Bills fire GM Doug Whaley, scouting staff

Bills fire GM Doug Whaley, scouting staff

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Whether it was sitting together in a golf cart watching training camp or sharing dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant, Bills owner Terry Pegula and general manager Doug Whaley were nearly inseparable last summer.

Some nine months later, their professional relationship soured to such an extent that Pegula fired Whaley and his entire scouting staff on Sunday.

The decision was reached shortly after the two met at 8 a.m., a day following the NFL draft, and it completed a front-office purge that began with coach Rex Ryan being fired in the final week of last season.

Pegula's voice cracked briefly with emotion when discussing the latest move, saying: "There were a few tears around the building, to be honest with you. He's a good guy."

But not good enough to keep his job, with Pegula saying he reached the conclusion following a lengthy offseason review.

It's a shake-up that further solidifies the influence rookie coach Sean McDermott has gained in the three months since being hired. The 42-year-old detail-oriented defensive specialist has become the voice of the franchise in discussing all team-related topics, including free agency and the draft.

Pegula said the timing coincided with the end of the draft, but he declined to detail the reasons why the overhaul was necessary. Nor would Pegula explain his reasoning for showing Whaley the door while praising the collaborative approach that took place between the GM and McDermott in the draft room.

"We have certain aspects we need to get a little better in," Pegula said. "(Whaley's) a smart man, but we made the decision. And the reasons remain private to us."

Pegula said "things change," when asked why he signed Whaley to a four-year contract extension in January 2016, and then backed him this January after Ryan was fired.

Pegula also took the emphasis off McDermott's authority by saying the decision to fire Whaley was made by him and his wife, Kim.

The Bills also dismissed player-personnel director Jim Monos and Kelvin Fisher, the team's former amateur scouting director who had previously been demoted to an advisory role.

Pegula will immediately begin a GM search and said it was too early to speculate on candidates. He said McDermott would have some input.

One possible candidate is Carolina Panthers assistant GM Brandon Beane because of his ties to McDermott, who spent the previous six seasons as the team's defensive coordinator.

McDermott on Saturday praised Whaley's role in the draft process but sidestepped questions regarding the GM's job security.

The Bills made six picks and swung several trades in addressing immediate and long-term needs.

Buffalo opened by acquiring two selections, including a first-rounder next year, in a trade with Kansas City to move back 17 spots and select LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White at 27th.

The Bills have now gone through six general managers during their 17-year playoff drought -- the longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports. It's the first GM search for the Pegulas, who retained Whaley when they purchased the team in October 2014.

Whaley worked up the scouting ranks with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before the Bills hired him as an assistant general manager in 2010. He was groomed to become the GM and took over the job in May 2013 when Buddy Nix stepped down.

The Bills' drafting history had been spotty this decade.

Of the 35 players Buffalo drafted from 2010-13, only defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and left tackle Cordy Glenn remain on the roster.

Whaley has been second-guessed on a number of selections, including the decision to trade two draft picks -- including Buffalo's 2015 first-round selection -- to Cleveland to move up five spots and pick receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth selection in the 2014 draft.

It was considered a high price to pay in a draft that produced a bounty of top-flight receivers.

Whaley acknowledged he took a gamble and suggested his tenure in Buffalo might well be judged on that one move.

Both of Pegula's Buffalo-based sports franchises are hitting the reset button. Pegula fired Sabers GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma 10 days after the NHL season ended two weeks ago.

Without going into detail, Pegula said he is close to hiring a general manager.

Between the two teams, the Pegulas have now employed a combined seven coaches and three GMs since purchasing the Sabres in February 2011.

Pegula chalked up the rate of change as being common in sports, and disputed the notion it reflects poorly on him.

"We're going to try to make the best decision we can in the future," Pegula said. "We've made big decisions all our lives."

NFL Notes: Chargers cut CB Brandon Flowers, OL D.J. Fluker

NFL Notes: Chargers cut CB Brandon Flowers, OL D.J. Fluker

CARSON, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Chargers have released cornerback Brandon Flowers, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and receiver Stevie Johnson.

The Chargers announced the moves Tuesday.

Flowers spent three seasons with the Chargers after making the Pro Bowl and leaving Kansas City in 2013. He made just four interceptions in his three seasons, and he appeared in just six games last year while dealing with a concussion.

Fluker was the Chargers' first-round pick in 2013. The versatile lineman was due to make $8.821 million next season, and he started all 16 games last season on the right side of the line.

Johnson caught 45 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns for the Chargers in 2015. He missed last season after injuring his knee early in training camp.

Falcons: Julio Jones has minor foot surgery
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons say wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be ready for the start of training camp after having minor foot surgery.

Jones had the procedure on Monday and posted on his Twitter account: "Surgery was a success! Thanks to all that prayed for me."

Falcons spokesman Brian Cearns said Tuesday that Jones is expected to be at full speed for the start of training camp.

Jones missed two games last season with a sprained left toe and also missed practice time in the second half of the season with foot problems. He still had 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns and was named to his second straight All-Pro team.

Bills: Contract extended to RB Gillislee
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have extended contract offers in retaining the rights to running back Mike Gillislee and offensive lineman Ryan Groy.

The moves announced Tuesday give the Bills the right to match any offers teams make to the two restricted free agents. Additionally, the Bills would be compensated a fifth-round draft pick should Gillislee sign elsewhere once the NFL's free-agency period starts on Thursday.

Gillislee has been a dependable backup behind LeSean McCoy since joining the Bills in November 2015. Last season, he had 577 yards rushing and scored nine touchdowns, including one receiving. He also led the NFL in averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Groy started the final seven games last season at center after Eric Wood broke his right leg.

Jets: WR Jalin Marshall banned 4 games for PEDs
NEW YORK -- The NFL has suspended New York Jets receiver Jalin Marshall for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers.

The suspension of the second-year player from Ohio State was announced Tuesday. Earlier, the New York Daily News reported he tested positive for Adderall.

"I really just want to apologize for this mistake. I inadvertently took medication without an exemption from the league on one occasion," Marshall tweeted. "It has not happened since & will not happen again. Already looking forward to 2017 and doing whatever I can to help this team win."

Marshall can participate in all offseason team events, including training camp and preseason games, before serving the suspension.

Also a kick returner, Marshall made the Jets as an undrafted free agent. He had 14 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns, but a torn labrum in his shoulder forced him to miss six games.

Vikings: Longtime LB Greenway retires
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- NFL players usually don't get to leave the game like Chad Greenway did.

From start to finish, Greenway had quite the career.

Proudly declaring he's "healthy and happy" and ready for retirement after 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings , Greenway turned his time at the podium at a farewell news conference into a 25-minute thank-you to the people who influenced and supported him over the years. Former teammates Jim Kleinsasser and Ben Leber were among those in attendance, along with Vikings greats Carl Eller and Bud Grant.

General manager Rick Spielman praised Greenway's exemplary citizenship off the field, and coach Mike Zimmer expressed his appreciation for being able to lean on Greenway's leadership to help sell his message in the locker room.

"I wish I would've had him when he was younger," said Zimmer, who has been with the Vikings for three seasons.

The 34-year-old Greenway reminisced about his family's farm in South Dakota, where he recalled telling his father at age 5 or 6 while helping him feed cattle that he would play professional football one day. The encouragement offered by Alan Greenway, who died of cancer during the 2014 season, was one of many meaningful ways he impacted his son's life over the years. Greenway needed to pause several times to compose himself between cracks in his voice.

"The most amazing man in the world, hands down," Greenway said. "I'm so proud to carry the name that he gave me and hold it to a high standard. I'm so proud to be his son. It was hard losing him, but at the same time it's fun to be able to carry on his name and his legacy with my own kids."

LeSean McCoy feels vindicated by Chip Kelly's recent failures

LeSean McCoy feels vindicated by Chip Kelly's recent failures

LeSean McCoy was a guest on NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Friday to discuss his career, the Super Bowl, and his ol’ pal Chip Kelly. 

McCoy took an opportunity to relish in the memory of his last matchup with Kelly and the 49ers. He wanted his former coach to remember his performance this past season since he could not take full advantage when he played against the Eagles after Kelly traded him. 

In 2015 against the Eagles, McCoy rushed for 74 yards on 20 attempts and didn't score. It was a big improvement in 2016 against the 49ers as he racked up 140 yards with three TDs on 19 carries. 

“(When) we played them in Philly (in 2015) I was kind of still banged up,” McCoy said. “I couldn't give him my full potential that game. So, I made sure this last one we played them, I gave them the real Shady. The one he remembers playing with.”

It was a given that Shady never wanted to leave Philadelphia — he criticized Kelly incessantly after the trade — and he still holds strong toward his feelings for the now unemployed coach.

“I was honest,” McCoy said. “But you know what? I kind of noticed that after the fact when he had that team (in Philadelphia) go down and they fired him and (he) went to San Fran and the same thing happened over there, then it's like, 'OK, maybe LeSean McCoy was right.' But it took forever, right? So I took a year or two just to get the heat and the backlash. But I'm an honest person.

“Only thing I can think about and tell you the truth is this: Where I'm at now, I'm with a team I'm happy to be with. ... They've been special to me, very special, in a good way, so I'm happy.”

The trade was even more of a slap in the face to McCoy because he was shipped off for this "no-name" linebacker in Kiko Alonso, a former Orgen Duck under Kelly. 

“And at the time, I didn't know who that was ... I just didn't understand it," he said. "Usually when guys get traded it's a money situation or their game has declined, and those two things just weren't off.”

In 2017, McCoy will be reunited with another one of his former coaches from the Eagles in Sean McDermott. The former defensive cordinator was named the head coach of the Bills on Jan. 11 following the dismissal of Rex Ryan.

“I like Sean. Even when I played in Philly he was there and he had heart, I liked him," McCoy said. "I think kind of back then he had to get the scapegoat. Something is going on, you know how it is, you gotta bring in somebody. He's tough, he's honest and he's fair. 

"And not to say anything bad about Rex because I love Rex. I was actually behind Rex's stay. I think it's more the players, we need to step up more. But I think that Sean is a guy who will get it done.”

Shady will be like every other mere mortal on Feb. 5 when it comes to viewing the Super Bowl. The 28-year-old offered his thoughts on the Patriots and his respect for Brady, given they are in the same division. 

“I'm actually happy for Tom,” he said. “Now, I play for Buffalo, don't get me wrong, same division. But I love a player who is building on his legacy. It would mean a lot to see him win another championship. 

“The way they play; they’re coached very well. (Bill) Belichick does a great job with them. I think (Malcolm) Butler is the X-factor. He plays man. A lot of people don’t know about him but he’s a heck of a player. He shut down one of the best receivers in the game, Antonio Brown.”

On the other hand, Shady thinks Matt Ryan and the Falcons are in a great position to knock off this Brady-driven dynasty.

“If it comes down to the last minute, you gotta go with Tom,” McCoy said. “But I think overall, I think that the Falcons have more. Even on defense and offense, they have more.

“[Ryan's] just playing lights out. He’s efficient. He’s like that real quarterback. He’s dominant. He looks like Tom. He’s putting the ball on the money. He’s putting his team in the right positions to win games."