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Whaley feeling positive about Bills’ new direction

MOBILE, Ala. – Doug Whaley is in his element. He’s watching college football players auditioning for the NFL.

“I love being right here, scouting,” he said while scanning the field at the South squad practice in preparation for Saturday’s Senior Bowl college all-star game. “As long as I have a job and I’m scouting, I’m in a great place.”

Whaley recently completed his second season as general manager of the Buffalo Bills. For the last several weeks, more than a few questions have been raised about his security in that role.

But since Rex Ryan was recently named the Bills coach, that issue seems to have been put to rest. Ryan has given strong public endorsements of Whaley, whom Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula put in charge of the search for a new head coach after the resignation of Doug Marrone. And Whaley says that he and Ryan are “aligned” in their vision of assembling the 2015 Bills.

“If we’re talking about how we want to build this team, he can finish my sentence, I can finish his because it’s the same philosophy,” Whaley said. “And it’s a philosophy, I think especially in our division, and where we play, that represents not only the fan base, but the community and the region as a whole. And that’s tough, physical bullies that are going to impose their will on another team. That’s just what I subscribe to.”

Anything else, such as his future with the Bills once being in question, isn’t worth Whaley’s time.

“Worrying is a wasted emotion, it’s a waste of energy,” he said. “I’d rather take that energy and try to put the plan together and how we can get this team to the next step.”

Whaley is the first to acknowledge that in order to get there, the Bills must find a quality starting quarterback.

“But if people really looked at the two games this past weekend,” he said of the NFC and AFC title games, “the common denominator is they all ran the ball. Even when Seattle was under the gun, 12 down,” late in the fourth quarter against Green Bay, “they did not give up on the run.”

As far as Whaley is concerned, the trend is worth noting because it reinforces the wisdom of Ryan, who is also well aware of the team’s crucial quarterback need.

However, the coach has always subscribed to the idea that success is built on the foundation of a dominant defense and a strong running game.

“So, I don’t care what type of quarterback you have,” Whaley said. “If you can run the ball – and that’s what he does and that’s his philosophy – it even helps out the best quarterbacks.”

The Bills are a long way from having the “best” at that position. The depth chart begins and ends with EJ Manuel, their so-far disappointing first-round draft pick from 2013.

That’s why Whaley and the rest of the Bills’ player-personnel staff are spending a good portion of their game at the Senior Bowl practices watching the quarterbacks – Alabama’s Blake Sims, Southeastern Louisiana’s Bryan Bennett and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson on the South squad, and Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, and East Carolina’s Shane Carden on the North team.

That’s why they, Ryan, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the rest of Buffalo’s offensive coaches will pay close attention to all of the other quarterbacks in the draft and in free agency.

“We’re going to have to do a lot of hard work and a lot of due diligence, turn over every stone because just by sheer numbers we’re going to have to add a quarterback,” Whaley said. “So we’re going to attack this and all the all-star games, Combine and free agency. We’re going to attack it with a lot of vigor because, again, we have to add two, maybe three, more guys to the roster. And we’re not going to sit back and let it come to us. We’re going to be aggressive and go out there and try to find the best guys.”

Whaley said this year’s draft class is not deep with quarterbacks.

“In my opinion, this draft is not as top-heavy as drafts past, but it’s got a glut of players that are in that second to fifth rounds that you can get a lot of value and get some really good players there.”

This is what Whaley had to say about other Bills-related topics:

• On Ryan supporting Whaley’s controversial decision to trade first- and fourth-round picks in this year’s draft to move up to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins in last year’s draft: “I appreciate it. I look at it this way: we’re excited to have a No. 1 wide receiver for a long time. We’d still be looking for one if we didn’t. I’ll let” the media “discuss the merits of that. Hey, you guys should thank me, because you’ve always got a story line to fall back on if nothing happens. But there’s other ways to acquire players besides a first-round pick. There’s free agencies, there’s trades and stuff. We didn’t look at it as a way to hamstring us. We looked at it as a way to build our roster and get key pieces that we’re going to have a long time.”

• On whether he thinks Manuel is salvageable: “I do. I look at it this way: his physical stills didn’t diminish. He still has those physical skills that we saw coming out of college. Now, we think, we hope, that’ll change and everything he’s gone through makes him take a step forward and grow as a player and as a person. So it’s going to be up to him. We’re going to support him and give him every opportunity and everything around that he needs to try to make that step.

“But I do agree that, if he comes back and works, he’ll have a chance. And we’ve got to find out as well. But it’s a two-way street. We have to give him a fair enough shake to show his wares in game situations, but he’s also got to make that step. And this is that third year. And he knows it. He knows that this is the chance where he’s got to basically step up or he’s probably not going to be a starting quarterback in this league.”

• On whether he viewed Marrone’s departure as a personal affront to him: “I never take anything personal. I always look at it business-wise. … I didn’t have a bad relationship with Coach Marrone. It’s been overblown. I’ve had beers with him. Our families have been together. I think that was just one of those things where, ‘OK, let’s connect the dots. He’s leaving, so they’ve got to have something wrong.’ It was not that way at all.”

...

The Bills have named Anthony Lynn their new assistant head coach/running backs coach, according to NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones.

Lynn, a former running back for the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers, was the running backs coach on Ryan’s New York Jets staff from 2009 to 2014.

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The Bills have confirmed that they have parted ways with Director of Pro Personnel Tom Gibbons. An NFL source said “philosophical differences” led to the move. A Dunkirk native, Gibbons spent 16 of his 23 seasons in the NFL with the Bills.

email: vcarucci@buffnews.com

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