By 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
"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
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
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
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
"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)