After going through a futile decade of football, the Buffalo Bills put a stamp of finality on it after signaling a new era for the franchise.
Yes, by now you know, the Bills have hired Buddy Nix to be the team's general manager. The man designated to put the people in place to bring this franchise back to relevance.
On a whirlwind New Year's Eve, let me take you through my thought process with the news that broke in increments.
11:48 am - I receive a text message on my cell phone from the Bills P.R. staff "The Buffalo Bills will hold a press conference in the training facility media room at 2:30 pm this afternoon." My initial reaction? Utoh. Something big is happening. The last time I received a text from them as non-descriptive as that was when Terrell Owens signed in Buffalo.
12:16 pm - Wrestling with the news in my mind at this point. Coach or GM? Then I realized, you can't have a hen house without someone to pick the eggs. In other words, it has to be a general manager.
12:31 pm - Still wrestling. But why hasn't anything leaked to this point? Has to be an in-house hire. Please, I beg of you, don't let it be Tom Modrak.
12:48 pm - I read reports that it's either Nix or Modrak. Please! Don't let it be Modrak!
1:30 pm - I arrive to One Bills Drive, consult my colleague Nick Mendola, and learn that its going to be Nix. I was just told the team run by a 91-year old man just named a 70-year old man the general manager. Needless to say, I wasn't overly enthralled based on my gut reaction.
But once 3:00 pm hit, I listened to the man speak, and more importantly I had time to digest the hire. I came to one conclusion that is quite evident to me:
The Buffalo Bills finally got it right.
For any of you that have come to know my personality and brain processes through my writing and hosting by now, you know this: I am a research and analytical freak.
So let's take a look at the man that is Buddy Nix.
He spent 32 years coaching at various positions through the collegiate ranks, peaking when he was the head coach at UT-Chattanooga.
From there he served as the scout responsible for the southeast portion of the United States for the Buffalo Bills from 1993 to 2000. Once John Butler left for the general manager position in San Diego, he brought Nix along with him to be the Charger's director of player personnel. When A.J. Smith took over Butler's role, Nix was then named the assistant general manager until retiring just after the 2008 NFL Draft.
He was the right-hand man to making all the decisions that has yielded the product we've seen in the first decade of the 2000s.
If you look at any other team in the NFL, perhaps the best example of building up through the draft with continued success on the field from a year-to-year basis is the San Diego Chargers. A team that has gone 83-42 since Butler, Smith and Nix took over the personnel decision making aspect of the franchise. And a team, that hasn't made a huge splash in free agency since that regime took over.
It's hard to argue with those results. I measured the successes of all the draft picks made by San Diego during that span. Making the Pro Bowl is all well and good, but the nomination process is completely subjective and so I don't put as much stock in to that if we're talking about a grade as a talent evaluator.
I measure success through the draft as finding players that would be a starter or a dependable role player on most other NFL rosters.
Here's all the players that Nix has had a hand in drafting in San Diego:
HB LaDainian Tomlinson (1st Round, 2001) - 12,489 rush yards, 138 touchdowns
QB Drew Brees (NO) (2nd Round, 2001) - 30,646 pass yards, 202 touchdowns
CB Quentin Jammer (1st, 2002) - 113 starts, 16 INT
WR Reche Caldwell (2nd, 2002) - 152 catches, 1,851 yards, 11 TD
LB Ben Leber (MIN) (3rd, 2002) - 8-year starter, 430 tackles, 24 sacks
TE Justin Peelle (ATL) (4th, 2002) - 109 catches, 850 yards, 10 TD
CB Drayton Florence (BUF) (2nd, 2003) - 330 tackles, 11 INT
P Mike Scifres (5th, 2003) - 44.2 career average, 42.3% career IN 20
QB Philip Rivers (1st, 2004) - 14,582 yards, 105 TD-45 INT, 95.8 rating
DE Igor Olshansky (DAL) (2nd, 2004) - 84 starts, 218 tackles, 12.5 sacks
K Nate Kaeding (3rd, 2004) - 87% made, Long of 57
C Nick Hardwick (3rd, 2004) - 70 career starts, 2007 Pro Bowl selection
LB Shaun Phillips (4th, 2004) - 60 starts, 45.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles
HB Michael Turner (ATL) (5th, 2004) - 3,827 yards, 33 TD, 4.9 YPC
C Shane Olivea (7th, 2004) - 57 career starts
LB Shawne Merriman (1st, 2005) - 225 tackles, 43.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles
DE Luis Castillo (1st, 2005) - 61 starts, 183 tackles, 16.5 sacks
WR Vincent Jackson (2nd, 2005) - 198 catches, 3,400 yards, 25 TD
HB Darren Sproles (4th, 2005) - 15 total TD, 4.4 yards per carry, 87 catches
CB Antonio Cromartie (1st, 2006) - 38 starts, 163 tackles, 15 INT
LT Marcus McNeill (2nd, 2006) - 61 starts, 2 Pro Bowl selections
S Eric Weddle (2nd, 2007) - 262 tackles, 4 INT
WR Legedu Naanee (5th, 2007) - 40 catches, 375 yards, 2 TD
LB Brandon Siler (7th, 2007) - 45 games played, 6 starts, 114 tackles
CB Antoine Cason (1st, 2008) - 31 games played, 4 starts, 4 INT
FB Jacob Hester (3rd, 2008) - 13 starts, 4.2 YPC
As you can see, it hasn't been just the superstars that have gotten the Chargers to this point of consistency. It's been the hits on above average starters like Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Igor Olshansky, and etc. As a whole, the quality of the talent drafted during Nix's time in San Diego was top notch.
I'm one that studies the NFL Draft thoroughly, and getting a guy to run the personnel at One Bills Drive that has the knack for finding high quality players in the draft is a home run in my estimation.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Sure, the guy can draft, but they still don't have a head coach. But that will come in due time.
Once the season ends, and the Bills make their list and check it twice, we'll start to see the foggy picture get a bit more clear.
As for potential names, that's not important on this day. What is important is that the Bills, for once in this decade marred by underachieving, finally made a competent football decision. If Nix evaluates the head coaching search the way that he does with the draft and college players, then I think they'll be just fine. Regardless of whether his name is Bill Cowher or not.
So to conclude my dizzying day at One Bills Drive, I'll leave you with this:
6:15 pm - Buddy Nix is the right man for the job, no doubt about it.
Follow me on Twitter @JoeBuscaglia or E-mail: JoeB@wgr550.com