AFC East: Russ Brandon

The following is Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon's statement on the death of owner Ralph Wilson:
"I speak for everyone within the Bills organization when I say that we are all suffering a deep and profound sadness with the passing of our Hall of Fame owner Mr. Wilson. We have lost our founder, our mentor, our friend, and this is a very difficult time for us all. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Mary, his daughters Christy and Dee Dee [Edith], his niece Mary and his entire family.

[+] EnlargeBuffalo Bills
Mike RodakFlags were lowered to half-mast at the Buffalo Bills' facility in Orchard Park, N.Y., Tuesday in honor of the late Ralph Wilson.
Mr. Wilson had a relentless passion, a deep love for his Buffalo Bills, the City of Buffalo and the National Football League. He also loved the Bills fans and all of the people of Western New York who embraced the Bills.

This incredible man was the personification of the Buffalo Bills. His life was grit, determination and resolve. He was bigger than life in many ways and yet he was the everyday man, driving his Ford Taurus to the local store and greeting everyone as they called out "Hi Ralph!" He will be greatly missed by those in our community whose lives he touched.

Mr. Wilson was a man of true integrity, charisma and a hero in every sense of the word. His service to his country in the South Pacific in World War II is well documented. He was a pioneer in the American Football League. He was instrumental in forging the merger between the AFL and the NFL. Mr. Wilson will long be remembered as a man who was true to his word and did countless acts of kindness and generosity for so many, while never seeking the limelight in doing so.

More than anything, he wanted to bring a Super Bowl Championship to Western New York. He wanted it for the players, the coaches and the franchise. But mostly he wanted it for the fans. No owner has wanted a title more for these reasons than Mr. Wilson. In the end, he was extremely proud that his Bills are the only team to have played in four consecutive Super Bowls.

For those of us fortunate to have worked for him, we'll miss his kindness, his insight, his leadership, but mostly his sense of humor. He possessed the unique ability to turn a negative into a positive.

Our organization, our league, our community has lost a great man.

Right now all of us are absorbing this tremendous personal loss. We are performing our day-to-day functions as we normally would. We understand our fans' curiosity in wanting to know what the future holds for our organization and that will be addressed in the near future. But at this time, we are committed to honoring the life and legacy of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the man who delivered NFL football to Buffalo."

Bills venture into the unknown

January, 6, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills interviewed high-profile coaching candidates Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt and Chip Kelly. But they settled on a lesser-known commodity Sunday in former Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone.

Is Marrone the right choice for Buffalo? Expect plenty of early skepticism.

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Is Doug Marrone the right choice for the Bills?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 27,798)

Marrone would not have been my first pick from the batch we just mentioned. The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999, the NFL's longest drought. Bills fans are a tortured bunch who need a big name to re-energize the fan base.

The Bills failed to make a splash with Marrone, who was only 25-25 at Syracuse. Based on comments I received this past week, nabbing Kelly would have been more appealing to Bills fans if they wanted a college coach.

However, a low-profile hire doesn't always mean it's a bad hire. It simply means the Bills had better be right. Marrone’s .500 record in college and Buffalo’s poor track record with head coaches makes it a risky choice. The Bills will either look smarter than everyone else or dumber than everyone else in two or three years based on Marrone's performance.

You also knew what Smith and Whisenhunt brought to the table. Both coaches led their former teams to the Super Bowl and multiple playoff appearances. This is what Buffalo is striving for as an organization, and there was comfort in taking the safe pick.

But Buffalo took the retread route twice in the past seven years with Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey. Both choices were disasters. So the Bills deserve some credit for trying something different.

The Bills have a seven-to-10-year stadium lease, a new president in Russ Brandon and Marrone as their next head coach. This is truly a new beginning in Buffalo. Marrone will get the next several years to prove he is the right choice for the Bills.

Buffalo’s next step is to hire the best coordinators and assistant coaches available. Marrone has no NFL head-coaching experience, and that transition will go more smoothly with veteran assistants.

The Bills have quality talent on both sides of the football. Buffalo tailback C.J. Spiller is one of the more dynamic players in the NFL and must be used properly in 2013. Buffalo’s next offensive coordinator must make Spiller the focal point.

The Bills’ defense underachieved this past season but has talented players such as Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Stephon Gilmore. The Bills need a defensive coordinator who can maximize their talent.

Hope and concern: Buffalo Bills

January, 4, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills wrapped up one of their most disappointing seasons in recent memory. Buffalo, which entered 2012 with playoff aspiration, finished 6-10. Head coach Chan Gailey was fired on Monday, as a result.

But it's time to look forward in Buffalo. Here are reasons to be hopeful and concerned about the Bills this offseason.

Reason to be hopeful: A new beginning

The Bills have a new stadium lease, a new president in Russ Brandon and will soon have a new head coach. The Bills appear to be getting stronger as an organization in 2013. The decision at head coach will be huge. But whoever the new coach is, he cannot be worse than Gailey was this year. If the new coach can improve an anemic defense and simply hand the ball to dynamic tailback C.J. Spiller enough, that would be an upgrade. The Bills have talent at various positions to succeed. They just need the right coach to maximize it.

Reason to be concerned: Uncertain quarterback

Who is Buffalo’s quarterback in 2012? Not even the Bills know. What we do know is Buffalo cannot win with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is too inconsistent and is 23-40 as a starter. The Bills owe Fitzpatrick a total of $7.75 million in 2013, but none of it is guaranteed. Buffalo can cut Fitzpatrick before his $3 million roster bonus is due in March. But that leaves a huge void at the most important position. The Bills could explore the free-agent market for a quarterback like Alex Smith. Or Buffalo can look to the draft for a rookie. But this year's quarterback class is not nearly as strong as last year.

For more, check out our "Hope and Concern" series this week on the Dolphins and the Jets.
The first day of 2013 will mark a major change within the Buffalo Bills organization.

ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson will relinquish control of the team and promote Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon to team president. Brandon has worked for the Bills since 1997, including the previous three years as COO.

The Bills will hold a noon press conference to announce the news.

Wilson's age (94) and health concerns factored into this decision. This week Wilson had to go through another head coaching change after firing Chan Gailey on Monday. With the coaching decision complete and a new 10-year stadium lease in tow, Wilson is content to officially hand over the reigns.

Brandon now will take over the daily operations in Buffalo and make the key decisions. His first order of business will be finding a new head coach. The Bills (6-10) are in the market for their third head coach in the past five seasons.

AFC East links: Reggie Bush's Miami debut

August, 19, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

The Bills wrapped-up camp on Thursday with plenty of questions yet to be answered.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon is optimistic the team will continue to hold its training camp at St. John Fisher College.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are looking to gain some momentum from their preseason game against Carolina Friday night.

Matt Bowen of the National Football Post is curious to see how Reggie Bush fits into Miami's offense.

New England Patriots

Despite four first-half touchdowns Thursday night, Bill Belichick says the Patriots' offense still has some work to do. “He did some good things, had some other things that weren’t so good,’’ Belichick said of quarterback Tom Brady. “Tom did a good job moving the offense. I thought we had a good tempo out there, [but] there are some things we need to sharpen up on, too.’’

Chad Ochocinco knows he still has a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the offense.

New York Jets

Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News: "Whether it is orchestrating his own on-field walkthroughs or offering thoughts to veteran receivers, [Mark] Sanchez has set an urgent tempo, both in camp and during the preseason opener, finding the likes of [Santonio] Holmes and Derrick Mason on short, crisp routes."

Who would the New York Post's Steve Serby want quarterbacking his team: Sanchez or Eli Manning?

Jets scrap upstate camp; Bills hopeful

June, 24, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills expressed optimism Thursday they will conduct training camp at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, N.Y.

A day later, the New York Jets announced they were pulling the plug on their summer prep in upstate New York because of the prolonged labor dispute. The Jets won't return to the SUNY Cortland campus. They will stage their first training camp at their facility in Florham Park, N.J.

"With all the variables presented by this unique offseason, we felt it was best for the Jets that we hold our training camp here at our practice facility," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. "This was not an easy decision, but it's one we felt we needed to make in order to give us the best chance to win."

The Jets intend to return to Cortland in 2012. Head coach Rex Ryan moved operations there for his first Jets camp in 2010. He wanted to get away to help foster team building, which seemed to work right away.

The Jets and Bills are the only two AFC East clubs that don't hold training camp at their main headquarters.

Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon told reporters Thursday that plans were moving forward to return to St. John Fisher for an 11th summer, but he noted it's "a fluid situation."

"We're going business as usual," Brandon said. "Our preparations have been exactly the same that they've been in years past."

Bills planting a cleat firmly in Canada

June, 23, 2011
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The Buffalo Bills are living in the moment.

Los Angeles developers are stalking an NFL team for relocation, their owner is 92 years old and reports about the latest labor negotiations indicate small-market teams could have a tougher time competing in the new NFL economy.

Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon claimed they can't afford to worry about the long-term future of the franchise. He said Thursday afternoon "we focus on the here and now."

But it's rather evident by his words the Bills are simultaneously concerned with here and there, straddling the U.S.-Canadian border.

"Regionalization works," Brandon said, "and it will be a linchpin to everything that we do from a business standpoint moving forward."

A news conference to discuss Friday night's unveiling of the Bills new uniform inevitably turned toward this week's lockout talks and how the club could be impacted by the next collective bargaining agreement.

ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton has reported the latest proposal framework includes mechanisms that require teams to spend almost all the way to the salary cap in current player payroll. That would make it tougher for the Bills to maintain the profitability it's used to.

Under the previous CBA, teams could spend just under 90 percent to the ceiling in cap figures, which could include dead money being paid to players no longer on the roster.

"I think the response is we just focus here and we focus now on everything that we can control, and that's keeping this building full, keeping all of our business platforms full," Brandon said. "We're a volume business. We're a very affordable business, as you know here with our ticket prices, and that's what we focus on.

"My job and everyone's job in this organization is to focus on this organization and our fans and that’s really what we do on a day-in and day-out basis."

Brandon declined to discuss specifics of the latest CBA proposal, but it wasn't difficult to gather the Bills' viability depends on Canadian interests.

The Bills have been forced to get creative over the past dozen years or so. Brandon said their attempts to regionalize the club have paid off. They moved training camp to St. John Fisher College in the Rochester area in 2000.

The Bills sold off five regular-season and three preseason games to Toronto for $78 million, the annual series running from 2008 through 2012.

Both agreements are likely to continue. Brandon said the Bills' season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since they began playing games in Toronto.

"When you look at it from our standpoint we're always looking to do everything in our power to keep this team viable," Brandon said Thursday, "and as you've heard many times from me: regionalization, regionalization and regionalization.

"When you look at our region of totality it's a very large market, and we're looking to bring fans back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. It's been a very successful venture for us and we're going to continue that process moving forward."

Brandon's comments concurred with sentiments expressed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a conference call with Bills season-ticket holders last month.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," said Goodell, a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y. "As a Western New York guy, I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

"The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and I would call the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

Bills fans ought to get used to sharing. It would be better than waving.

Campuses on alert for Bills, Jets camps

May, 26, 2011
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The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots conduct training camp at their own facilities. They won't have to worry about changing locales if the lockout lasts into June or July.

But the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets might need to scramble. They hold their training camps on upstate campuses that don't have much wiggle room and could be confined to their headquarters as well.

Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon previously said the lockout must come to an end by late June for them to still be able to stage training camp at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester.

Newark Star Ledger reporter Jenny Vrentas wrote officials at SUNY Cortland are moving forward as planned but there isn't flexibility to improvise because their priority is to students arriving for fall classes.

"We're moving ahead, assuming the Jets will be coming, but also knowing everything is up in the air, knowing they may not be coming," SUNY Cortland public relations director Fred Pierce said.

The Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J., was built with the intention of being the training camp site. It can accommodate fans.

The Bills could stage public workouts in Ralph Wilson Stadium, but they wouldn't be able to welcome fans to their outdoor field without making renovations to the area. The field normally is surrounded on three sides by a tall, covered fence, and the boundaries within the fence aren't large enough to place bleachers safely.

Bills draft record not as bad as you think

April, 21, 2011
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Kyle Williams and Steve JohnsonUS PresswirePro Bowler Kyle Williams (left) and receiver Steve Johnson were both drafted in the later rounds.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills fans have pondered some persistent questions over the years.

How would life have changed if Scott Norwood made that kick?

What will happen to the team when Ralph Wilson passes away?

Was the Music City Miracle really a forward lateral?

How on earth does Tom Modrak still have a job?

Modrak is Buffalo's vice president of college scouting. Modrak, formerly a Pittsburgh Steelers scout during their Steel Curtain years and director of football operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, has held the Bills' top scouting job since May 2001 and worked his first draft for them in 2002.

In that time, the Bills' streak of seasons without a playoff appearance has extended to 11 and counting. Despite holding prime draft-order slots, they have repeatedly squandered them with maddening first-round decisions.

The list is enough to make the most optimistic Bills fan groan: pass-rusher Aaron Maybin (zero sacks) 11th overall instead of Brian Orakpo (19.5 sacks) two years ago; small-school cornerback Leodis McKelvin 11th overall instead of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady in 2008; safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in 2006 and then trading up for defensive tackle John McCargo; trading up for quarterback J.P. Losman in 2004; useless tackle Mike Williams fifth in 2002.

"Certainly we've had our misses up at the top," Modrak said Tuesday at a news conference to preview next week's draft. "We've done pretty well in the middle and at the end, the non-glamour kind of picks. But we've missed some. That is regrettable."

There are additional selections one can criticize: wide receiver James Hardy in the second round; running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though the Bills had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers already ...

[+] EnlargeTom Modrak
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDespite some high-profile misses, Tom Modrak's draftees have performed well on the whole.
OK. I'll stop now. That's enough to illustrate why there's frustration over Modrak and his scouting department's evaluation skills.

The fact Modrak joined the Bills to serve under former president Tom Donahoe -- an executive Wilson and Bills fans came to despise -- only adds to fascination of Modrak's continued employment.

Now that I've set the table, let's yank the tablecloth out from underneath the plasticware.

Data suggest the Bills haven't drafted much worse than the average NFL team since 2002.

ESPN researcher John Fisher -- he claims no relation to St. John Fisher, the namesake of the college where the Bills hold their training camp -- shuffled some spreadsheets and came up with some information that's not particularly damning when compared to the rest of the NFL.

  • The Bills have drafted five Pro Bowlers with Modrak in charge of scouting. That's tied for 14th in the league. One of those Pro Bowlers was Willis McGahee for the Baltimore Ravens, but Modrak was the chief scout who drafted him. What the Bills did with McGahee afterward that isn't his fault. Same goes for Marshawn Lynch.
  • Although a game started for the Bills isn't as impressive as a game started for the New England Patriots the past nine years, Bills draftees from the first through third rounds have started 804 games, 15th in the league.
  • Bills draftees from the fourth round or later have started 417 games, eighth in the league.
  • When it comes to individual statistics accumulated with the teams that drafted them, Bills taken from 2002 onward have ranked third in 1,000-yard rushing seasons, tied for seventh in 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 20th in total sacks and 19th in total interceptions.

While the Bills have missed badly on several of their prominent selections, they have done quite well in the latter part of the draft with gems such as cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round in 2003), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round in 2006), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round in 2008) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (seventh round in 2008).

Top running back Fred Jackson and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters -- traded to Philly two years ago -- weren't drafted at all.

"If you look at other teams, they do it. They miss at the top," Modrak said. "When you don't win, it's magnified. It looks bad.

"But I think from a strictly homer point-of-view [late-round success] is the work and the labor that goes into it and the detail that's paid to those kinds of things. That does not say that other teams don't do the same thing, but we have a good group, and we fortunately have done that."

The Bills have had some obvious blind spots in the draft.

A refusal to pick a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002 has hurt them. Peters' success as a converted tight end is a factor in that trend, but the Bills were having contract problems with him while he still was on the roster. Foresight would've been helpful. But that's an organizational philosophy more than Modrak's domain.

The Bills' track record at tight end is miserable, too. They've drafted five: Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Everett was the lone selection sooner than the fourth round. A broken neck while covering a kickoff on opening day in 2007 ended his career.

That tight end quintet has combined to score five NFL touchdowns. Of the 143 tight ends drafted since Modrak joined the Bills, 43 of them have scored more than five touchdowns individually.

Some might also say finding a quarterback has been a failure. Starting quarterbacks, however, aren't easy for any team to locate.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have been drafted within the first three rounds since 2002. The only three teams not included in this pursuit have been the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The Bills took two within the first three rounds, Losman 22nd overall in 2004 and Trent Edwards 92nd in 2007.

That league-wide group yielded nine Pro Bowlers, but just two of them -- 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers and third-rounder Matt Schaub -- weren't selected in the top 11. Rodgers and Schaub served as backups for three seasons before they became starters.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix explained that scouting is only one of three critical phases that determine whether a draft pick explodes or fizzles.

"You've got to pick the right guy," Nix said Tuesday. "He's got to have enough athletic ability and enough intelligence, production to do the job, which is what you spend the year doing. We're scouts and personnel guys.

"The second phase, now -- and don't make light of it because it's just as important -- is coaching, strength coaches, trainers. That's the second phase, and both of those things have to be in place. If not, the development of the guy is retarded.

"I'm not going to name teams, but you can name teams every year that get top guys and they don't get any better. They actually may go the other way, and it's the developmental part."

Chan Gailey is Buffalo's fourth head coach -- fifth if you count interim coach Perry Fewell -- since Modrak came aboard. Coordinators have passed through a revolving door. The Bills also have overhauled their strength and conditioning program a couple times.

Nix then stressed that even if the precisely correct draft choice is made and the proper infrastructure is in place, a third phase still can torpedo development. The player can ruin his future if he's "not willing to be a professional and do everything it takes."

"You can go back and look at the so-called busts, and it's one of these three phases," Nix said. "You've got to have it all for them to be really good.

"So even though we put it all on one thing -- 'That was a terrible draft. That was a bust. Those idiots don't know.' -- that's just about a third of it."

Another element that must be considered when discussing Buffalo drafts is the question of who makes the final pick.

Nix and Gailey have been clear Nix makes the final call, although Wilson still can exercise his ownership privilege.

Before Nix became GM last year, trying to decipher who was to credit or blame for a Bills draft choice was like a "Three Stooges" scene. The irate boss hears a commotion, storms into the room and asks "Say! What's the wise idea? Who did this?" Moe pointed at Larry. Curly pointed at Moe. Larry pointed at Curly.

Modrak has been a constant since 2002, but there have been many voices in the Bills' draft room in that period, from Donahoe to GM Marv Levy to chief operating officer Russ Brandon to the various opinionated head coaches who lobbied for prospects they hotly desired.

The Bills' scouting department clearly needs to step its game up to help turn around the franchise. They'll never be the kind of team that lures top free agents because of their market conditions. Buffalo simply isn't as sexy as Miami or San Diego or New York and doesn't offer a perennial chance to win like New England or Pittsburgh does.

But, believe it or not, the Bills' drafts could have been substantially worse since Modrak arrived.

Newton in Buffalo; Ponder, Gabbert next

March, 28, 2011
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BUFFALO -- Cam Newton is in town to meet with the Buffalo Bills, but not before general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey spoke at a "State of the Bills" event for season-ticket holders at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Nix revealed that the Bills will host Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at One Bills Drive. No other quarterbacks have been scheduled, but Nix did say they've accounted for only 25 of their 30 allowable on-campus meetings.

"We might bring in a couple more," Nix said.

Nix admitted quarterback wasn't Buffalo's greatest need because they have reliable veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even so, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a monster payoff to picking up a future star.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Paul Abell/US PresswireAuburn quarterback Cameron Newton will be a consideration for the Bills, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in April.
"I think we've got a lot of needs," Nix told reporters after addressing the fans. "Let me just say this to you -- and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, now -- but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late.

"Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."

Gailey said he will be completely frank about Buffalo's quarterback situation when he speaks with Newton on Monday night and Tuesday. The visit will begin with a physical and then include meetings with the Bills' staff.

"I lay everything on the table with guys when they walk in here," Gailey said. "I try to get them to understand exactly who we are, what we're about, where we're going and how we plan to get there. And if we end up working together, this is how they might fit into the scheme and into the system."

The Bills also met with Newton at the NFL scouting combine in late February and had dinner with him the night before his March 8 pro day at Auburn.

Other notes from Monday night's event:

  • Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon said new season tickets and renewals were selling better than at this time last year.
  • Brandon reaffirmed the team's commitment to playing games in Toronto, stating their season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since the Bills started playing games there in 2008. The Bills are making $78 million off the series, which runs through 2012. Brandon suggested the Bills would be interested in extending after it expires.
  • Brandon conceded if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been hammered out by late June or July, then training camp at St. John Fisher College "could be in peril" because of the "operational and logistical" elements that must be addressed ahead of time.
  • Nix on talking about the draft at this time of year: "I want to make one thing clear. There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it. It's accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it's the truth."
  • Gailey on how he views himself: "I'm not very flamboyant. That's just not me. I'm not a comedian. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a philosopher. I just coach football. I want to coach your football team and get us to where we want to be, and that's be champions again and have things rocking and rolling out at Ralph Wilson Stadium."
  • Nix was pleased with in-season additions of offensive linemen Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. Nix said Pears, a two-year starter for the Denver Broncos, could be the Bills' next right tackle, but added, "We also need another tackle. We need a tackle through the draft or through free agency -- if and when that happens."
  • Gailey reiterated the Bills will play a hybrid defense rather than a straight 3-4 or a 4-3. Nix noted his scouting department is focused on 3-4 players, but will not dismiss a player simply because he's not a perfect fit.
  • Nix will attend North Carolina's pro day Thursday to see defensive end Robert Quinn and Clemson's pro day Friday to check out defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who reportedly has failed physicals because he hasn't recovered enough from knee surgery.
  • Nix on Bowers' workout: "It's big for him. I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."

WWII Museum honors Ralph Wilson

March, 21, 2011
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NEW ORLEANS -- Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson was honored Monday night with one of five American Spirit Awards from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Also honored at an event to coincide with the annual NFL meetings here were Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford and San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos.

Wilson, 92, enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Wilson is not in attendance for the NFL owners meeting. He's represented by a contingent that includes chief operating officer Russ Brandon, executive vice president Mary Owen, treasurer Jeff Littmann, senior vice president Jim Overdorf, general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday the WWII Museum is kicking off a program that showcases how the NFL and football aided the war effort through selling bonds and donating gate revenues from exhibition games.

Bills release their statement on labor woes

March, 14, 2011
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Buffalo Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon has joined the list of NFL executives releasing statements about the NFL labor situation:
"We share our fans' disappointment with the news on Friday that the NFLPA has filed for decertification and a work stoppage has begun. We remain hopeful that a new and fair agreement can be reached in time to avoid any significant disruption to our preparations for the 2011 season. We believe that the quickest way to a fair agreement for everyone -- players, teams and fans -- is through negotiations facilitated by the mediator and not through litigation.

"As an organization, winning a championship continues to be our No. 1 goal. Under the direction of general manager Buddy Nix, our entire football staff is hard at work, preparing for the upcoming 2011 NFL draft, where we have the third overall selection. Coach [Chan] Gailey and his staff are also hard at work, preparing for when our team returns to the field. Concurrently, the administrative departments continue to work diligently on the day-to-day business operations in preparation for the season. ...

"We certainly appreciate the support and patience of our fans and we look forward to presenting a full season of exciting Buffalo Bills football in 2011."

Draft Watch: AFC East

April, 7, 2010
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NFC Approach: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Draft approach.

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's draft decision-makers have changed and morphed so often over the past decade there's no track record to suggest their strategy this year. Buddy Nix has been influential in past Bills' drafts, but this is his first go-round as general manager. We're not sure how much input new assistant GM Doug Whaley or new head coach Chan Gailey will have. But the front office is exuding a sense of direction it hasn't had in years. In their previous four drafts, nobody really knew who made the decisions and nobody would admit it. Former head coach Dick Jauron, top college scout Tom Modrak, former pro personnel director John Guy and former chief operating officer/GM Russ Brandon all were involved, but to what degree? Of that muddled group, only Modrak remains in his role.

Miami Dolphins

Maybe they're ready to loosen up now that a foundation has been established, but the Dolphins' modus operandi was pretty simple for the first two years under football operations czar Bill Parcells. They were coming off a 1-15 season and needed to be rebuilt carefully. Parcells, general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano set out to make the safest picks. Because left tackles are surer things than quarterbacks, the Dolphins chose left tackle Jake Long first overall in 2008 and not Matt Ryan, for instance. Then the Dolphins came back in the second round for quarterback Chad Henne. In the first three rounds of the past two drafts, the Dolphins drafted a left tackle, two quarterbacks, two cornerbacks, two defensive ends and a wide receiver.

New England Patriots

Perhaps no club drafts with value in mind more than the Patriots do. Unlike the Jets, who'd rather shoot up in the order, the Patriots are more content to backpedal and collect more picks. In last year's draft, they started out with the 23rd selection, backed up to 26th and eventually ended up with the 41st, 73rd and 83rd. Dissatisfied with the talent pool and reluctant to invest first-round money in anybody on the draft board, the Patriots traded out of the first round completely and took four players in the second. The Patriots have an embarrassment of bargaining chips this year. New England is the only team with four choices in the first two rounds and already holds two selections in the 2011 first round. New England also led the league in compensatory picks, but those cannot be traded.

New York Jets

The Jets own the 29th selection of the draft, but it would be a stunner if they actually pick there. General manager Mike Tannenbaum is intrepid when it comes to making trades, famously moving up to nab cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker David Harris, quarterback Mark Sanchez and running back Shonn Greene within the past three drafts. Tannenbaum, however, might abandon the maverick approach this spring. The Jets have traded away so many draft choices, they need to replenish their depth for developmental purposes. That could mean moving back into the second round to collect more picks, or, at the very least, holding onto the ones they have. But if presented another chance to pounce, it'll be interesting to see if Tannenbaum succumbs to temptation.

You had lots of Q's, Bills had some A's

January, 19, 2010
1/19/10
7:52
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and chief executive office Russ Brandon didn't attend Tuesday afternoon's news conference to introduce Chan Gailey as the head coach.

That means a lot of the questions I solicited from you in the morning were rendered moot. General manager Buddy Nix stood on the podium with Gailey at One Bills Drive in a session that addressed many of the questions you deposited in the comments section.

randalstroup: Give us one reason to be excited about this move. What does Gailey bring that hasn't been here the last 10-15 years?

Gailey: "Well, if you don't believe in yourself and you don't believe in the people that you're going to bring in and the way you're going to run a football team, then you shouldn't be standing up here in the first place. And probably every one of those guys believed in what they were going to do. And I certainly do, myself, believe that. You can't promise in this league. There's 31 other teams out there that are trying to do the same thing that you are doing. Nobody, nobody can.

"You can't take me for my word because we haven't done it yet. I understand that. So all you can do is understand who we are, what we're about, what we're trying to get done and you can hope, fans can hope and expect and that's a big difference because I learned from a coach way back, there's two types of coaches: those who hope to win and those who expect to win. I've been around enough winning and enough winning programs and enough winning organizations that when I walk on the field I expect to win, I don't just hope to win. I expect to win."


jsnynole: What type of football does he think would be most successful in Buffalo?

Gailey: "I believe you've got to run the football. You've got to be able to run it. Now, you don't have to lead the league in rushing to win football games. You don't need to lead the league in passing to win football games. You've got to be smart. You've got to move the football, be intelligent with how you try to score points each and every week and that's what we’ll try to do."


tourneypredictor: Will Gailey be the head coach and offensive coordinator?

Gailey: "I will do both. I may have a guy that has the title of offensive coordinator, but I'm going to run the offense to start with. If you want to get it the way you believe it needs to be done from the start, then you need to do it. Mess around here and try to make this mesh with that, you have to get it the way you want it and what you believe in. That's what I plan to do. That way, even if as time goes on, I distance myself a little bit from it -- I'm talking about years, not days or months -- I'll still have the basis of it and know exactly what's going on so that I can correct it and do whatever needs to be done to get it right if it's not right."


davidgirard55: Please ask Chan if he will bring accountability to players who underperform.

Gailey: "I believe in organization, removing the grey area as much as you possibly can. ... Once everybody has their role defined, once everybody has exactly what they're trying to get done explained to them perfectly, then there's accountability -- for everybody, from the top to the bottom for everybody that's involved in winning football games.

"I believe in character. I believe we're going to try to get our guys to understand how important it is to do things the right way both on and off the field. It's for the good of the team, and it's for the longevity of their careers."


(Read full post)

Bills GM Nix defends Gailey hire

January, 19, 2010
1/19/10
3:13
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix got ornery while defending the club's search for a head coach and the decision to hire Chan Gailey.

At Tuesday afternoon's introductory news conference, Nix explained how Gailey fit the criteria: head coaching experience, an offensive mind with a track record of developing quarterbacks and character.

Nix then stiffarmed criticism of the hire after a two-month hunt that included several rejections along the way.

"I want you to know, with all due respect, I don't care," Nix said. "It don't bother me. I mean, everybody's got an opinion. You guys got a job to do, and I'm trying not to make it difficult.

"But my job is to get us the best guy to help us win games. And we found that guy. This guy met more of the criteria that I ever hoped we'd find. This guy's won everywhere he's been."

As much as Nix tried to make it seem like he was the natural selection, Gailey acknowledged he wasn't first choice for what Rochester Democrat & Chronicle columnist Leo Roth called "the Siberia of the NFL."

"I can't speak for other folks," Gailey replied, "but, shoot, you look at the history of the Buffalo Bills, and I've come in that stadium enough times to know about the fans of the Bills Nation. Who wouldn't want to come here?

"Maybe some guys had some personal reasons they didn't want to come here. Great! I'm glad because I get to come here."

Neither Bills owner Ralph Wilson nor chief executive officer Russ Brandon attended the news conference. That left Nix to address all the snubs. Nix claimed 80 percent of the reports were inaccurate but refused to go on the record about who specifically did or did not decline interview requests or reported offers.

Gailey has waited 11 years to become an NFL head coach again. He guided the Dallas Cowboys in 1998 and 1999. Only Art Shell and Joe Gibbs waited longer -- a dozen years apiece -- in between head-coaching gigs since 1980.

Gailey didn't coach in 2009. Kansas City Chiefs rookie head coach Todd Haley fired him as offensive coordinator right before the season started.

"I can't say anything to change anybody's mind," Gailey said. "All I can do is go try and help us win football games. If we win football games, everybody's mind will be changed, right? That's what'll happen.

"I will say this, there's been a lot of sixth- and seventh-round draft choices that have become Pro Bowlers. It's what you do with the opportunity when you get it."

Gailey clearly was referring to himself as that late-round draft pick, essentially embracing his status as a perceived underdog.

He's back in the NFL and in charge of his own team, one of only 32 in the world.

"I'm trying not to exaggerate, but we got 15 calls a day, begging for an interview and wanting this job," Nix said. "I could've hired 35 or 40 the first week. And you would be shocked at some of the names.

"Trust me, it's a good job. Don't ever think you can't fill coaching jobs even if they're bad. Oakland gets a lot of calls."

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