Lang on Bills: Whaley focused on playoffs

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley. (Mark Mulville/AP)

Doug Whaley is the latest in the long line of experienced football men who have been given the task of ending the Buffalo Bills’ playoff drought.

The Bills haven’t made the post-season since 1999, giving them the dubious distinction of owning the longest such skid in the NFL.

An eloquent and competitive man, Whaley joined Brady and Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Friday morning and touched on a variety of subjects.

Whaley made it clear that it is going to take hard work, and not gimmicks, to guide the Bills back to the playoffs.

“(I need) to instill an organizational effort to be committed to accountability, hard work and accepting nothing less than consistency and competing for championships. There’s no magic formula here. If everybody has that singular focus and is working hard and steps through that door every day and tries to get better, we think that will point us in the right direction.”

“That’s another thing we have to instill in our players and our organization. Not the “hope” to win, but the belief we are going to win; especially in tight situations and tight games. We need guys to believe they will come up with the play, the game-winning play or game-tying play. You got to believe.” said Whaley.

When Buddy Nix stepped down as the General Manager of the Bills, he was 73 years old. While Whaley is three decades younger, his philosophy on how to build a team can be traced back to the Steelers tried and true formula which dates back to the early 1970’s. After spending over a decade in Pittsburgh as a scout and in their player personnel department, the Steelers way of doing things left an indelible impression on the man.

“They instill a motto throughout the whole organization of nothing less than winning is acceptable. When you do that everybody buys in and everybody is pulling towards the same goal.” says Whaley.

You can’t win in the NFL without a good quarterback and the Bills think they found a good one when they selected E.J. Manuel in the first round (16th overall) of the recent draft. Even though it is still early, Whaley feels that Manuel has already impressed everyone within the organization.

“EJ he’s been everything we expected him to be: a consummate professional, a guy that this stage isn’t too big for him. The arm talent and the physical skills are undeniable. The thing that, we were not impressed with, but we recognize that it was going to be something that wasn’t going to surprise us was his work ethic. He’s come in and put his nose to the grind stone. He’s come in and put his nose to the grind stone, and he’s ready and excited and amped up.”

There are many reasons why the Bills haven’t been in the playoffs for so long. The main one is the fact that they haven’t had enough talent to consistently beat the elite teams in the AFC. After a lifetime of finding players, Whaley can’t wait to put his talents to use in his new role.

“The basis of this business is finding good players and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to pool all our resources and one of the resources is what I cut my teeth on, and that’s talent evaluation. I’m going to be out and I am going to see the top college players, I am going to be heavily involved in the pro personnel department, bringing in any in-season additions with injury replacements, practice squad. This is all I know. I am going to assume some more General Manager position in managing the football operations but I am going to still be heavily involved in the evaluation of talent.”

For the Bills to get back to the play-offs they need to be good enough to beat the best teams in the league. They are forced to play one of the finest teams in the NFL, the Patriots, twice year. As Whaley explains, building a team that can compete with New England and the rest of the AFC East will play a major role in his decision making.

“To get in the playoffs the first thing you have to do is win the division. We are cognizant of what our competitors in the division are doing and a lot of what we do building our roster centres on how is this going to help us match-up against the New England Patriots, against the Miami Dolphins, against the New York Jets; because that’s our first goal every year, to win the division.”

As the 12th general manager in the history of the Bills, Whaley has a great opportunity to be called one of the bright young executives in the league.

Of course to do that, Whaley will have to provide Coach Doug Marrone with the kind of talent that can turn the Bills into a perennial playoff team. Whaley and Marrone won’t have to wait long to find out what kind of talent they have as they host the Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week One.

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