SBD/January 3, 2013/Franchises

Bills Name Brandon President & CEO; Wilson Cedes Full Authority Over Team Operations

Brandon becomes the third president in the Bills' history
Bills Owner Ralph Wilson on Tuesday announced the promotion of CEO Russ Brandon to President & CEO, which provides Brandon with "full authority over the entire organization's operations," according to Chris Brown of BUFFALOBILLS.com. Wilson has been "traveling a lot less in recent years back and forth" between his Detroit offices and Bills HQs in Orchard Park, and he "deemed it best to cede the responsibility of day-to-day operations to Brandon." Brandon said that Bills GM Buddy Nix will "remain in his current role and continue to run the football side of the operation." Assistant GM Doug Whaley "remains in his role as well largely overseeing the college scouting operation while also assisting on the Pro Personnel side." Brandon is only the "third team President in the organization's history joining Wilson and Tom Donahoe" (BUFFALOBILLS.com, 1/1). In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan noted Brandon joined the Bills in '98 and has "overseen remarkable off-the-field success." The Bills had "more sellouts in the first decade of the 2000s, when they never made the playoffs, than in the 1990s." Nix previously "reported directly" to Wilson, but he now "reports to Brandon." Brandon, Nix, Whaley and Bills Senior VP/Football Administration Jim Overdorf will "conduct the interviews with candidates to replace fired head coach Chan Gailey." Gaughan: "How much different will decisions be as a result of the fact that Wilson isn't approving them? Not much." Nix had "pretty free rein," and it is "not like Wilson was overruling the GM on his evaluations of free agents." Nix said that he views Whaley as "the man who will succeed him." Nix is 73, while Whaley, "groomed" in the Steelers organization, is 40 and "has a good reputation around the NFL." There is some "suspicion around the league the transition from Nix to Whaley could come as soon as later this year" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/2).

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana wrote of Brandon, "I hope he succeeds, but I have my doubts, and that won't change until I see tangible proof otherwise." The Bills have been "in the business of losing games, and they have excelled at it for this entire millennium." The fact that Wilson has given Brandon "full authority and an open checkbook is also intriguing because if Wilson really will be able to sit back and sign those checks without screaming, the Bills will have no excuses for not landing the coach, or free agent, that they covet the most." Maiorana: "There are things about the kickoff to this so-called new era that make me think Brandon spent nearly 45 minutes Tuesday trying to put a smiley face on the same old promise of hope that he's been peddling for years." If nothing else, what happened Tuesday is "good for the Bills because Brandon has been given the latitude to try some new things." New is "better than old for a team that has redefined what NFL irrelevancy truly is" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 1/2). In Buffalo, Tim Graham wrote one of the "more intriguing revelations" from Brandon was the "implementation of a Moneyball-style analytics department to help guide football operations." Brandon said, "We are going to create and establish a very robust football analytics operation that we layer into our entire operation moving forward." Brandon added that when he was the Marlins Exec Dir of Business Development he "learned a lot about the value of analytics from GM Dave Dombrowski, now President, CEO and GM of" the Tigers (BUFFALONEWS.com, 1/1).

ERA OF CHANGE: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote, "Frankly, it was about time for Wilson to get out of the way." Wilson no longer was "capable of steering the Bills in the right direction." The change was "needed whether the role was filled by Brandon or anybody else who had two eyes and a shred of common sense." It must have been "emotional for him to hear Wilson had entrusted him with his baby, an organization for which he paid $25,000 and turned into an $800 million empire." Brandon said, "To have the mantle of running his franchise, in totality, is almost hard to fathom right now." Gleason wrote Brandon had an "inauspicious start to his presidency Tuesday." His message during his introductory press conference sounded "much like the usual sales pitch, customary for an organization that often missed the point." The Bills getting "smarter and younger helps, but the biggest upgrade is having someone involved in daily operations who can evaluate daily operations." Brandon 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 that we do in this organization. And if I don't like it, we're going to change it." Gleason: "I'm suspicious of every Wilson decision, and his choice to hand full control to Brandon was met with a certain amount of skepticism." However, almost "anybody but Wilson and top aide Jeffrey Littman would be deemed an improvement, a sign of progress for a franchise that has gone in the wrong direction for far too long" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/2). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Change was in order there. They have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, the most in the NFL” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/2).

OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT? The BUFFALO NEWS' Graham wrote under the header, "Have We Seen And Heard The Last Of Ralph Wilson?" Wilson's presence has "regressed considerably the past couple years -- almost to the point of invisibility as far as fans are concerned." Health questions "hover," and a "lack of mobility prevents Wilson from traveling much." Wilson "didn't attend a Bills game this season," and went to "one last year." He was at the team's holiday party last week, but "his arrival was brief and unannounced." Graham: "We don't know how Wilson handled [Monday's] meeting, but it's difficult to imagine he sat there stone-faced." If he "truly is stepping aside, then Monday was a seminal occasion for him and his franchise, tantamount to walking a daughter down the aisle and turning her over to the groom" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 1/2).
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