Terry Pegula takes issue with the Buffalo Bills being labeled dysfunctional.
Sunday's development won't help in that regard.
The Bills fired General Manager Doug Whaley – and their entire amateur and professional scouting departments – just hours after the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
An 8 a.m. announcement was followed three hours later by a press conference in which Pegula provided few details on why exactly the team decided now was the time to fire Whaley, who three months ago was tabbed as the man to lead the search for a new head coach.
"Doug wasn’t the only person involved in hiring the new head coach," Pegula said. "It was Kim and I and a lot of input from other places. I mean, that’s a legitimate question, but things change."
The writing was on the wall for Whaley. Coach Sean McDermott, who has become the "one voice" for the team since being hired in January, stayed as far away as possible from questions about Whaley's future during the draft.
"I’m focused on this draft. Honestly," McDermott said Saturday, shortly after the conclusion of the selection process. "I’m going to focus on this draft and what we have in front of us going on right now with this priority free agent market. I will say that Doug and his staff did a phenomenal job."
Pegula echoed those sentiments in his press conference, going as far as saying there were "a few tears in the building" when the decision to fire Whaley – which he described as "not easy" – was made. Which raises the question ... why did he fire him, then?
"I don’t want to discuss publicly why we made the decision, the factors," Pegula said. "Doug’s a good guy. He’s a smart man, but we made the decision. The reasons remain private to us, and Doug."
Of course, there's a difference between being a good guy and a good general manager. Whaley's tenure in Buffalo will be defined by an inability to get along with two head coaches, as well some significant missteps in the draft that include drafting quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round and trading first- and fourth-round draft picks to move up five spots and select wide receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall in 2014. There was also a massive contract extension given out to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus that, so far, looks disastrous.
Whaley did have some good moments, including trades for Jerry Hughes and LeSean McCoy (for Kelvin Sheppard and Kiko Alonso, respectively) and the acquisitions of low-priced free agents like Richie Incognito, Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown – all of whom became Pro Bowlers.
Overall, however, the misses far outweighed the hits. Whaley also embarrassed the organization on several instances, including when he infamously said that "it's a violent game that I personally don't think humans are supposed to play."
The tipping point came at Whaley's season-ending press conference on Jan. 2, when he repeatedly said he wasn't "privy" to the decision on firing former coach Rex Ryan. He would field questions just once more publicly, at the Senior Bowl, before McDermott began speaking for the team on all matters.
The Pegulas have now fired the general managers of both of their professional teams 10 days apart.
"These are just things when you own two teams, they occur," Pegula said. "We own three teams. You know, it gets even more complex."
The timing of those firings, less than a day after the 2017 NFL Draft concluded, comes at the end of the scouting year for personnel departments.
"We ran a process after the season ended and made the decision at this time," Pegula said.
Curiously, Pegula insisted that Whaley played a big part in the team's draft – saying he "put the whole thing together."
"Sean didn’t lead the charge," the owner said. "It was a collaborative effort in our draft process. I like when things go like that. We all talk – you’ve got to have input from all aspects of the organization."
The idea that Whaley would play any significant role in the team's draft – only to be fired roughly 13 hours later – seems far-fetched at best. More likely, the Bills simply wanted to prevent their information from becoming available to other teams by cleaning house before the draft.
When asked why, if he liked the collaborative process leading up to the draft, he was so quick to change it, Pegula sidestepped the question.
"Again, I don’t want to talk about the past," he said. "I want to talk about the future."
To that end, focus now shifts to the team's search – and how the organization will be structured after a new general manager has been hired.
"It’s going to be Kim and I and we’re going to use every resource we can inside and outside the organization to find the right person," Pegula said. "That’s how we’re going to do it. It’s very simple."
That includes using McDermott as a resource.
"Part of our evaluation process is looking and talking to everyone in the organization," he said. "We're going to ask Sean questions, absolutely."
Team President Russ Brandon will also be consulted, if needed.
"If we need to ask Russ questions, we’re going to ask him," Pegula said. "He’s a member of the Bills' organization."
As for who will have control over things like the 53-man roster, or whether McDermott will report to the new general manager, Pegula indicated those decisions have yet to be made – and pushed back against the idea that the new head coach will automatically be given more power than he already holds in the organization.
"Sean's a head coach," Pegula said. "When we hire a new GM, we'll talk about, obviously, his obligations and duties. But Sean's a head coach. The GM's going to be the GM.
"I like collaborative organizations, so the power structure I envision when we hire our new GM is someone who will work in the organization with us as owners, with the head coach and make a team that makes us better."
One of the first priorities for the new general manager will be finding a replacement for Jim Monos, who served as director of pro personnel. The new GM will also decide the fate of Jim Overdorf, the team's longtime senior vice president of football administration.
"We’re going to support him as much as we can but that decision will be made by the new GM that’s coming into the organization," Pegula said of Overdorf.
Pegula denied that there were any communication issues with Whaley, which they cited as a reason for firing Sabres General Manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.
"Absolutely not," he said. "Nope. Nope. And, trust me, you know, Doug’s a good communicator. He’s going to land somewhere and he’s very personable.
"It’s not the same situation. It’s a different team, different issues. We need to get better."