3 decisions that got Doug Whaley fired
While it appears Whaley had little influence over the Bills' 2017 draft, he has been one of the most aggressive general managers in the league during his time in Buffalo, rarely shying away from the chance to take a high-risk/high-reward move.
Here are the three main decisions by Whaley that eventually led to his firing:
Giving up king's ransom for Watkins
Sammy Watkins is a good player, he could even be a great one if his health permits him - but after three seasons in the NFL, the receiver doesn't look capable of staying on the field consistently.
Getting Watkins was Whaley's first move as GM. In his first draft in the top role, Whaley gave up the Bills' 2014 first-round pick (ninth overall), their 2015 first-round pick (19th overall), and their third-round pick (115th overall) to move up to grab Watkins at fourth overall.
Unfairly or not, with the power of hindsight, Whaley made a colossal error.
Watkins was the No. 1 receiver for many teams, but with Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. picked at seventh and 12th overall, respectively, the Bills mortgaged their future for a far less player.
Buffalo could have stood pat and took Beckham ninth overall, a "what if" scenario that'll likely cause nightmares for Bills fans for many years to come.
Taking Manuel in 1st round
(Photo courtesy: Action Images)
The desperation to land Watkins makes more sense when you remember the Bills had taken quarterback E.J. Manuel in the year prior and then watched him struggle throughout his rookie year.
Whaley was the assistant GM at the time of the Manuel pick, but he made it clear he was the force behind the decision to reach for the quarterback, saying at the time that he was an "integral part in the drafting process of E.J. Manuel," according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.
Manuel had shown the occasional flash of talent in his first season, and Whaley likely thought a superstar receiver would propel the young pivot's development forward.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Franchise-destroying levels of wrong.
Manuel would only start seven more games over the next three seasons for the Bills, never again looking anywhere close to an NFL-caliber quarterback.
While the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is widely considered one of the worst in recent memory, Manuel was arguably the biggest bust. Whaley never recovered.
Lack of commitment to Taylor
Luckily for Whaley and the Bills, they stumbled into an answer at the quarterback position in the form of Tyrod Taylor, who signed with Buffalo in free agency before the 2015 season.
Taylor far exceeded expectations in his first year as the starter, finishing the season with a 99.4 passer rating in 14 games. However, Taylor's immediate jump to an above average starter caused issues with the Bills and Whaley. The quarterback had just one year on his contract left entering the 2016 offseason, and Whaley seemed reluctant to hand Taylor a long-term extension.
The two sides did agree to a six-year, $92-million contract, but that deal wasn't nearly the commitment to Taylor it appeared to be on the surface. In fact, the commitment from Whaley was so small that Taylor and the Bills found themselves in a second contract dispute in as many years after last season.
The Bills were reluctant to pick up the option in Taylor's contract that would've essentially activated the rest of the guaranteed money in his deal, despite the veteran passer putting together another solid season - and for some time it appeared the Bills would actually allow Taylor to walk.
However, Taylor eventually agreed to a $10-million pay cut and will now be a free agent following the 2018 season - a decision that was reportedly thanks to new head coach Sean McDermott.
Whaley had a solid starting quarterback fall into his lap and then spent the next year or so trying to push that quarterback unceremoniously out of the building, for reasons that are still unclear.
That, alone, was a fireable offense.