Buddy Nix stepped down as the Buffalo Bills general manager earlier this afternoon in a move that was both expected, yet also a little odd.
When Russ Brandon took over as team president back in January, a change of direction seemed inevitable. Yet a wait followed, a concept Bills fans have grown familiar with (13 seasons without a playoff appearance will have that effect). Then just three weeks ago Brandon said Nix is the team’s general manager, and he will be for a long time. Just after that definitive statement the keys to a crucial draft in which the franchise selected its future quarterback remained in Nix’s hands. He went with E.J. Manuel in the first round, faith leaping that was, at best, optimistic thinking during a year when quarterback talent descended down the draft rungs quickly, led by Geno Smith’s fall.
Now Nix is gone, evidently on his own accord, and someone else will be left to deal with the crumbling mess should Manuel fail.
The 73-year-old whose team went 16-32 during his time as the general manager will now assume a special assistant role while likely being replaced by Doug Whaley, a highly regarded former Steelers executive who was signed to a contract extension in January. In the end, it was Manuel who likely influenced Nix’s decision, as he had previously said he wanted to step aside once there was more certainty at the quarterback position.
In his mind, then, the solution has been found, and the offense was further fortified by the addition of second-round pick Robert Woods. He might not be wrong, as with Manuel, Woods, and C.J. Spiller in place, there’s youth and promise at the core offensive skill positions in Buffalo. But again, if Manuel stumbles, Nix leaves a mess that’s just as grimy as the one he created with the Ryan Fitzpatrick contract. And it’ll get even more filthy if Mario Williams is really the Mario Williams we saw during the first half of last season (3.5 sacks over eight games), and not the second half (seven sacks, with two forced fumbles).
Since I consider myself to be a nice person on some days, credit must be given where it’s due. Committing to Fitzpatrick was the best illustration of Nix’s inability to judge quarterback talent. But if we generously roll with a hypothetical and see a future where Manuel plays out just fine thanks, then Nix’s first-round picks have been pretty alright. He just completed his fourth and final draft as the Bills’ GM, and the other three picks were named Spiller, Marcel Dareus, and Stephon Gilmore.
Spiller is now the centerpiece of the offense after averaging 6.0 yards per carry last year, while Gilmore is part of a secondary which allowed only 217.1 passing yards per game. And in two seasons, Dareus has 11 sacks while also being a consistent interior run stuffing presence.
Nix will rightfully be forever scorned by the Fitzpatrick debacle, because that’s what happens when you seek to not only employ but also retain replacement-level quarterback play. But maybe a few years from now, Manuel will polish off his legacy and make it all better.