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Doug Whaley's ascension should end NFL's 2013 minority shutout

WhaleyScullBy Tim Graham

NFL teams hired eight head coaches and seven general managers this offseason.

All of them are white.

That a minority didn't get one of those jobs was viewed by many as a colossal disappointment -- even a setback -- for NFL diversity.

"It's meaningful," said John Wooten, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works with the NFL to promote diversity in front offices and among head coaches. "It gives us a good lift."

The Buffalo Bills, however, are expected to disrupt the shutout by promoting Doug Whaley to general manager soon. Whaley has been Buffalo's assistant general manager under Buddy Nix, who resigned Monday.

The Bills were careful to avoid even mentioning Whaley's name Monday. They wanted the news conference to emphasize Nix's years of service.

But it's one of the club's worst-kept secrets that Whaley will take over for Nix. The Bills announced in February they'd signed Whaley to a contract extension and frequently have hinted at bigger plans for him within the organization.

Whaley, 40, came to the Bills in 2010 after spending 11 years in the Pittsburgh Steelers' front office. His last role with the Steelers was as pro scouting coordinator.

"We had talked to him about going to Buffalo in that position," Wooten told me this afternoon. "He was known and had a very good position with the Steelers, but we told him this was an opportunity, and the Steelers understood the opportunity by not hindering him from going there.

"We felt he should make the move, and we're enthused he made it work out. He has shown great skills, he's a hard worker and he knows the league. Whaley has done an outstanding job."

Wooten compared the switch from Nix to Whaley with how the New York Giants handled the rise of current GM Jerry Reese, a hot commodity before esteemed personnel man Ernie Accorsi retired.

"There was quite a bit of interest in Whaley," Wooten said. "That's why Buffalo stepped up to say, 'Hey, we're going to give you that position. Just stay here with us rather than take an interview.' "

On a league-wide scale, Wooten chooses not to focus on Whaley being the lone minority among the 16 notable job changes. He pointed out many minorities continue to get hired and promoted for jobs just below the top levels.

The Bills hired Doug Marrone to replace Chan Gailey, but the club interviewed two black candidates: former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith and former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

The NFL's Rooney Rule, overseen with help from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, mandates at least one minority candidate be interviewed for every head coach or GM opening.

"We see they're moving toward diversity and inclusion," Wooten said. "We see it working with assistant head coaches and coordinators and front-office directors. The media and the public only see the ones out front, but we see it all the way down the line.

"But what Whaley has done is meaningful to us because it shows diversity and inclusion is moving in a positive way. We're very happy and pleased with it. The relationship we have with the NFL is working."

(Photo: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)


Buddy Nix | Doug Marrone | Doug Whaley
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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 |