After twelve years studying under Steelers' general manager, Kevin Colbert, Doug Whaley worked under the Bills' Buddy Nix for three seasons. Now with Buddy Nix stepping down, Whaley has his chance to leave his imprint in the structure of the Bills' franchise.
So how should the new general manager work to improve a team coming off a 6-10 year? Would modeling after the league's most succesful franchise of the modern football era be a good start? Seems logical.
Well, that's just what Whaley is setting out to do. After talking with the team's president, Russ Brandon, Whaley identified that he wanted to establish an aggressive team that would have a relentless attack, and cited Pittsburgh for his inspiration of what he wants to do with the Bills.
Whaley's time with the Steelers was most spent as pro scouting coordinator, among other titles, as he was able to work for his hometown team and learn from Kevin Clobert. Not only is Whaley from Pittsburgh, he also played for the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1990's. So growing up during the steel curtain era, working with the organization for more than a decade and keeping a close relationship with Kevin Colbert to this day all lend to the notion that maybe Whaley has a grasp on a few key concepts on how to model an organization to look like the Steelers.
His main concept is making your talent homegrown. Over the years, much of the Steelers' successful leaders and players were either original draft picks of the team or got their start in Pittsburgh after not being drafted. Whaley saw firsthand the advantages of having players grow up in the system an organization provides. Although the team made a big push to get Mario Williams from the Texans, he still asserts that the most important goal is to draft players, re-sign them, and keep your nucleus full of long-term in-house players.
Whaley won't get any arguments here about that idea. The Steelers have prided themselves in how most of their stars over the years are homegrown. Despite not making too many free agency plunges, Colbert has managed teams to have multiple all-stars. On the occasion Colbert does dip into free agency, the Steelers get players like Kimo Von Oelhoffen and James Farrior to add to their mix.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a current example of how this concept expands to more sports than just football. After decades of struggle and seeing players go become all-stars for other franchises, the Pirates have begun to retain more of the players they develop such as Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and are starting to see newcomers such as Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte and others.
If Whaley's fingerprints on the Bills' franchise are similar to what Colbert's has become, the Bills may have a winning future ahead of them.
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