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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 says the scouting community expected the move, adding new Bills head coach Sean McDermott had a heavy hand in Buffalo’s draft-night trade. Rapoport added some early possible candidates for the Bills‘ opening include Panthers personnel men Brandon Beane and Don Gregory.

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.

Whaley also had some painfully memorable meetings with the media (as few and far between as they came), going immediately on the defensive in one of his last press conferences as GM, which included a reporter saying I’m actually trying to figure out what you (Whaley) do for a living while questioning Whaley’s nonexistent role in Ryan’s firing.

While it’s somewhat peculiar to see a personnel decision-maker fired just hours after the three most important roster construction days of the calendar, this isn’t the first time a GM has left his post in Buffalo after completing a draft. Nix, whom Whaley replaced, stepped down from the position just weeks after the 2013 draft, in which Buffalo selected Manuel. The passer was at the center of one of the final decisions made with Whaley’s input, resulting in the benching of Tyrod Taylor in what was classified as an injury-related “business decision” — Taylor’s contract would have become fully guaranteed at $30.75 million had he suffered an injury in the final week of the 2016 season — and to see what the Bills had in Manuel.

The result: Taylor restructured his deal in Buffalo, Manuel signed with the Raiders as a backup and Whaley is out of work.



The Buffalo Bills were among the most injured teams in 2016, with multiple starters sitting out and several key reserves missing time. It was particularly noticeable at the wide receiver and safety positions, but it was spots all over the field.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bills lost the eighth-most games to injury in 2016. They lost at least six games from eight players, which was the second-most in the league. The metric factors in a difference of starters on the bench as opposed to reserves as well as players who suit up at less than 100%, so there is some subjectivity:

“Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves (No. 3 wide receiver, nickel corner, etc.) matter more than injuries to benchwarmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is based not strictly on whether the player was active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player’s game status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable, or probable),” writes Scott Kacsmar.

The biggest note about the Bills in the article comes off as a defense of now-fired coach Rex Ryan.

“Buffalo ranked 25th in AGL in both of Rex Ryan’s seasons on the job… It certainly doesn’t help to lose key players, such as Buffalo getting so little from its top two draft picks (defenders Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland), and top wideout Sammy Watkins only playing in eight games.”

Ragland missed the season after having knee surgery in August. Watkins and Lawson both missed half the season with foot and shoulder injuries, respectively. In addition to Watkins, starting receiver Robert Woods missed six games and was hampered in several others. Other starters were also hampered. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (missed five games), Eric Wood(missed seven games), Marcell Dareus (missed four games to suspension and four to injury), Aaron Williams (missed nine games) all lost significant time. And that’s just a snapshot of the starters.

Ultimately, the Patriots and Falcons were in the top eight in 2016 but both overcame significant injuries to make the Super Bowl. It’s why finding depth is so important.


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