Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley hit on several different topics this morning with WGR 550.
He again offered strong support for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, though again said nothing would "preclude" the Bills from drafting a QB. He disputed reports of any rifts between himself and the coaches. He said the Bills may look to add an "impact" player on defense, while also indicating the emphasis this off-season in free agency will be the team re-signing their own players.
Whaley admitted he never expected this steep of a drop-off from the defense, but strongly supported Rex Ryan and said Buffalo would try to add the pieces he needs.
Here are several of his responses. To Whaley, this 7-8 season has been a "disappointment" but not a "disaster."
On his relationship with owners/head coach: "Ownership is great. My relationship with Rex Ryan is something I cherish. I wake up every day happy to come into work with him. With my future, it's one of those things where the ownership doesn't have to tell me anything. I've always attacked my job as, 'Let me do my job, not to lose it. But to keep it and keep getting better.' So until the ownership tells me my keys don't work, I'm here for the long haul and I'm here to get this team where we need to go."
On this season: "I'd say disappointment but not a disaster. I was a Pittsburgh Pirate fan so I understand the long-suffering playoff drought. But if you strip the 16 seasons away and the logo off the helmet, you have a team with the possibility and I stress possibility of the quarterback in the future. You have a No. 1-rated rushing offense. You have a lot of talent on offense. And offensively, you went from 28th to 13th so you have to give great credit to the offensive coordinator Greg Roman. I personally don't understand why people think I wouldn't be happy with that. Anybody should be happy with somebody who can take a first-year quarterback --- a former sixth-round quarterback --- and get him to lead an offense that's in the Top 15. I think it's 12th this year.
"Defensively, we did take a step back. We know that. But you have a head coach, that's been a defensive coordinator and a head coach for 11-plus years. This is only his second time out of the Top 10 and the other time was 11th. ... He's not a bad coach. He's going to improve that defense. So we have a basis to take a step forward. Did we take a step back? Yes. Disappointment. But disastrous? No. If we were sitting here at 2-14, I'd say it's disastrous. But, again, if you take that 16 years off of it and you say 'A first-year coach, a first-year ownership and a first-year starting quarterback,' I think we have something to build on."
On Tyrod Taylor not throwing to the middle of the field: "That's how you're going to defend a young, athletic quarterback. You're going to take away those easy throws and you're going to clog up the middle of the field if he runs. I look at it as a positive because the harder throws are the throws outside the hash. If he can make those throws consistently as well as those throws down the field, those slants, those curls, those hitches, those are the things that are easy. So when the defenses start loosening up and try to defend the outside-the-number throws --- because they didn't think he could make it --- then it's going to open up the inside of the field. But there's always going to spies there so the middle of the field is going to be cluttered at times because of his ability to scramble and make plays with his feet.
"The next step he has to do, is we have to open things up where we design some things for him to have those inside-the-numbers throws. But the biggest thing for him is he has to take that next step and that next step is the end-of-the-game situations where we can count on him like he did in Tennessee. To get that consistency in the end of game situations where we can depend on him and basically throw the game on his back and have him come through and deliver."
On if height is a factor: "Then you look at Drew Brees, he's the same way. I think it can be done. I think it's going to be a maturation process where he starts moving around, as we say 'pocket presence,' to move around in the pocket and find those open throwing lanes because there are throwing lanes. A lot of times with those younger quarterbacks, they have that flight feel. Instead of moving around the pocket and buying time, they want to fly out of the pocket. So I think that'll come with more reps and more game experience."
On if the Bills may draft a QB: "I look at it this way, I have to give credit to our scouting staff because the philosophy into this draft is we'll draft the best player available. That's why we think we were so successful. We didn't see a perceived need or push somebody up and draft on need. Going into this draft, there is no position you can't argue that we should or shouldn't draft. So it opens up the board for us and let's us scout with what we call 'clear eyes' instead of 'needy eyes.' And that helps us be a lot more successful. So to answer your question, there is nothing that would preclude us from taking any position on the board. That could be quarterback, that could be tight end, wide receiver, all across the board we could use an influxion of young, talented depth."
On what this QB draft class looks like: "Right now, with the seniors, it's not particularly top heavy but it is particularly deep. I think there's a lot of quarterbacks you can get rounds two through six that have a chance to grow and progress into a solid No. 2 and possibly a No. 1 with time and seasoning."
On what happened to the defense: "Consistency. There's a lack of consistency there and that goes along with the changing parts, the injuries and also getting adapted to this scheme. I think it was a combination of Rex trying to tweak a little bit of what he normally does to fit our personnel and our personnel trying to fit what they used to do to what Rex does. So that contributes to the lack of consistency and then the injuries --- to Aaron Williams, Kyle Williams, Nigel Bradham. So you've got some young guys in there that are trying to adapt to this as well. At times, we showed we can be a pretty good defense. But the lack of consistency really killed us.
On if he expected a drop-off: "We expected a transition but we didn't expect a drop-off. Just from the history of our defense and Rex's history of coaching defense, we obviously didn't expect it to drop off like that. And that's something we're going to make a concerted effort to fix in the off-season. Just like last off-season, we made a concerted effort to make the offense better and I think we accomplished that goal. We didn't think the defense would take a step back like it did. But if the coaching staff gives us a blueprint of what they need from the personnel staff, I think we've proven in the past that we can go out and help get those coaches where they need to go and get them those pieces."
On finding players who are better fits for what Ryan wants to do: "That's part of it. I wouldn't say that's the total problem. Because if that was the total problem, we wouldn't have those flashes of dominance like we did in the New England game. So I think it's a combination of those guys getting more comfortable with the scheme that is really complicated and also bringing in some parts that fit a little better. ... With the injuries in the secondary, especially at the safety position, I'm not going to give you a total blueprint because I know people listen and it'd put us at a competitive disadvantage. But we have to get some depth in the secondary. We have to get some depth at the linebacker position. And some of the injuries like Powell, Ty Powell was out, that hurt us. A little more depth at the outside position with Jarius Wynn coming back.
"And I just think an impact player on defense, like we brought in impact players on offense last year. So I think that's what we're going to look for, is just the best players available that'll help us get to where we need to go on the defensive side of the ball."
"I think what we're getting back to, we did have a splash off-season last year. But our main focus on free agency is signing our own and I think we've done a good enough job of drafting guys and bringing guys in and now we just turn our efforts to keeping that offensive line together, hopefully getting Nigel Bradham back and there's a lot of restricted free agents. Corbin Bryant has been playing unbelievable. Stefan Charles. Chris Hogan. So those are the guys, we're kind of a victim of being able to pick up back-up guys that are now starting to play well but we'll have a hard time trying to keep them because other teams may come in and see them as starters."
On the challenge of keeping Glenn/Incognito/Bradham: "That's the challenging time of the system we're in now. We're confident but I never like to guarantee anything. But I never say never. There's going to be challenging times ahead but that's what it exciting. And that's the part of the job, especially this time of year, that keeps me smiling and keeps me excited because that's work. Us personnel people in this building aren't afraid of working."
On how the Pegulas view this season: "Their thoughts are, and I tip my cap to them, their thoughts are 'What do we need to get better this week?' And then after this week, we turn to 'What do we need to get better, all of us, top down, going forward?' So they're always looking: 'What can we do to help you guys get better? And what do we need to do in ownership to be better?' That's their philosophy they've told us every time we've met with them. When your ownership group steps into a room and says, 'What else do we need to do to help you do your job better?' that's the perfect scenario and the closest you can get to Utopia in this league."