Doug Whaley, 40, has worked for the Bills since 2010 as lead assistant to Buddy Nix, 73, who resigned his post on 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 as 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 general manager 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 has put 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 defensive end 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 holding down 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 is 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 reorganization 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."
--Buddy Nix stepped down Monday as general manager of the Bills and into a new role as special assistant with the team.
Nix has been the Bills' general manager since 2009.
"I've made this decision to step away from the general manager's position because I feel it is the right time," Nix said in a statement released by the team. "By the 'right time' I mean I think we have a good young roster, an excellent head coach with a good staff, and it's time to let someone else handle these responsibilities and move forward together.
"Timing is the main thing, but there are other benefits as well. This job is very demanding with a 24-7 schedule of responsibilities. This new position will enable me to spend more time with my family. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by (owner) Mr. (Ralph) Wilson and (team president) Russ (Brandon) and I'm fortunate to step away from the job and still remain a part of the team."
Under Nix, the Bills drafted running back C.J. Spiller, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round in the last four years.
"I feel strongly that the team is on the right course for success," Nix said. "We have some excellent talent on our team and coach (Doug) Marrone and his staff are doing a terrific job in leading and teaching the players we have on our roster. I was very impressed with the 24 rookies we had in this past weekend and I'm very excited about the upcoming season. I think this is going to be an exciting time for our team and our fans."
Brandon said a decision on who becomes general manager will occur at a later time.
"We have a plan and we are going to execute that plan," Brandon said. "But today is about Buddy. When I am ready to address the other situation at some point, we will all be sitting here again together and we'll go through that process. I won't go through that today or at any time in the near future. We have a plan in everything we do."
The plan is expected to have assistant general manager Doug Whaley being promoted to general manager.
Jim Monos was hired as Bills director of player personnel and Kelvin Fisher as director of college scouting.
"Both men have a keen eye for talent and will play a pivotal role in our talent evaluation process for years to come," new general manager Doug Whaley said of his first hires. "We are excited to add two well-respected and innovative personnel professionals to this organization."
Monos will work with Tom Gibbons, director of pro personnel, on free-agent evaluations as well as scout college prospects. He spent the previous eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Fisher, meanwhile, will oversee Buffalo's college scouting operation. He worked the previous 13 seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bills wrapped up their first week of organized team activities with around 90 percent attendance. The NFL's graduation rule prevented seven first-year players from attending. They included wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, two high draft picks. Coach Doug Marrone said he supports the NFL rule that prohibits draft picks and rookie free agents from taking part in NFL team activities until their current senior class graduates.
"I'm a big supporter of the student athletes and a big supporter of making sure that you graduate," he said. "I applaud the NFL from what they've done from when I was a player. I was one of those players that had to leave school, and that's why when you look at my resume, you'll see in 1991 is when I graduated. A lot of that was because I did have to leave and go to the team that drafted me."
Buffalo's OTAs continue May 20, 21 and 23 and May 28, 29, 30 and 31. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson was among veterans in attendance, but was limited due to an injury; he's nursing a sore back. As a former player, Marrone appreciates attendance but is sympathetic to physical limitations.
"Like I said before, it is very difficult to make a team in this time frame right here, but it is easy not to make a team in this time frame."
Veteran free-agent safety Jairus Byrd, who was given the team's franchise tag, was a no-show as expected. Byrd has not signed his franchise tender of $6.916 million. The deadline to negotiate a long-term deal is July 15. After that date, the two sides can only negotiate a one-year deal or the player merely signs for the tender price. Other veterans missing were free-agent linebacker Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Alan Branch. Coach Doug Marrone indicated their absences were related to "personal issues that they are taking care of."
Competition at quarterback between first-round pick EJ Manuel and veterans Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson is already taking shape. Kolb and Jackson were getting more of the snaps, but Manuel's workload was being ramped up steadily.
"We are getting a lot of reps out of EJ (Manuel) right now. Probably a little bit less than the other two are, but our goal is to somewhere along the line during these OTAs as he progresses to have those equal amount of reps," Marrone said.
Manuel's arm strength has been very noticeable as has been his eagerness to blend in and learn from Kolb and Jackson.
"I think for me, I watch those guys all the time," he said. "Whether it's in the film room or warming up out here on the field, seeing what they do throughout the practices, seeing how they talk to the teammates, direct guys out there on the field. They obviously help when I ask questions. But probably the biggest thing is leading by example."
With veteran start Scott Chandler recovering from ACL surgery and not expected to be 100 percent by the time the regular season starts, the Bills continue to beef up depth and competition at tight end. Signed off waivers was young veteran Mickey Shuler, a seventh-round pick out of Penn State of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. He was with three clubs last year, the Vikings, Bengals and Dolphins. To make room on the roster, rookie free-agent wide receiver Kevin Norrell was waived and ended up on injured reserve.
Coach Doug Marrone was impressed with what he saw of rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso during the team's rookie mini-camp that concluded May 12. The team thinks the Oregon product, whom the Bills selected in the second round, 46th overall, can start at middle linebacker in their base 3-4 scheme.
"In this phase, it almost looked like he wanted to tackle someone and we can't do that," Marrone chuckled. "And that's one of the things we're trying to teach them also. When the veterans come in, you don't want to be on the ground. There's not a lot of contact with your helmet. It's all basically your hands and your feet moving. (But) he looked like he was ready to start tackling today."
The Bills had hoped to add veteran Karlos Dansby, a Miami Dolphins free agent, to their remodeled linebacker corps, but he re-signed with his old team, Arizona.
"It's definitely changed since the new coaching staff has come in here. It's just being relentless and the mentality of going out, being disruptive and attacking. Being aggressive. Being accountable. Just going out here and making plays. Trusting the scheme. Trusting the system. Trusting the coaches. To not go out there and do something you're not supposed to because like I said, the scheme they have is pretty good. As long as we go out there and we all can say are you playing like you're supposed to - playing like a Bill - which is our mentality and motto - we'll be all right."—DE Mario Williams commenting on the attitude change underway under Buffalo's new coaching staff.
A closer look at the Bills' picks:
Round 1/16—EJ Manuel, QB, 6-4, 237, Florida State
No team studied quarterback prospects as hard or thoroughly as Buffalo in what was considered a weak class. But in making Manuel their starter of the future, perhaps this season if he can beat out veterans Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson, the Bills get the biggest, fastest (4.55) and one of the smartest quarterbacks available. Manuel will need work, like developing the ability to read the entire field and make his progressions. But his size and versatility as a runner and passer gives new coach Doug Marrone a major building block.
Round 2/41—Robert Woods, WR, 6-0, 190, USC
On the heels of taking their quarterback, the Bills added one of the elite receivers in college football in Woods, who finished as USC's career receptions leader with 252. After a monster junior year (111 receptions, 1,292 yards, 15 touchdowns), his production dropped as a senior but that was more a product of team injuries and quarterback Matt Barkley's struggles. Runs a 4.43 forty and should be able to step right in and contribute in Buffalo's spread offense that will utilize three and four wides.
Round 2/46—Kiko Alonso, ILB, 6-3, 238, Oregon
The Bills desperately need to get stronger up the middle (31st vs. the run) and were willing to take a chance on Alonso, who wasn't a full-time starter until his senior year and has a history of off-field problems. Had 81 tackles including 14 for loss last fall. With his size and foot speed, Bills hope he can run and cover and be a three-down player while helping their run defense improve.
Round 3/78—Marquise Goodwin, WR, 5-9, 179, Texas
A very intriguing player who adds to the team's overall speed. Was the NCAA long jump champion who competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Clocked a 4.34 dash time for scouts and also impressed the Bills with his desire and ability to block, which will earn him playing time if he can do that at the NFL level. Was a four-year football player at Texas and wound up playing 50 games. Joins a team where jobs are open at wide receiver.
Round 4/105—Duke Williams, S, 5-11, 201, Nevada
A sure-handed tackler who appeared in 50 college games and recorded 292 tackles, including 18 that saved touchdowns the past two seasons. He has a very good chance of making the roster with Bills parting ways with strong safety George Wilson and because of his versatility. He can play either strong safety, corner or nickel corner. Plays with an "edge" and Bills' 22nd-ranked defense desperately needs to get meaner.
Round 5/143—Jonathan Meeks, S, 6-1, 210, Clemson
Another player to add to the competitive mix at safety, either free or strong. Has great foot speed (4.49) to go with his size. Notched 62 tackles and two interceptions at school where Bills scouts have a lot of connections.
Round 6/177—Dustin Hopkins, K, 6-2, 193, Florida State
NCAA career points leader with 466 who has the potential to replace veteran star Rian Lindell. Converted 88 of 112 field goals for the Seminoles, including 9 of 15 on tries from 50 yards and beyond. Strong on kickoffs with average hang time of 4.5 seconds. A freak athlete, who ran 4.71 and did 20 bench press reps at 225 pounds.
Round 7/222—Chris Gragg, TE, 6-3, 244, Arkansas
With veteran Scott Chandler recovering from ACL surgery, the Bills covered their bases by using a pick obtained in the Rams trade. Gragg was a top prospect entering his senior year but was limited to five games due to a knee injury of his own. Had a breakout junior year, averaging 12.6 yards on 41 catches and was a strong blocker. Can fill the H-back role in Buffalo's scheme. Very good value at this spot.
S Jairus Byrd (tendered at $6.916 million).
DE Spencer Johnson is a backup quality talent, who has just 14 sacks in nine NFL seasons, the last five in Buffalo. He has been a part of some of the worst defenses in Bills history. They can do better.
WR Ruvell Martin is a 6-4 target who has just 24 catches over the past four NFL seasons bouncing between four teams. Not a high priority to retain.
FB Corey McIntyre is a powerful blocker for the team's strong runnng game who does his job with no complaints. Should return for his sixth season.
LB Kirk Morrison was a healthy inactive for 12 games before being released and re-signed. His career is at a crossroad and he's not likely to return.
QB Tyler Thigpen has thrown just 13 passes in a backup role for two seasons. The team is revisiting its entire quarterback situation and Thigpen probably falls no better than fourth on the depth chart.
LB Kiko Alonso (2/46): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Marquise Goodwin (3/78): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
S Duke Williams (4/105): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
S Jonathan Meeks (5/143): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
K Dustin Hopkins (6/177); 4 yrs, terms unknown.
TE Chris Grass (7/222): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
C Colin Brown: Potential RFA; $1.445M/2 yrs, $25,000 SB.
RB Tashard Choice: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
TE Dorin Dickerson: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
QB Tarvaris Jackson: Potential UFA; $2.25M/1 yr, $500,000 SB.
CB/KR Leodis McKelvin: Potential UFA; $20M/4 yrs.
LB Bryan Scott: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
DT Alan Branch: UFA Seahawks; $3M/1 yr.
LB Jerry Hughes (trade Colts).
QB Kevin Kolb: FA Cardinals; $6.1M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$1.25M RBs.
LB Manny Lawson: UFA Bengals; $12M/4 yrs, $3M SB/$4.6M guaranteed.
LB Nick Barnett (released/failed physical).
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (released/post-June 1 designation).
DE Chris Kelsay (retired).
WR Donald Jones: Not tendered as RFA/Patriots; $4.155M/3 yrs, no SB/$435,000 report/RB each year.
G Andy Levitre: UFA Titans; $46.8M/6 yrs, $10.5M SB.
CB Terrence McGee (released/failed physical).
LB Shawne Merriman: UFA; retired.
DE Kyle Moore: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
WR David Nelson: Not tendered as RFA/Browns; 1 yr, terms unknown.
T/G Chad Rinehart: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
LB Kelvin Sheppard (traded Colts).
S George Wilson (released).