and the culture-changing acquisition of Mario Williams--he also made a scattering of significant errors that were directly responsible for the team's failure to win more than six games in any season.
Whaley, the youthful, first-time GM, must avoid these major and rather short-sighted blunders that haunted Nix and the Bills in general over the past three years:
1. Not placing a high enough priority on acquiring a franchise quarterback and not gathering enough talent around him.
Luckily for Whaley, EJ Manuel was selected in Round 1 of the 2013 draft--the first time in team history a quarterback was taken with the first pick.
While no one has any idea how Manuel will pan out at the professional level, it was clearly time for the club to place the most emphasis on finding their guy at quarterback, someone with vast upside that if tapped into, would lead to long-term prosperity.
It was fun to root for the underdog, especially in Buffalo, but we probably should have realized a former seventh-round pick with noticeably limited physical attributes, a guy who was traded by one team and not re-signed by the other, had an exceptionally small chance to suddenly emerge as a legitimate franchise quarterback.
We weren't sure how much say or pull Whaley had in the 2013 draft or how integral he was in the pick of Manuel, but he did say this (via the Buffalo News): "I was the person that handled the draft process and setting up the draft board."
So there's that.
Teams simply cannot win without fine quarterback play in the NFL. Forget everything else--quarterback was the Bills' greatest need, and that need was filled in the first round.
Because of that, Whaley actually got the most meaningful jump of all on Nix, after the former Buffalo GM unequivocally whiffed on his evaluation of the quarterback position, internally and in the draft from 2010 to 2012.
Moreover, Nix failed to provide Ryan Fitzpatrick, the guy he hitched his wagon to, the receiving talent needed for a signal-caller to develop.
Outside of Stevie Johnson and the gadgety yet oft-injured Roscoe Parrish, the Bills wideout grouping was horrendous during Nix's stay in Buffalo.
And just think, David Nelson could have decided to sign with another club as an undrafted free agent after the 2010 draft.
Intelligently, Whaley picked the refined Robert Woods in Round 2, the tremendously fast Marquise Goodwin in Round 3 and the deceptively speedy Chris Gragg in Round 7 this year.
A prolific quarterback typically raises the level of play of an entire offense but creating an atmosphere conducive to success for said quarterback is a must.
2. Living in the pastThough it was more embarrassing than it was costly, Nix's incessant desire to keep Shawne Merriman on the Bills' roster was foolish.
In 2012, he was more of a sparingly used, situational pass-rusher, and when the three-year Merriman experiment finally came to an end after the season, he finished with 26 total tackles and two sacks in 15 games.
Now, I'm not expecting Whaley to kick the tires on an over-the-hill, injury-prone former Pittsburgh Steeler--in theory, he could have done that by signing James Harrison this offseason--but Nix's affinity for Merriman should give fair warning to the new Bills' GM that living in the past is rarely an astute practice in the NFL.
Chris Kelsay should have never been extended in the fall of 2010. He was probably retained a season too long. At least. The same goes for Terrence McGee.
There weren't many coaches who wanted to come to Buffalo when Nix took over, so he was in somewhat of bind, as Chan Gailey was essentially the only guy who'd take the job.
While we lauded his success with the late-1990's Dallas Cowboys, elsewhere, he was a disappointment as a coach at both the collegiate and professional levels.
From Gailey came the outdated, maddeningly vanilla defensive scheme of Dave Wannstedt, a guy who was mediocre enough to be fired at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sure, hindsight will never need Lasik surgery, but the fact that Gailey and Wannstedt eventually flopped, based on their histories, shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Though the Bills never made the postseason with Nix as the GM, he did return the team to respectability to a certain degree. Don't forget how bland things were before the 2010 season. However, he made two noteworthy philosophical miscalculations that were instrumental in Buffalo's continued futility.
Having been his right-hand man through it all, the Bills hope new GM Doug Whaley learned from Buddy Nix's mistakes.
Chris Trapasso is a sportswriter who lives in Medina, NY and has been covering the Buffalo Bills and the NFL since 2009 for Bleacher Report.
For Bills and other NFL news, follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso.
- Sports & Recreation
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- Buddy Nix
- Doug Whaley