Tim Graham: Borrrrrrrrring! New GMs are Buffalo's non-splash brothers - The Buffalo News
print logo

Tim Graham: Borrrrrrrrring! New GMs are Buffalo's non-splash brothers

What pills these new Buffalo general managers are.

They sat in front of the cameras and droned on about infrastructure and collaboration and character and the process and my goodness ... When will one of these guys make a trade already?

The Pegulas apparently have forsaken entertainment and are out to bore us. At introductory news conferences Thursday and Friday, we met 40-year-old rookie GMs Jason Botterill and Brandon Beane.

Holy smokes, the tedium.

First, Botterill spoke about resuscitating the Buffalo Sabres through the draft and paying extra attention to minor-league development. Then we heard Beane echo a desire to rebuild the Buffalo Bills through the draft and continually till the underside of the 53-man roster and practice squad.

So these guys won't be distracted easily by shiny objects?

Where's the reckless disregard for the long-term future we've gotten used to?

Botterill better find a coach who likes to drive a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to strip clubs, or these teams might put us to sleep.

The new GMs indicate Pegula Sports & Entertainment is discovering its center. Terry and Kim Pegula have hired enough headline-grabbers to run their clubs, whether from the Sabres' past or carnival barker Rex Ryan. They've paid most of them not to work there anymore.

Botterill and Beane are smart, secure and sharp. They strike me as men who will insist on being privy, won't feel the need to repeatedly insist they're straight shooters, will avoid declaring local fans must be educated or should prepare for suffering and aren't prone to build-a-bully bravado.

Unlike Buffalo's previous GMs, Botterill and Beane don't exude that make-it-up-as-we-go vibe.

The new guys come off as measured, ready to harmonize with the front office on long-term plans. We can't say for sure, of course. Botterill and Beane didn't unroll blueprints across the table or take us through a flow chart on a dry-erase board.

But they answered questions comfortably and graciously in a city where previous GMs and coaches have either desired isolation or sought adoration -- not in between because that would be too human, evidently -- from the fans and media.

Fans, regardless, were initially drawn to previous GMs Doug Whaley and Tim Murray because they had "attitude."

Whaley, in his designer suit and sunglasses, coolly surveyed his troops on the sideline before games. Murray was a rink-rat Clint Eastwood, all glare and no smile. They both relished splashy acquisitions, and many fans loved them for it all.

Those guys give zero flips! They just get it done!

Botterill and Beane were not flamboyant. But they didn't seem tortured while introducing themselves to their new fan bases and explaining their philosophies.

They neither obfuscated nor postured.

What fascinating tidbits did we glean from our new GMs?

Botterill clarified his last name isn't pronounced "BOT-ter-ill," but "BOT-trill." Sounds like a prescription drug from GlaxoSmithKline, hopefully a treatment for sports-induced depression.

We also found out Beane and new Bills coach Sean McDermott, who worked together six years at the Carolina Panthers, are further linked by amateur wrestling.

McDermott has coached Beane's 14-year-old son in a sport so dull the International Olympic Committee in 2013 proposed dropping it instead of the modern pentathlon (fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting) for the 2020 Games because it wasn't relevant enough.

The IOC eventually reversed course, but c'mon.

I told you: These guys simply aren't into anything fun.

Beane, in a 20-questions segment on BuffaloBills.com with interviewer Lauren Hall, said his favorite television show was "Who's the Boss?" The show was on for eight years and won zero Emmys for acting, directing or writing.

I wouldn't be surprised if Beane or Botterill filled out one of those get-to-know-you surveys with any of the following answers.

  • Favorite food: mayonnaise.
  • Favorite band: Coldplay.
  • Dream vacation locale: Delaware.
  • Offseason past time: writing to Congressmen.
  • Preferred gum: Topps cardboard stick.
  • Favorite holiday: Arbor Day.
  • Favorite movie star: Al Gore.
  • Biggest vice: fruit cups.
  • Favorite zoo animal: squirrel.
  • Favorite nightclub: Cracker Barrel.

We did learn Botterill and Beane likely aren't the types of managers who will sacrifice draft assets for the sake of being bodacious.

Botterill has a master's degree in business administration from Michigan. His first job after playing was at the NHL Central Registry. Reading the tax code sounds about as pleasurable. He comes from the Pittsburgh Penguins, who ascribed to analytics from top to bottom.

Can't say definitively, but Beane probably doesn't throw away a future first-round draft choice for Sammy Watkins and then declare afterwards he expects the pick to be late in the order anyway because the Bills are playoff-bound.

Beane suggested a longer-range vision than that. He didn't make any playoff proclamations. He stated the objective was to build a sustainable winner.

But who's to say for sure? Even the most conservative men get twitchy when they have the chance to make a spectacle.

The Yale-educated golem, Dick Jauron, wanted to add not only receiver Terrell Owens, but also quarterback Michael Vick straight out of prison. Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles instead.

Beane and Botterill each expressed filling a roster through free agency is a fool's errand.

"You’re not going to see big splashes of free agency," Beane said.

The Bills last year had the fewest retained draft picks and the most expiring contracts of any NFL team.

The Sabres organization still looked gutted. They missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season, and the Rochester Americans finished 26th in the 30-team American Hockey League.

The GM hires, although devoid of amusement-park flair, represent a fresh start and hopefully clean breaks from turbulent periods in each team's recent history.

Whaley's departure provides distance from the Ralph Wilson-absentee-ownership era. Beane and McDermott are the first GM-coach tandem intended to enter a season together since Tom Donahoe and Gregg Williams in 2001.

Murray's removal breaks the Sabres from their 2014-15 bottom-out endeavor to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel while overpaying several veterans on a mishmash of a roster that failed to draw an identity.

Botterill and Beane have grown through management similarly. They are the same age, born two months apart.

Carolina promoted Beane to football operations director in 2008. Pittsburgh named Botterill assistant GM in 2009.

Carolina made Beane interim GM in 2012, when it fired Marty Hurney. Pittsburgh named Botterill interim GM in 2014, when it fired Ray Shero.

Now they must oversee front office overhauls. They are without college or pro scouting directors. Botterill has some scouts he can retain, but might not. Beane must hire all his evaluators.

The main difference between the GMs is that Botterill clearly is the one in charge and answers to ownership. The coach Botterill hires will not.

The Pegulas hired McDermott first, and he certainly signed off on Beane as the GM. McDermott and Beane answer to the Pegulas individually.

Nothing sexy about any of it, to be honest.

Botterill, though, can change all that with his coaching hire.

I propose IK Enemkpali just for fun.

But for the foundation to consistent success, boring probably is the proper way to go.

And nothing would be more entertaining than winners in Buffalo.

Story topics: / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment