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Bills news conference loud on tone, quiet on substance

By Tim Graham

Thoughts from this afternoon's news conference, where the Buffalo Bills announced CEO Russ Brandon is taking over the team's presidency from owner Ralph Wilson ...

Brandon's opening statement contained some admirable comments about accountability:

"We certainly understand and appreciate the frustration of our great fans and supporters. We acknowledge it, we own it, and we will never run from it. This is an organization with a proud tradition, but I will tell you that this brand has been tarnished. Its relevancy has been tarnished, and it's unacceptable because we just haven't won enough games."

Brandon was emphatic in declaring Buddy Nix will remain general manager:

"I will not be drafting people. I will not be making the final decision on a free agent. I will empower the general manager, Buddy Nix, to do that. Will I have final authority and say? Yes, but that's what Buddy does He identifies personnel and runs that side of the organization. I can't be any clearer than that."

But for how long? Neither Brandon nor Nix was definitive. In fact, they dodged those questions.

There's a widespread belief around the league Nix will be phased out after the draft in April and assistant GM Doug Whaley will be given more control. The Bills were silent on any such plans today.

Brandon also stated Nix will lead the coaching search. But all of my sources tell me Brandon is charting the course for the team, and Nix is along for the ride at the moment.

Nix on Whaley's role moving forward:

"Our plan hasn't changed with Doug since the day we hired him. I said the same thing when we hired him. We're bringing in a guy that's very experienced. He's done some really good things on good teams. He's a smart guy. He's the kind of character we want, and he's gotten better every day. The plan's the same. We want somebody that the transition's going to be smooth. He can make the next step."

Nix said the decision ultimately was his on firing Chan Gailey.

Nix on the Bills drafting a quarterback in April:

"Of course, it's a long time to the draft. I like this time of year. I like getting ready for the draft and scouting. I've said we're going to try to draft a quarterback, and we are. We may even get one in free agency, but we're going to draft a young quarterback at some point."

Troubling to me was that the news conference was big on declarations and meager on details. Brandon made bold statements about change, but kept reiterating how great everyone, including Nix, is at his job. Brandon fawned over Nix's acumen at evaluating talent and building the roster.

"Buddy will have the autonomy to run the football operation moving forward as he has for the last three years," Brandon said. "There's really no difference. The only difference is, he reports to me. That's really the only difference."

I asked Brandon, who had been CEO before, how his role changes as president and if he could provide examples of how things will be different:

"I'm not prepared to have specific examples now. But I am prepared to do a top-to-bottom full evaluation of everything we do in this organization. Organizations win championships, and people win championships. That's an old Marv Levy saying, but it's the truth. Everything you do in this organization has a part of how this organization is viewed, how people accept it, and we're going to look at everything. Buddy and I will do it collectively on the football side of the house. But as I mentioned, I'll leave no stone unturned."

Brandon later said:

"Now I'm in a position where I get to evaluate the evaluators. I'm in a position where I get to evaluate every single thing we do in this organization, and if I don't like it, we're going to change it and we're going to do every single thing we can to build this organization to a championship club, but also a franchise that has sustained success."

It should be noted, Tom Donahoe also had the title of president.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |