Newly promoted Assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel Doug Whaley was initially attracted to the opportunity in Buffalo over a year ago because it presented the challenge of building an NFL club back into a contender. After a year on the job he now has even more decision making authority, and he couldn't be more ready to get started.
"It's an exciting time in my life and in the Bills organization," Whaley told Buffalobills.com. "It was a challenging year last year, but I think with what we did to finish the year and what we did in the draft and hopefully once this thing gets settled in free agency it'll be the cornerstone of turning this franchise around and get it going in the direction that everyone wants it to be. Not only the fans and Mr. Wilson, but Buddy Nix and our staff."
Though he spent some time scouting for the Bills on the college side, most of Whaley's energies in year one with the Bills were focused in the area of pro personnel. An area where Whaley and his pro scouting department successfully added free agents and claimed others off waivers like offensive linemen Erik Pears, Chad Rinehart and Kraig Urbik. And linebackers like Akin Ayodele, Shawne Merriman and Pierre Woods.
"It's encouraging to know that the system we have in place and we implemented is being fruitful," said Whaley. "So it kind of lets you know, hey, keep doing what you're doing. You can always get better, but the base of how we started this thing in year one, came to fruition with some guys that we not only think can play, but can help us get the ultimate reward which is to win."
Pears and Urbik are largely expected to challenge for starting jobs on the right side of Buffalo's offensive line in 2011.
Whaley's duties will now be more evenly split between the college and pro personnel departments with directors serving underneath him on both sides.
"The main challenge will be the time management part of it," he said. "During the year I'm going to travel more during the week to see college prospects and on weekends if I'm not at our away games or homes games then that's when I'm going to get caught up with the pro side of it. I have complete confidence in the guys that are working with me. They know how I like things done. I know how they do things and we've come up with a nice system where I think we can keep rolling and I'm pretty adept in finding out when and where and what things need to be done."
During the season the Bills Assistant GM plans to catch up on Bills game tape on Mondays and meet with GM Buddy Nix, head coach Chan Gailey and the pro personnel staff to determine if upgrades need to be made or if the team is in need of injury replacements. If so, he and the pro personnel staff will bring potential signees in and work them out. By Tuesday evening Whaley will then be headed to a college campus to conduct his scouting work, which will continue through the remainder of the week.
"Usually in this league the pro transactions are complete by Tuesday," he said. "Sometimes you might have a late week injury with a move up from the practice squad. But the majority of the transactions are early in the week. In the middle of the week I can do college and if I want to stay out and do a college game I can do that."
Whaley's most important additional duty is culling all the college prospect information together and putting together the Bills draft board come next February. That will require far more day to day interaction with the college scouts and the information they gather. He admits he will institute a certain measure of change, but it won't be dramatic.
"I'd say somewhat different," Whaley said with respect to his vision for the college scouting department. "Change is uncomfortable for everybody. I don't think everything we've done in the past has been bad. I think there are some things that we can take and just try to improve on. In this business every day you either get better or worse. So we're just going to take what we have as a base and try to get better."
Having worked with most of the college scouting staff for more than a year, Whaley is confident the transition with him in charge should be a relatively smooth one.
"I think one of the major points of emphasis once you get to a level I'm at now is being able to read people. I've been with these guys for the better part of two drafts so I've sat in meetings with them and I've listened to their reports," said Whaley. "I know what they put emphasis on when they see a guy. What they don't like. That's what I've learned from people that were above me. Look at these guys and see what their strong points and weak points are and be able to extract that information and manage it. Yes, it's going to be a transition period for me, but it would be a bigger transition if I had never been through two draft processes with them."
Whaley, who estimates that he speaks with Nix two to three times a day at minimum, will be in even more frequent contact with Buffalo's general manager now. Managing the entire personnel grid for the Bills pretty much demands it.
Still, as far as Whaley has come in a short period of time with Buffalo, he sees himself as only a part of the Bills puzzle.
"I got in this business as an intern and I still see myself as an intern," he said. "I want to do the best job I can to help this organization win. Winning as they say takes care of everything. So if I can work hard and do what I can to help Buddy, Chan, Mr. Wilson and the Bills organization get the right players to get us on track, everything else will take care of itself."