Where is Doug Whaley? This is a question that many local reporters and fans have been mulling since the hiring of newest Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott. Since his hiring, McDermott, and not Whaley, has been the face and the voice of the franchise, leading many to wonder about Whaley’s tenure with the organization.
Winds of change have been swirling around New Era Field for some time now, with many local and national insiders probing the hierarchal change, and often, the appearance of disarray within the organization. On March 23rd, national analyst Jason La Canfora added to the conversation surrounding the dubious state of the franchise. La Canfora wrote, “And I continue to hear that new Bills coach Sean McDermott has growing cache with ownership and that team could be bringing in vice presidents and/or personnel figures with ties to the coach in the near future.” La Canfora continued with some speculation as to possible personnel additions, “Panthers director of player personnel is someone particularly well thought of who could end up in Buffalo after the draft in one capacity or another. There are already rumblings that the marriage of McDermott and Bills GM Doug Whaley likely isn’t built to last.”
Some in Buffalo were quick to dismiss La Canfora, citing inaccurate reports of days past. In December, La Canfora called things at One Bills Drive “toxic” and went on to state that [there is], “A lot of behind the scenes buffoonery on top of the buffoonery that everybody sees.” Since the Bills were eliminated from playoff contention this past season, and the reports about Rex Ryan’s imminent firing were abound, La Canfora’s message has remained consistent – dissent and disarray in the front office, often permeating through the coaching staff.
After the departure of Rex Ryan, many were led to believe that Doug Whaley was leading the coaching search. It has recently transpired that it was not, in fact, Doug Whaley who chose McDermott, but rather, Terry and Kim Pegula. Since his hiring, McDermott has been the sole voice of the franchise. This begs the question: what is Doug Whaley’s current role with the Buffalo Bills, and furthermore, are his days numbered here? Terry Pegula recently addressed the relationship between Whaley and McDermott in his first conversation with the media since Rex Ryan’s hiring in 2015. He stated, “Those guys get along great…and they work well together.”
The NFL Draft is just under a month away, and based on how the organization has appeared to the public eye in recent weeks, it does not seem likely that Doug Whaley will have the final say despite Pegula’s insistence that, “It’s gonna be a group effort”. While it is not unheard of across the league to have a GM advising the head coach in a sort of diminished role, recent stirrings have some wondering if Whaley’s contract will still be intact come draft weekend or shortly thereafter.
With the draft quickly approaching, this storyline will be one of many to unfold as the days wind down leading up to the draft. Following several departures at both wide receiver and cornerback, the Bills still have various positions of need following their most recent free- agent signings. The most pressing of these needs is arguably at cornerback following the departure of Stephon Gilmore to New England. That said, the draft projects to be loaded with high-end cornerback talent well into the second round. Adding to the linebacking core is an immediate need and certainly in play with the Bills first pick, especially given McDermott’s defensive background and the notion of many that his fingerprint will mark the 2017 Buffalo Bills draft class. Given the nature of Tyrod Taylor’s restructured contract, it is highly probable that the organization will target a quarterback in the 2018 draft. With a pair of elite pass-catching talents in Mike Williams (WR – Clemson) and O.J. Howard (TE – Alabama) likely to be on the draft board at number ten on April 27th, the Bills could gain an impact rookie in what has become a passing league and also a surefire target for their gunslinger of the future.