The Buffalo Bills are in the hands of a new man after CEO Russ Brandon was named team president Tuesday.
Brandon said at a press conference Tuesday the move came after a meeting with owner Ralph Wilson on Monday. Brandon described it as a "passing of the torch" and said Wilson has handed the keys of the club over:
"He has granted me full authority to run this franchise with zero restrictions and zero limitations."
Brandon dubbed himself "evaluator of the evaluators" and said his focus will be on returning the team to relevance. To that end, he will bring in an analytics department (think "Moneyball") to help streamline the front office and bring it into the 21st century in terms of mindset and operation.
He will also retain Buddy Nix as general manager. He said Nix answers to him, but Nix is free to make any and all football decisions – including the decision he made Monday to fire coach Chan Gailey. Brandon will not be involved in the draft and will not have the final say in free agency:
"I will empower the football people to do their jobs."
Any and all decisions that are made will be done in order to revive the Bills, Brandon said:
"This team has failed. We acknowledge it. We own it, and we will never run from it … this brand has been tarnished. Its relevancy has been tarnished, and it's unacceptable because we just haven't won enough games."
Brandon is no stranger to those losing ways. He joined the front office in 1997 and became CEO in 2009. Previous to 2009, he served as de facto general manager after Mary Levy left the front office.
He indicated assistant GM Doug Whaley will be a big part of that process and will take on a greater role in general as he continues to be groomed as the eventual general manager. Whaley is a perfect fit for the forward-thinking mindset he wants the organization to take on, Brandon said.
But Brandon, in that way, seemed to contradict himself, preaching change but praising the people already on staff at the same time. He stood by such comments, citing the improved roster the team has from three years ago. He did' however, say the Bills' new mantra will be obtaining the best, brightest football minds, regardless of price or any other factor.
Wilson said in a statement he trusts he's leaving the franchise in good hands – certainly better hands than when he let Tom Donahoe assume the presidency more than a decade ago:
"Russ Brandon has done a tremendous job in his 16 years with our organization and is very highly respected throughout the National Football League. He has proven to be extremely successful with each new level of responsibility he has been given and has earned this opportunity … We want our team to be one that our fans are proud of. I believe that Russ has the unique abilities to assemble and lead the talent we will need to get the job done."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was equally laudatory:
"Russ Brandon is a dynamic, forward-thinking leader. He is a proven executive with extensive experience in the operation of the Bills. He is committed to the Buffalo region and understands the dynamics of the NFL. Ralph Wilson's decision is a positive step to enhance the stability of the franchise."
In essence, Brandon promised his reputation will be based on whether he can turn the franchise around from here forward:
"I will leave no stone unturned in making this organization top-notch … I am rarely satisfied, and we will not sit on our hands until we take this to another level."
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