Thursday, December 31, 2009
Don't nix this Bills decision just yet
By Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- My initial reaction when I heard the Buffalo Bills had promoted national scout Buddy Nix to general manager was, "This won't go over well with the fans."
Buddy Nix might not be a splashy hire, but he has been successful in front-office roles before.
The Bills went oh-for-the-aughts when it came to the postseason, but there was promise of new beginnings, with talk of hiring a Mike Shanahan or a Bill Cowher. A sad organization seemed on the verge of a desperately needed systemic change.
Then they not only hired from within, but owner Ralph Wilson revealed at a news conference the organization's short list of candidates produced two finalists -- and both of them were already on the payroll.
On the surface.
There's one important fact that is being overlooked in the immediate reaction to Nix's promotion: His fingerprints aren't on this train wreck. At least not yet.
Nix rejoined the Bills less than a year ago. He'd been a key member of the Bills' front office under general manager John Butler from 1993 through 2000. But when the Bills fired Butler, he took Nix with him to the San Diego Chargers, where they, along with A.J. Smith, ran one of the finest organizations of the past decade.
Nix wasn't here when the Bills drafted Mike Williams, J.P. Losman and John McCargo in the first round. He didn't anoint Trent Edwards the franchise quarterback. He didn't hire Dick Jauron.
I'm not predicting Nix will draft a LaDainian Tomlinson or swing a blockbuster trade to bring a Philip Rivers and a Shawne Merriman, but at least he has been around winning in the past decade, something that can't be said for many folks at One Bills Drive.
"I can see a little disappointment on your face that one of the geniuses is not standing up here," Nix told the assembled media Thursday. "I know this isn't quite what you expected.
"But I'm going to tell you this. It's kind of like getting up the morning after the draft and reading the newspaper and seeing where you got an A-plus, and two years later, with that same class, you're getting your tail beat and you get fired.
"It doesn't matter what kind of splash we make today. What matters is two years or three years down the road, that we got this thing turned in the right direction and we're winning."
There was symbolism the Bills called this news conference on New Year's Eve (and, truth be told, that was the disappointment Nix recognized in the reporters' faces).
A new decade begins at midnight. As Bills icon Jim Kelly noted, decades are marked by the teams that dominate them. The Bills dominated the AFC in the 1990s, then went dark for the 2000s.
Nix declared the Bills are not that far away from being competitive, but Wilson added "I don't think it's going to come immediately because I think you build a football team through the draft."
When Nix joined the Chargers as director of player personnel, they were coming off of a 1-15 season. He claimed the Bills have more to work with now than the Chargers did then.
"We were further away at San Diego when we went in there," Nix said. "We had very few players in house. We had some luck along the way and were fortunate enough to draft guys that got better through teaching and good coaching."
Based on the message boards and reactions on talk radio, Bills fans already are disgusted with the Nix appointment.
I'm willing to wait and see. I don't see this as the same old, same old.