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A History of Bills General Managers

Posted May 16, 2013

As Doug Whaley steps into his role as the 12th General Manager of the Buffalo Bills, here's a look at the complete history of Bills General Managers, with snapshots from the official Buffalo Bills media guides during the time of their tenure.

Dick Gallagher (1960-1966)
"Long before Ralph Wilson placed his American Football League franchise in the City of Buffalo, New York, or even before he had a franchise to play anywhere, he knew who he wanted to be his general manager, if and when. That man was Dick Gallagher.

It has been said of Dick Gallagher, 'there is no more enthusiastic salesman of professional football.' The general manager accepts the compliment gracefully. "I suppose I must sound, to some, as if I'm overboard about pro football. But, I'm completely dedicated to the game not only as my business, but as my way of life."

In addition to his other duties, the personable Irishman flashed his friendly smile, ready wit, and countless football stories...as the Browns No. 1 ambassador of goodwill, just as he has been the Bills since the day he signed on as general manager. He joined the Bills in 1960 as the second man ever hired for the team by Ralph Wilson Jr."

Bob Lustig (1967-1978)
"Bills Vice President and General Manager Bob Lustig has been an associate of Owner Ralph Wilson since 1948. When Wilson became one of the original members of the newly-born American Football League in 1960, he entrusted Lustig with the responsibility for signing many of the players on the original Bills roster. Four years later, Lustig was devoted full time to the Bills operation as a Vice President, soon taking on the General Manager title as well. Lustig was a key figure in the drive for a new stadium to house Buffalo's NFL franchise - a dream finally realized in 1973 with the dedication of a magnificent facility in Orchard Park, NY.

For all of his present association with football, Lustig's first love was baseball - a sport he played in the American Legion and later as a freshman at the University of Detroit. His college career was interrupted by Army service in World War II, where he saw action in the European theatre as a member of the 104th Infantry Division. He returned to Detroit following the war to complete his college education, then went to work for the Ralph Wilson Agency."

Stew Barber (1979-1982)
"Stew Barber who established a reputation for dependability and excellence as a player, was appointed to the new post of Vice President in Charge of Administration which assumes the duties of the General Manager. He will continue to supervise player signings, as well as coordinating the travel arrangements and directing the club's ticket and stadium operations.

In announcing Barber's position, Wilson said he was confident Stew would 'attack this challenge with the same skill and vigor that typified his career with the Buffalo Bills.' After a distinguished playing career at Penn State, Barber was drafted fourth round of the 1961 AFL selection meeting by Buffalo. Over the next nine seasons, Barber started 112 consecutive regularly-scheduled games, with a five-time All-AFL choice and appeared in five League All-Star games. He was a member of both the Bills AFL Championship teams."

Pat McGroder (1983)
"A lifelong friend of Ralph Wilson, Pat McGroder took charge of Buffalo's newly reorganized front office in March, 1983. A native of Buffalo, McGroder attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Hutchinson High School, and Canisius and Chattanooga Colleges. He founded the McKinley Liquor Company in 1942, and was the Buffalo Athletic Club's Sportsman of the Year in 1955.

'I have never met a more dynamic personality of a more knowledgeable businessman," said Owner Ralph Wilson at the time of his GM appointment. "He loves Buffalo and the Bills. He has been involved in the Western New York community throughout his lifetime and is widely-respected throughout the NFL.'"

Terry Bledsoe (1984-1985)
"Former New York Giants Assistant General Manager Terry Bledsoe, whose background includes such diverse subjects as sportswriting, labor-management negotiations and player contract bargaining, was appointed to the post of General Manager and Vice President after becoming acquainted with Ralph Wilson on the NFL Management Council. Bledsoe played a lead role as a negotiator representing the clubs in talks leading to the landmark 1977 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While born in Chicago, Bledsoe was raised in Clinton, Iowa, after his father was fatally wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a sportswriter and columnist covering the Green Bay Packers from 1962-1968."

Bill Polian (1986-1992)
"Bill Polian has scouted football players, coached football players, and negotiated contracts with football players. That gives Polian, who also played the game at New York University, a unique perspective in his new position as General Manager of the Buffalo Bills.

At his introductory press conference, Polian said: 'I want to emphasize, as Mr. Wilson has emphasized to me, that he is committed to building a winning football team for the fans of Western New York. I share in the sentiment. Faith can move mountains, so the cliche goes...and maybe even a few Miami Dolphins on the goal line, as time goes by.'

While Polian believes the turnaround on the field is already in motion, he isn't taking anything for granted. 'Our philosophy here is that we have to say please and thank you, and we have to sell like hell.'

John Butler (1993-2000)
"After being named Executive Vice President and General Manager on February 5, 1993, Butler wasted no time in directing the Bills to an unprecedented fourth consecutive trip to the Super Bowl during the 1993 season. The Bills former Director of Player Personnel has always instillied an air of excitement and optimism to the general manager's office with an even mixture of football knowledge and friendly personality.

Butler entered the NFL in 1985 with the San Diego Chargers as a scout, after coaching for the United State Football League's Chicago Blitz. In fact, Butler has the unique distinction of serving with three head coaches who have posted over 100 NFL career victories in George Allen, Marv Levy and Don Coryell.

His contributions to the Bills in the area of talent adding speak for themselves when you look at the players on the Buffalo roster who were selected since his first draft in 1988, beginning with RB Thurman Thomas."

Tom Donahoe (2001-2005)
"Tom Donahoe became the eighth General Manager in Bills history in January of 2001 while also being named the team's President, marking the first time in franchise history that someone other than Ralph Wilson held the position.

Prior to coming to Buffalo, Donahoe served as the football analyst for espn.com during the 2000 season. He served as a BLESTO scout for one year and started with the Steelers in 1985 before serving at various positions up to Director of Football Operations. During that time, the Steelers made seven playoff appearances.

Donahoe coaches football and basketball and taught English for 15 years in the Pittsburgh area. Additionally, he served as athletic director and newspaper advisor and he is a member of the Seton-LaSalle High School Hall of Fame."

Marv Levy (2006-2007)
"Marv Levy returned to the Bills organization as General Manager, a position he has never held in his 50+ years in football. During his Pro Football Hall of Fame coaching tenure in Buffalo, Levy worked very closely with Bill Polian and John Butler and learned the nuances of the position.

Levy's return to the Bills family came about when Ralph Wilson called his good friend seeking advice for a new general manager. After a brief discussion of possible candidates, the Bills owner asked the magical question, 'What about you, Marv, coming back as general manager?' At that point, Mr. Wilson had found his new general manager and much of the credibility of the Buffalo Bills rich tradition had returned home."

Russ Brandon (2008-2009)
"Russ Brandon was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Buffalo Bills on January 8, 2008 with the responsibility of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the organization, which includes Football and Business Operations.

'It has been my experience over the years that our greatest opportunity for success comes when we promote from within our own organization,' said owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. 'I am confident in the skills possessed by our seasoned football front office staff. What I feel we need is a person with Russ Brandon's proven leadership skills to put it all together. He has worked very closely with me over the years and I am comfortable that he is up to the task.'"

Buddy Nix (2010-2012)
"
The Bills organization embarked upon a new direction on December 31, 2009 by naming Buddy Nix General Manager and making him responsible for all football operations. Nix had rejoined the franchise earlier in the year as the National Scout. Prior to returning to Buffalo, he had served seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers, first as Director of Player Personnel, where he oversaw both pro and college scouting, and then as Assistant General Manager-Director of Player Personnel.  Nix’s first tenure with the Bills was as a Southeast region college scout from 1993 – 2000, where he first worked with former Bills GM John Butler before joining San Diego.

Nix’s approach to building the Bills back into prominence centers around the Draft and with the first selection with Nix as GM, the team chose RB C.J. Spiller from Clemson, the player that some Draft evaluators and media felt was the best overall player. Nix’s ability as a keen evaluator of talent also led to the Bills adding players in free agency who fit the team in key positions."

Doug Whaley (2013- )
“It is with great pleasure to name Doug Whaley to the position of General Manager,” said Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon. “Doug has been involved in every level of player personnel throughout his career and he will lead our efforts in re-establishing a winning tradition for this organization and our great fans.”

Whaley, 40, who has seen his role expand almost annually since being originally hired as Assistant GM/Director of Pro Personnel three years ago, will now run the personnel side of the Bills franchise.

The year after Whaley was hired by the Bills he was promoted to oversee all Player Personnel as his presence in College Scouting was expanded in 2011. He has had a heavy hand in putting together the team’s draft board over the past two years including this year’s eight-player draft class.

Whaley was also part of the four person search committee that conducted the exhaustive week long pursuit of a new head coach for the Bills in Arizona, which ultimately led the club to Doug Marrone.

A Pittsburgh native, Whaley, played his college ball at Pitt where he lined up as a safety and linebacker (1990-93).