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The Buffalo Bills on Tuesday promoted Russ Brandon to the position of president and CEO with full authority over the team's operations.
He told me he was passing the torch to me to run the franchise in totality. He has granted me full authority to run the franchise with zero restrictions and zero limitations.” -- Russ Brandon, on his meeting with Bills owner Ralph Wilson
Owner Ralph Wilson, 94, relinquished his title as team president to Brandon, who already held the title of CEO. In his new role, Brandon will report directly to Wilson.
Brandon said Buddy Nix will remain the club's general manager. A team source told ESPN, however, that the Bills will transition to Doug Whaley at GM at some point. Whaley will be involved in the coaching search as well.
The Bills fired coach Chan Gailey on Monday after their second consecutive 6-10 this season and are in the midst of their fifth coaching search since 2001.
"As soon as we get off this podium, we go to work," Brandon said Tuesday. "We're heading out of here and starting that process."
First stop: Arizona.
That was the destination of a plane Brandon, general manager Buddy Nix and several other key front-office members had boarded to immediately begin the process of finding a coach.
Though the team, on its website, didn't divulge any details beyond Brandon's travel plans, Arizona is home to three potential candidates: Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton as well as former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistant Russ Grimm, who had both been fired a day earlier.
Buffalo has asked for permission to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for its coaching vacancy, a league source told ESPN.
Brandon discussed his promotion at a news conference following a Monday meeting with the 94-year-old Hall of Fame owner at his home in suburban Detroit.
"It was a rather emotional visit," Brandon said. "He told me he was passing the torch to me to run the franchise in totality. He has granted me full authority to run the franchise with zero restrictions and zero limitations."
Buffalo extended the NFL's longest playoff drought to 13 years this season. Over that stretch, Buffalo only once had a winning record -- 9-7 in 2004.
Wilson, the franchise's founder, has only once before given up the title of president. That was in 2001, when he hired Tom Donahoe to also serve as general manager. Donahoe was fired after the 2005 season, at which point Wilson took back the title and said he had no plan to ever give it up again.
"These past 13 years have been very difficult on our fans and we have not produced the type of winning team that they deserve," Wilson said in the statement. "It has been frustrating for our organization and for me as well. We want our team to be one that our fans are proud of. I believe that Russ has the unique abilities to assemble and lead the talent we will need to get the job done."
Brandon said the coaching search will be "exhaustive" as he attempts to revive a once-proud franchise whose brand and relevancy, he believes, is "tarnished."
"We haven't won enough games. And that's on us," Brandon said. "And we're going to change it. We need to change it. And I will go to the end of the earth to make sure that we change it."
Nix will report directly to Brandon, while maintaining authority over football operations.
Nix declined to be pinned down on the what he's looking for in a coaching candidate, saying: "This time, I think it's wide open."
That's a switch from three years ago, when Nix narrowed his parameters on hiring someone with previous head-coaching experience and an offensive background.
On other issues, Nix called it "an organizational" decision to fire Gailey. Nix backtracked on the unconditional support he voiced toward Gailey in November by saying: "Things change, and it changed some with us. We kind of collapsed at the end. That made a difference."
As for starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's future, Nix said that will be left up to the next coach.
Brandon completed his 16th season with the Bills, and has been serving as the team's chief operating officer since 2008. He was initially hired to work as the Bills director of business development and marketing. He previously served as general manager in 2008 and `09, taking over after Marv Levy stepped down.
During his time with the team, Brandon's played a key role in expanding the franchise's small-market base both east into Rochester, and north into southern Ontario and Toronto.
In 2008, Brandon played a significant role in spearheading the Bills playing games in Toronto, located a two-hour drive from Buffalo. The team reached a five-year deal to play eight games -- including five annual regular season games -- in Canada's largest city and financial capital.
The deal with Toronto-based Rogers Communications expired this year, but the Bills and Rogers have expressed confidence that the series of games will be renewed in the coming months.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.