The Buffalo Bills might be getting a new general manager, but the power structure of their football operation will continue to work as it has since Sean McDermott was hired as coach in January.
Which is to say that the overall vision on how the team is put together will be McDermott's, just as it has been through free agency and just as it was through the NFL Draft.
The coach knew he was absolutely on solid ground when he met with reporters after the Bills made their final pick Saturday and provided the following answer to the question of whether he anticipated being the lone spokesperson for the team in future drafts as he was before this one:
"As long as I’m the head coach, I do," McDermott said. "We’re going with that one-voice approach and streamlined and aligned on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. I believe in that, we believe in that and that’s an organizational decision at this time."
At that time, the Bills hadn't announced Doug Whaley's dismissal as GM. That would come early the next morning.
But it was known for awhile, by pretty much everyone in and out the Bills' organization, that it was coming down. McDermott certainly was privy.
Nothing was going to change that. There was no "final straw" for Whaley, as was mentioned in a tweet Monday from CBS Sports' Jason La Confora, who said the GM sealed his fate by ignoring the stumping Bills owner Terry Pegula did to select Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick and instead trading down with the Kansas City Chiefs, who picked the former Texas Tech quarterback in that spot.
And while Pegula made a point Sunday to reiterate that he and his wife, Kim, were the ones who made he decision to fire Whaley and the entire scouting staff, the moves had been inevitable since McDermott's hiring. If that was his way of saying that the coach didn't directly hand out the pink slips, fine.
Let the record show, however, that McDermott never would have taken the job if the previous structure of Whaley primarily having the biggest say on picking players while the coaches stuck almost exclusively to coaching them remained in place. Let the record also show that, as Pegula was careful to explain Sunday, Whaley "wasn’t the only person involved in hiring the new head coach. It was Kim and I and a lot of input from other places."
One of those places was the NFL's Personnel Development Committee, which includes former Bills GM and Hall-of-Famer Bill Polian. Polian, fellow Hall-of-Famers Ron Wolf, Tony Dungy, John Madden and other committee members submitted a list of candidates that was distributed to all of the owners of teams searching for a new coach. McDermott's name jumped out at the Pegulas and they promptly made him the first of four candidates they would interview.
It was notable that, the day before the "formal" interview that would include Whaley and former director of player personnel Jim Monos, the Pegulas invited McDermott to join them for dinner on their yacht in Boca Raton, Fla.
He had the Pegulas at "hello." He impressed them so much, that as Kim drove McDermott to the airport after the next day's six-hour session, she was already telling him to have his wife (who had been invited to Boca Raton as well, but couldn't make the trip) call her for information about housing and other essentials in Western New York.
Whaley's virtual disappearance from public view after McDermott's arrival wasn't a coincidence. It was a fulfillment of a condition of McDermott's employment.
In what could only be perceived as an effort to preserve Whaley's dignity and help his chances of getting another job, Pegula tried shooting down any notion that McDermott was in charge of the draft, noting it was Whaley who "put the whole thing together." Technically, yes, the assembling of names and grades was done by Whaley and his staff, because that happened through the NFL season while McDermott was serving as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
Once McDermott arrived in Buffalo, however, he combed through the data while doing his own intensive study of video and additional research. He shaped the Bills' draft plan, with a need-based approach and the pursuit of additional picks for this year and in 2018 and starkly different than the way Whaley had done things in previous drafts.
That was why there was zero point in having Whaley offer any public thoughts about a draft that ultimately belonged to the coach.
Pegula did his best to remain vague on exactly how the Bills' football hierarchy would look post-Whaley.
"Sean’s a head coach," the owner 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."
Make no mistake, McDermott will very much be a part of those discussions. His satisfaction that he and the next GM will be in lock step philosophically will matter.
One voice. Streamlined. Aligned.