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Bills brass has lots to clean up Nix knows he needs to get better players

They are a couple of good ol' boys from the South who have come North to try to revive a struggling franchise.

As the Buffalo Bills' first-year general manager and head coach, respectively, Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey know the difficult task that lies ahead. Playoffs and Super Bowls were once a regular occurrence, but have become a faded memory.

The Bills haven't reached the postseason in 10 years, and the popular belief is their club-record drought will reach 11 in 2010. So what can the Bills do to escape this losing culture? How can they unlock the shackles of mediocrity and recapture past glory?

"Winning," Nix said matter-of-factly at the Ritz-Carlton Resort, the site of the NFL owners meetings. "We've got to get started winning. That's what it's all about. That's what will change it. Nothing else will."

Winning takes talent, and to be frank, the Bills don't have enough of it. Free agency and the draft have brought uneven results with not enough hits and far too many misses.

But Nix, who is in his first year as an NFL GM, has an NFL-wide reputation as an astute talent evaluator. That can only help.

"We have to get the players, and my job is to do that," he said. "We've got a guy to coach them if we just get him some."

Gailey's hiring did little to excite Bills fans who were hoping for a bigger name. Some are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, while others are taking a wait-and-see approach.

But Gailey is fired up about the challenge of reversing the Bills' recent misfortunes.

"I think everybody knows about the passionate fan base in Buffalo. That's obvious," he said. "They've got a lot of good people in the organization and we've got some work to do. Obviously, that's why I'm here. There's some work to do and some winning football that's got to be had up here so that we can get this franchise back to the playoffs."

Gailey added that it will take more than talent to turn things around.

"A lot of these guys are talented or they wouldn't be in the league to start with," he said. "I think you have to be fundamentally sound. That's what wins. It's not the fancy offense or the fancy defense or the fancy kicking game. It's the fundamentals of the game, it's hard-nosed toughness. All those things go into being a good football team.

"We just have to create that culture within our football team and whatever the offense or defense is we have to execute. To me, it's making sure everybody is on the same page and taking steps together. You can even take a misstep, but if you do it together you can get back on line easier."

The Bills' chances of becoming a contender also depend on how well they compete in their division. The New England Patriots owned the AFC East during the past decade. The Miami Dolphins went from 1-15 in 2007 to winning the division title the next year. Bombastic rookie head coach Rex Ryan had the New York Jets one game from playing in the last Super Bowl.

The Patriots, Dolphins and Jets have strengthened themselves this offseason, either by re-signing players or adding key pieces via trade or free agency. The Bills also fortified their roster with some solid free agent pickups. But there is a sense around the NFL as well as in Western New York that the Bills still lag behind their division rivals.

"Obviously this is a very tough division, and it's tough because New England has perennially been very good," Gailey said. "Two years ago Miami won the division. Last year the Jets, who had not been very good, all of a sudden came up and played very, very well and went to the AFC Championship Game. So you've got very strong teams that are going to make it very tough."

So tough that the Bills can't close the gap? Not at all, says Nix. While he thinks the team can win right away, he doesn't favor the quick-fix approach.

Instead, Nix is thinking long-term. In rebuilding the Bills into a winner, he wants to construct something that will stand the test of time.

"Obviously, you need to win. It's credibility and that kind of thing," he said. "But we're looking to build something solid so we can win consistently. We're not just trying to do it this year and then having to start over every year. Winning consistently, that's our goal."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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