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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: Whaley fortunate he works for forgiving owner

What, it’s September? It seems only yesterday that Rex Ryan was planting the victory flag on June. August flew by, thanks to the Olympics. I didn’t touch a piece of real mail for three weeks. I almost missed opening those debt consolidation offers and ripping them in pieces.

The Mailbag has returned for a fresh new season. To the diehards, it must be like finding out that “Game of Thrones” or “House of Cards” has finally come back after an interminable offseason. When it comes to carnage and intrigue, those shows have nothing on the Bills.

Ryan and Doug Whaley are the best thing that ever happened to The Mailbag. Rob Ryan can’t hurt, either. It’s hard to imagine life without them, though we might have to prepare for such an eventuality if the Bills stumble home with a losing record.

Remember, you can submit questions via Twitter (@TBNSully) or my company email (jsullivan@buffnews.com). On to this week’s mail:

Bob G asks: This year’s draft should seal the fate of Doug Whaley. While he can’t be faulted for the (Reggie) Ragland injury, using two picks on players with pre-existing injuries in a year when we needed immediate help at “rush backer” and wide receiver proves he is not a GM. Will the Pegulas make a change this quickly?

Sully: I’ve given up trying to predict Terry Pegula’s behavior. But I believe Ryan and Whaley were given some sort of ultimatum late last season, and I could see both of them getting whacked if the Bills have another disappointing season.

Whaley certainly did not distinguish himself by using a first-round pick on Shaq Lawson, who was damaged goods, then lying about the injury on draft night. That’s the sort of move that would get a GM fired by a less-forgiving owner. Ryan, who has an unabashed love affair with Clemson football, has to take a big share of the blame for that pick, too.

As for rookie wideout Kolby Listenbee, they knew he had a double hernia when they drafted him (he ran a 4.39 despite it). It wasn’t the smartest choice, but I can’t get all worked up over a sixth-rounder.

As you said in your rather extensive email, Whaley has made a few solid picks in the draft, most notably Ronald Darby. But he whiffed on too many others, gave up too much for Sammy Watkins, and set back the organization with his stubborn insistence that EJ Manuel is a viable NFL quarterback.

Whaley is too much of a risk-taker, like his head coach. He has no discernible blueprint for building a team. While obsessing about Manuel, he failed to address his defensive front early in three straight drafts and allowed a good defense to regress. As I’ve said in the past, I would have fired Whaley for the Watkins pick alone.

If Pegula had brought in an outside football man to run the operation, Whaley would have been gone by now. Whaley is fortunate to work for a novice NFL owner who is ruled by wishful thinking and willing to defer to an unproven, first-time general manager.

@spyderman1954 asks: Your favorite Olympic moment?

Sully: It’s always hard to say, because an Olympics is filled with unforgettable moments, large and small. But I’d have to go with the U.S. women’s rowing eight winning its third consecutive gold medal.

It was a great Olympic moment, and a local one as well. Emily Regan, who rowed in the bow, became the first Buffalo rower ever to win Olympic gold, a long overdue reward for the fine program at the West Side Rowing Club. It was doubly memorable for Western New York, because Buffalo native Tom Terhaar is the head of the U.S. women’s team.

What made it even more fun was watching it from the front row of the bleachers, in the midst of a dozen of Regan’s family, friends and supporters. Emily’s dad, Larry Regan, stood impassively for the first three-quarters of the 2,000-meter race, leaning against the rail while observing the progress of the boats on a video board in the corner of the stands.

When Larry finally turned toward the water and thrust his arms in the air, you knew the race was won. A few minutes later, Emily walked up to me in the mixed zone and burst into tears, she was so relieved and happy for her team and her hometown.

Larry, forever the proud papa, texted me a photo of Emily at the Bisons game on Wednesday. She was standing in the aisle for more than two innings, posing for photos and signing autographs. Golden girl.

Dan Meyer asks: The pennant races in the AL and NL are heating up. The competition for MLB’s awards is pretty intense, especially for the AL’s MVP: Mookie Betts. Josh Donaldson. Jose Altuve. Manny Machado. Mike Trout. David Ortiz. Robinson Cano. Who do you think finishes the season strong and captures the hardware?

Sully: It’s an amazing field, and as you suggest, it might come down to who has the strongest finish. I think it’ll come down to Betts and Altuve, who are having two of the best offensive seasons in baseball history.

Betts is hitting .320 and on pace for 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 30 homers and 20 steals. Altuve could become the second player ever (after Larry Walker) with 100 runs and RBIs, 20 homers, 30 steals and a .350 batting average. It’s tough to choose, and I would entertain arguments for any of the other guys you mentioned.

It would be nice to see Altuve win. He’s only 5-foot-6, the first player that short to hit 20 homers since Hack Wilson. He has a good chance to finish strong, as the Astros have a fairly easy closing schedule. It shouldn’t matter if Houston makes the playoffs, but it won’t hurt.

Betts plays in Fenway Park, which is great for hitters, on the best offensive team in baseball. That diminishes his MVP case. Of course, I picked Betts for MVP in our preseason baseball section, so that’s a consideration.

James Griffin asks: Is Rex Ryan’s contract guaranteed or is there a clause where the Bills can fire him during the season and not pay the balance of the contract?

Sully: Ryan’s contract is fully guaranteed, as is generally the case with any established NFL head coach. So if the Bills fire him after this season, they’ll be on the hook for something in the neighborhood of $16.5 million. Hey, at least he doesn’t have the Doug Marrone clause that allows him to walk and get paid next year.

@steve31619 asks: Did you look at any Rio properties for a retirement home?

Sully: Actually, I was wondering if there might be extra room with you in your parents’ basement.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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