by Mario Granata
Much has been made of the not-so warm and fuzzy relationship at One Bills Drive between Doug Whaley and new Head Coach Sean McDermott and a lot of people are speculating that Whaley is all but gone as the Bills General Manager. There are other reports that state that if Whaley is in fact on the outs, it would be foolish for the Bills not to retain him as a scout in some capacity. While other fans are reveling in the drama that they could only find in reality television, here are a few items to consider that point toward Whaley counting the days he has left in Buffalo.
All in the Numbers – Anyone who is a student of the game can tell you that on the timeline of defensive coordinators in the NFL, two names should be considered on the Mount Rushmore: Dick LeBeau and Jim Johnson. Here is a closer look at the two and their success.
Dick LeBeau, who ran primarily a 3-4 scheme, was the Defensive Coordinator for 11 seasons from 2004-2014. His defense ranked in the Top 10 in points 7 times, and Top 10 in yards 10 times. Even more impressive, his defense was in the Top 5 of those categories 6 times (points) and 8 times (yards). This helped the Steelers make the playoffs 7 times, capturing 5 Division Titles along the way, as well as 3 Conference Championships, winning 2 Super Bowl titles. Doug Whaley had a front row seat for much of that success as a scout from 1999 to 2009.
Jim Johnson, whose defense was run out of a 4-3, enjoyed much of the same success from 1999-2008. In 10 seasons at the helm, Johnson’s defenses were ranked in the Top 10 in points 7 times, and Top 10 in yards 6 times. Just like LeBeau his defense ranked in the Top 5 of those same categories 5 times (points) and 2 times (yards) respectively. This helped the Eagles to 7 playoff appearances, 5 division titles, and an impressive 5 Conference Championship games. McDermott was front and center for all of this serving as the scouting coordinator, secondary and linebackers coach during his tenure.
In 2004 the Steelers and Eagles finished 1 and 2 in points against as well. So its safe to say that they have enjoyed success defensively would be an understatement but the point to consider here is that even though Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are just separated by 300 miles, the philosophy of these two masterminds couldn’t be more apart from one another. If Whaley’s approach to finding personnel is the ‘square peg’ then McDermott is inevitably the ‘round hole’.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen – During his time in Philadelphia, McDermott worked under Johnson and Andy Reid. In 2001, Andy Reid, then Head Coach of the Eagles assumed dual roles acting not only as Head Coach but as General Manager until 2005 at which time he was the Executive Vice President in charge of all personnel decisions. With the success that the Eagles enjoyed, this idea perhaps stuck with McDermott having complete autonomy over players who were brought in and those who were let go. This could be a sign that the time for Whaley in Buffalo is done. That idea, coupled with the fact that the success that was achieved were very different in their approach. In short, even if Whaley was just relegated to a scout, his idea of a linebacker probably won’t fit the scheme that McDermott wants. Why do you think that Jim Schwartz didn’t hang around when Rex Ryan took over?
Building the Culture – While the NFL is inherently a business, the Buffalo Bills want to separate themselves from the previous regime as well as the 17 seasons of futility that they have suffered. Why do you think that McDermott is making so many appearances instead of Whaley? The more that his face is plastered on the screen, the quicker that fans will forget the ineptitude of the previous staff (at least that is the hope). That coupled with the fact that Whaley is more than likely on the outs could be as obvious as it gets. McDermott could be pulling all the strings that are happening at One Bills Drive, because that is the blueprint that he has witnessed with Reid and one that has proved successful in the past.
The only relevance that the Whaley/McDermott has is if their working relationship is impeding the goals that are set forth by the organization. If Whaley is doing his job and targeting the players that McDermott wants in his system, then look for Whaley to remain as General Manager in name, but it is becoming more evident that McDermott is the puppet master and will remain so as long as he wants.