The Buffalo Bills are working on a multiyear contract extension with General Manager Doug Whaley, a high-ranking team source confirmed to The News on Tuesday.
Word of the extension surfaced not long after The News reported that Bills owner Terry Pegula had given Whaley and coach Rex Ryan an ultimatum to turn the team around in 2016. Pegula, in a text to The News, denied the report of an ultimatum.
Details of the extension have not been presented to ownership yet, but the two sides are expecting to get a deal done.
There have not been any official meetings between owners Terry and Kim Pegula and Whaley and Ryan since the Bills defeated the New York Jets, 22-17, on Sunday to finish the season at 8-8, the source said. The owners, Whaley and rest of the Bills brass were planning on meeting this weekend to recap the 2015 season and set a plan for 2016. Whaley’s future with the club is expected be ironed out then.
Another team source told The News on Tuesday that at some point shortly after the Bills were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their devastating, 35-25 loss at Washington – but before their final two games against Dallas and the Jets – there was a meeting at One Bills Drive that involved Terry Pegula, Whaley, and Ryan.
According to that source, it was during that session that Pegula made it clear to Whaley and Ryan that they had “better get this right in a year.” In a statement last week, Pegula called the Bills’ 2015 season “unacceptable.”
Responding Tuesday to a text from The News, Pegula called the report of the one-year ultimatum “BS,” adding, “Bills are long term within.”
The high-ranking Bills source also said there was no ultimatum given to Whaley and Ryan to perform in 2016 or be fired. Those close to Pegula also say it’s not in his nature to do such a thing.
Still, there are two examples from the Pegulas’ ownership of the Buffalo Sabres where a general manager and a coach were given either an extension or a multiyear contract before being fired within a year. GM Darcy Regier received a contract extension in January 2013 and was fired 10 months later. Coach Ted Nolan received a three-year contract in May 2014 and was fired 11 months later.
The Pegulas have shown no aversion to paying off contracts of people no longer working for them.
The most recent example of an NFL team giving a coach a contract extension before firing him within a year is the New York Giants, who last March added one season to Tom Coughlin’s contract, which was due to expire after the 2015 campaign. The Giants and Coughlin parted ways on Monday.
Until the meeting scheduled for this weekend is held, the Bills’ plan was for Ryan to conduct exit interviews with his players and then meet with his coaching staff to make any possible changes.
The theme internally is the theme broadcast externally – the Pegulas are aiming to maintain continuity and patience. The belief within is that this team has enough talent to compete. And that was reflected in Whaley saying at his season-ending news conference that the team would be looking to re-sign its own players.
“I think the focus on the offseason would probably be on retaining most of everything that we have,” Whaley said. “We have some guys coming up that we think will be core to what we need to go forward, so I think that’s going to be the focus. I’ve said before, when it comes to free agency, you guys might as well take that week off. Our free agency is going to be signing our own guys and that’s again a compliment to our scouting staff. We’ve drafted well enough that these guys are coming up and we want to retain them.”
Whaley has one year left on his contract, while Ryan has four years left on a deal that guarantees him $27.5 million. The Pegulas, team president Russ Brandon and Whaley still need to meet to discuss the parameters of the contract extension. There’s a chance the length of Ryan’s and Whaley’s deals parallel each other, similar to what the Indianapolis Colts announced on Monday night. Colts owner Jim Irsay gave head coach Chuck Pagano a new four-year contract and said General Manager Ryan Grigson would be “contractually tied to Chuck.”
WGR 550 first reported that an extension to Whaley here in Buffalo was in the works.
On Monday, Whaley appeared confident when asked about his future with the club.
“That stuff, I’ll leave to Russ and the ownership. I just know that every day I’ve come in here I’ve got positive feedback from the Pegulas,” Whaley said. “I love working with Rex, I love working with this whole staff, I think our personnel staff has done a very good job in acquiring players. Look at the roster we put out there this last game. A lot of those guys that were playing and producing weren’t even on the team three or four weeks ago so I’m excited with what we bring to the table and just keep doing my job and the first thing I was taught in this business is keep your nose down, work hard, and do whatever it takes to help your team win. Everything else takes care of itself.”
Right now, the Bills’ organization is staying the course, one that does not want front-office upheaval. The Bills have cycled through eight different head coaches since Marv Levy retired after the 1997 season and five different general managers since John Butler was fired in 2000. Whaley served as the Bills’ assistant general manager from 2010-13 before being elevated to GM in May 2013.
Tuesday’s news falls in line with what Terry Pegula said in last week’s statement.
“As our first full season as owners of the Buffalo Bills draws to a close, management, coaches, players, and fans all feel that our expectations were not met,” Pegula wrote.
“Kim, Russ, and I look forward to working and collaborating with Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan in forming a winning future for the organization. Our management team and coaching staff are very capable and work well together. This stable foundation is necessary to achieve long-term success in the NFL.”
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