Tall Tails on the Buffalo Bills

Tall Tails on the Buffalo Bills
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon today announced that the Buffalo Bills have committed to remain in Western New York for at least the next seven years

Somethings not quite right in Buffalo these days

Upon naming Russ Brandon “Chief Operating Officer” in 2008

‘It has been my experience over the years that our greatest opportunity for success comes when we promote from within our own organization,’ ‘I am confident in the skills possessed by our seasoned football front office staff. What I feel we need is a person with Russ Brandon’s proven leadership skills to put it all together. He has worked very closely with me over the years and I am comfortable that he is up to the task.'”

Bills Owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr

The first thing to understand about the Buffalo Bills is the announcement that Russ Brandon took complete control of the team on January 1, 2013 was nonsense.  When President and GM Tom Donahoe left in 2005 his responsibilities were split between Marv Levy and Russ Brandon. When Marv left in 2007 Russ Brandon took over and the man has been running the Buffalo Bills since 2008 while hiding behind a succession of titles hiding his true functions. The shadowy figure of Russ Brandon started with the Bills in 1996 or 1997 probably in some type of marketing position. He first appears as a high level team executive in 2006. His odd career path is:

Brandon’s Positions reporting directly to Ralph Wilson

2006-2008  “Director of non-football Operations” with Marv Levy hired as GM and Vice President of Football Operations.
2008-2009  “Chief Operation Officer” No GM Title but no GM was hired
2010-2012  “Chief Executive Officer” GM Buddy Nix, Asst. GM & Director of Professional Personnel Doug Whaley. (the Buddy Nix phasing out period)
2013 – present “President and CEO”  , GM Doug Whaley

So there has been no big change in leadership. The Russ Brandon – Doug Whaley duo has been steering this ship for several years already and there’s no reason to expect anything different from them. Ralph Jr. is either past the point of understanding promoting from within a losing organization perpetuates the losing, or he has something else planned.

Let us be kind to Ralph, he wants to pass away with a NFL Stadium named after him and as the owner of an NFL team. Other than that he hasn’t been running the franchise for a long time. He was born in 1918 and formed the Buffalo Bills in 1959, he has no heirs interested in professional football and the team is expected to be sold upon his death. There are a few items that make me question whether this is really Ralph’s intention.

  1. Ralph original and probably ongoing assignment for Russ Brandon was to increase the teams local fan base. Moving training camp to the more accessible St John Fisher College, The Toronto Series, and hiring popular Syracuse University Coaches are the results of this goal.
  2. The Stadium lease out guarantees a new owner is stuck in Buffalo for 6 more years at a minimum. Not the kind of move a businessman trying to maximize value makes.
  3. The agreement establishes a New Stadium Working Group that will consist of representatives of the Bills, the County and the State to explore the potential for the construction of a new stadium in the future.   The agreement also includes a fund to for future development and planning.

So just what it Mr Ralph Wilson Jr really has in mind for his legacy? I have a feeling it isn’t he bought a football team, nurtured it in a small market for his lifetime, then it was sold and his heirs all became very rich. What if the team we’re given to Erie County or New York State with conditions their Stadium is always named Ralph Wilson Stadium and the team must stay in Western New York? Could the Bills be joining the Green Bay Packers as the second community owned professional sports franchise? Sure, it’s just a crazy idea but we are talking about Ralph Wilson aren’t we.

It could be the fans of the Buffalo Bills are in for a pleasant surprise when his last will and testament are finally made public.



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