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Doug Whaley: "I will not be afraid to be aggressive"

Posted May 10, 2014

President/CEO Russ Brandon, GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone wrap up the draft.

President/CEO Russ Brandon, General Manager Doug Whaley and Head Coach Doug Marrone
Draft Wrap-Up Press Conference

Saturday, May 10, 2014 

President/CEO Russ Brandon Opening Statement:
I’m sure you guys are happy this is almost concluded. It’s been a long three days. I just wanted to start by thanking Doug Whaley, Jim Monos, Kelvin Fisher, the scouts, the coaches. This is an organizational effort. There are a lot of people that contribute to the success that we feel that we’ve had over the last three days. It was really quite a tribute to Mr. Wilson I felt by the aggressive nature that we talked about going in to this weekend, that we wanted to be aggressive and we wanted to be bold. We made five trades in the last three days to really change the complexion of our organization and our roster moving forward. I can’t say enough about the leadership that Doug and Jim and Kelvin showed during the process. Very, very prepared and very methodical as we went through the last eight to nine months for them, but really over the last few months of all the layers of the process moving forward. I turn it over to you guys to ask questions to Doug (Whaley) and Doug (Marrone).

Q: Would you say these two years with Doug, there has been more of a plan about where you want to go?
Russ Brandon: I think from our standpoint when I took over the role on January 1 in 2013, we talked about it when Coach Marrone was hired and obviously Doug and Buddy Nix, obviously Doug was here with us. We feel we’ve been very prepared. We feel we have the right people in place to make impact decisions and I know we talk about it often, but being where we’ve been as an organization on the field is unacceptable to anyone sitting up here. It is certainly unacceptable to me. It’s all about winning. There is nothing else, absolutely nothing else that matters. We’ve made changes and we’re not going to sit on our hands and not let any sand get under our shoes when it comes to trying to put a winning product on the field. That’s what we’re all about.

Q: How do you balance being aggressive and avoiding mistakes?
RB: It’s all about preparation. We as a group are very prepared. This is an all in process and what I mean by that is the cohesiveness and the togetherness of this organization from the coaching staff, the personnel department and management has never been at a higher standard than it is right now. Obviously this is year two of being together with Coach Marrone and his staff, the camaraderie, the debate that goes in to every decision that we make is a Buffalo Bills decision. I’m really proud and honored to be associated with this group.

Q: Can you address the Bryce Brown trade?
Doug Whaley: From day one we decided that we will do and investigate any measure that will help us get to where we want to go. My philosophy is don’t be afraid to make a deal if it makes sense. With Bryce Brown we think we get a proven productive runner that will help us not only now, but in the future.

Q: Was the timing of it due to seeing him as higher on your board than any of the running backs that were left?
DW: I think it was a combination of knowing that to get a player of Bryce Brown’s caliber at a 4th round pick next year, that value was intriguing to us. Also to pick back up that pick was great.

Q: Can you comment on Sammy Watkins and what he brings to the team?
Doug Marrone: Sure, I think it’s obvious to everyone and I think the first thing you like is obviously the playmaking ability. The other thing I really like is the versatility with the different things he can do. I think as soon as we were able to get him and take him, I got together with the offensive staff and looking at all of our receivers and making sure to go back and look at Sammy’s tape again, just making sure all the things that he does and what is the best way to train him and things of that nature. We have a lot of work ahead of us. He is excited to get back to work and we’re very excited to work with him.

Q: With Stevie Johnson gone, who do you envision getting the first chance in the slot?
DM: In the slot, I think we’re going to go through OTA’s and we’re fortunate enough that we have obviously Sammy who can play the slot. Robert Woods, we felt very comfortable with him being able to play and the slot and be very successful there. We even thought about Marquise Goodwin being able to play in the slot and getting in and out of breaks. When you look at our receiving core as far as the slot it’s those three players right off the bat along with Chris Hogan, who just recently when we were out on the field with those players, has really looked good since we’ve come back. He’s another player I feel really good about in the slot.

Q: When you look at the size of the lineman you took, does it fit your approach to just get big guys and go?
DM: We talked about this, Doug and I, and we talked about ti with the scouts. I think you can see it throughout the AFC East. I can’t speak for the other teams, but you look at the defensive lineman that are in this division and you’re going against everyone in New York to the guys in Miami and obviously the players in New England and then you look at the players we’re getting. The people inside, everyone is getting bigger players at least in our division if you look at it. I can’t really say the reason why the other people are doing it, but we’re doing it for the matchups. So that we can matchup with those players inside.

Q: Can you comment on the instant impact you feel you’ve added on offense?
DW: We think so. We believe the addition of Sammy is going to be instant impact, not only to our quarterback, but to what our offensive coordinator can come up with game plan wise and how defenses attack us. You add in Cyrus Kouandjio when he gets on the field and whenever he steps in to start contributing, you’ll have two bookend tackles for a long time. We’re excited about not only now, but in to the future.

Q: Can you talk about the changes that have come at the running back position?
DW: I can’t sum up what the backfield is, but I will sum up with one of our philosophies as a team and that is competition brings out the best in everybody. We want competition, we don’t want people coming in and saying, ‘Here is my spot and I’m safe.’ We want people to push people to be better.

Q: Did you anticipate opening your first offseason as GM by making all these moves?
DW: I wouldn’t say I anticipated it, but I did anticipate doing everything in our power to make this team better and make this team a playoff team.

Q: Is this something we should expect?
DW: I think it’s going to be a year-by-year basis. I think where we are and where we’re trying to go and trying to maintain, I can’t say it’s always going to be like this, but I will say I will not be afraid to be aggressive and be bold. There will be times when you don’t have to and you can sit back and let things fall to you or you can trade down. I don’t want to be a hard line and say this is exactly what I’m going to do. I want to keep all our options open.

Q: Sammy Watkins is very good all over the field, but outside especially. Was the Stevie Johnson trade because you saw his snaps going down?
DM: Obviously Stevie had a very good career here, but obviously when you bring someone in like Sammy and the young group of guys we had, yes that’s really it. It’s not a knock on Stevie, we brought in Sammy and it was crowded back there. We make decisions on what is best for the team and we move forward form there. We appreciate everything that Stevie has done and we wish him well. It’s a change of atmosphere.

Q: Do you think that the attitude has changed since you’ve been here?
DM: I think you have to ask the players more about that than you have to ask me. I’m one that is constantly banging the attitude and banging where we’re going and talking about the leadership. That’s the first thing I talked to the players about before and I’m sure we’ll talk more about that when we get in to OTA’s about the message to the team. I have to do a better job leading this team. We have to do a better job with our attitude. I talked to them about it the other day. That’s one of the things that we’re going to focus on and we need that to drive us home to win these games that are close or to get us over the hump or whatever words we want to say. I’m constantly working on that attitude and getting that winning attitude.

Q: Do you think you’ve made progress in that regard?
DM: I think I did, but it’s not just about me doing it. The coaches and the players themselves, it’s going to take a collective group. Obviously it starts with me speaking to the team, but all of us have to be in, all in, on that.

Q: You seem to not have much patience for guys that aren’t all in. What do you make of the Marcell Dareus situation?
DM:  I haven’t spoken to him yet. All my conversations with him when mistakes have been made, and this happens a lot in my past when I was a coach in college at Syracuse and every place I’ve been before. Everyone, not just including him, they’re very humbled and they’ve made mistakes and things like that and you sit down and our job to a certain extent is to make sure we educate them. That they make the right decisions because there is so much good. The situations are different; people are going to view every situation different. With Marcell, I have not spoken to him. I know he called and we talked about that we would speak to him when he comes back up and I plan on sitting down with him on Monday.

Q: You’ve shown a tendency to take more chances on players with character issues. Are you more willing to take chances on guys that can help you win football games, when in the past we’ve been told that character matters?
DM: I think for me I know that character is obviously important, but I think that if we’re going to sit here and don’t think people make mistakes; people are going to make mistakes. We’re not all perfect. I think that when you have a chance and you can sit down and you can educate them and do everything that you can knowing everyone’s situation and what is going on, there comes a point when you sit down and say, ‘This is where we are, this is the tolerance level now and one more time and you’re gone.’ Each situation is different. If you’re saying are you the type of person that doesn’t give anyone a chance, I’m not that person.

Q: How many chances does Marcell get? Do you get more as a pro when there are bigger stakes than when you’re in college?
DM: I think it all depends on what the situation is and what those acts are.

DW: I was going to say that from a personnel side we take it like coach said as a case-by-case basis. You don’t want to put a hard line on someone because they are young adults and I remember when I was a young adult. I made some mistakes and they’ve made some mistakes. I think when you sit down and talk to somebody man to man, eye to eye; you can see what they’re all about. If you get a feeling that they’re not willing to change or they’re not willing to take steps to better themselves than you may take a different course of action. If you say they’re truly remorseful and they’re really trying to, as we say, get it, then you may be a little more lenient. Again, we want to take a case-by-case basis.

Q: In that sense, the team didn’t seem to have any worries after the Marcell incident to still go out and draft Seantrel Henderson?
DW: We take a case-by\-case basis. We’ve talked to Seantrel and he knows that he’s got one shot. We’re saying we’ll give you this one shot. It has nothing to do with us saying this guy is a talented football player; he’s been dealing with some demons. Hopefully those demons are out of his life and why not give somebody – this is America – give somebody a chance.

Q: Is Corey Graham more of a safety that could switch to corner if needed? What is his primary position given your depth at cornerback?
DM: Yeah, his primary position obviously is corner, but he is also someone that can play the safety position.

Q: So he can flex to safety, but is still mostly corner?
DM: That’s correct.

Q: Is Ross Cockrell more of an inside guy or outside guy?

DM: When you say inside guy, do you mean nickel? We’ll see him out there. He’s going to start off on the outside and we’ll see. He has the skillset to play and he has range and he’s a big kid. He also has the skill set to go back there. It’s difficult and it happens all the time, when someone projects a player. You look at the skillset and you say, ‘Yes they have that possibility.’ Until you get out there and actually see them do it, you don’t really know for sure.

Q: With EJ’s injuries concerns last year, will you be bringing another arm? Can you evaluate where you are with the quarterback position?

DW: We do not anticipate bringing in another arm. I’ll never say never, you never know what is going to happen. Someone could get hurt… But at this time we’re very confident with the guys we have on campus. Like I’ve said before, our philosophy should keep you .500 and Thad came in and got us close to the three, two and three. So we’re excited about that and then Jeff Tuel came in and played against Kansas City, did some good things but also had some mistakes. But we were conscious of the fact that he was an undrafted college free agent rookie so we expected him to make some mistakes. And Dennis Dixon has been in the league for a while and he brings a skillset that will compliment what we’re trying to do offensively. We have some competition. We do have some young guys, but they’re experienced in our system. And that was another thought process: if you bring someone else in, they’re just as young or younger and less experienced in the system so we’re very confident where we are right now.

Q: Michael Sam just got drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Did you give any consideration to Michael Sam as a need? And how do you welcome the first openly gay player in the NFL?

DW: We treated Michael Sam like all of the rest of the guys that we put on our draft board. We did our research on him as a football player. We also did the character just like we do for any player. I welcome any person like Michael Sam into the NFL, just like I’d welcome every other football player that got drafted. Congratulations, it’s a culmination of a lifelong work. Hopefully your dreams have come true.

Q: How reduced did you have to make the offense last year to make sure that those guys kept it simplified? And then how much more can we expect in the offense to play with more options available?

DM: I think it’s more of just efficiency. Now, you get in there and everyone comes back. It’s been an unbelievable experience. It’s one of the things that you put a smile on and you come back and now all these guys have had a year under their belt. Now when you’re talking to them it’s like a light is going off. They see it now and you’re able to get the different steps. So from the standpoint of what you’re doing in the classroom, you’re working through the advanced stages now with them. Now it’s a matter of really getting excited and going on the field and having that stuff convert to the field and that’s where it’s the most important.

Q: How do you feel about the running back situation? What do you expect?

DM: Sure, I’m excited. I mean, we had C.J. and we had Fred and obviously they were going into the last year of their contracts, we all know that. Dixon comes in and we like him. Obviously he played very well on special teams, obviously he was a very good runner in college. He can bring something to the table being our third running back. Playing on teams and getting some reps in. And then when you sit back and think about it, for me it was, God forbid you have injury or you have this, where are we going to go next? We’re able to go out and get a player who hasn’t had a lot of mileage on him. You know, he’s 22 years old. He’s a young player. I’ve seen him a little bit. Same with Bryce. I’m excited for him to come in and see what he can do.

Q: In regards to special teams, how much do you think you can improve since the end of last season?

DM: I think I’m looking for dramatic improvement and so is coach Crossman. We’ve talked about that. When you go into a year and you don’t really know, and we lost some special teams players from the year before that were on this team, and then trying to fill the role and then through injuries and different things we did system wise. We lost some players and never really had the ability to get those core players together. And now we have players that are on this team that have made them and I think that’s important because we have those type of players like Corey (Graham) and Anthony Dixon that have been around and have played well on teams and (Keith) Rivers. When the young guys come in, those veteran players that turn around and start talking to those guys saying, “Hey, you know, you can make it in this league. You can make a name for yourself in the league playing teams.” Well then the younger guys come in and they start seeing that. I think that’s important. That’s the type of culture that you like.

Q: Can you break down what you see as the assets of Kouandjio and Richardson?
DM: (Cyrus) Kouandjio is a guy that has first round talent, when you really look at it. He’s big. I knew about him in high school. Obviously my background is going to cross over a lot with the college, having been there for a couple years. He’s very aggressive in the run game. He has very good hands. I look at him as a player that if you shut your eyes and don’t look at the 40-time and the medical stuff obviously was cleared. If you don’t look at the 40 time, we can’t get that player. I look forward to working with him and seeing how it transitions from college to the NFL because it’s still that transition. You sit here and you like to say, plug this guy in, plug that guy in but the reality of the situation is you’re going to look at it and say okay, where does he fit, how can he go and how can he develop. (Cyril) Richardson, I really liked him. I saw him a lot on tape in college. He went to the Senior Bowl and Aaron Donald was there and Aaron Donald played well against him and really got after him a little bit. And I think that hurt him. I think Aaron Donald’s stock rose and Richardson’s stock went down a little bit. My opinion is we had very good grades on him, our scouts liked him. I was very comfortable with it. Obviously we talked about it. But that’s what happens sometimes, you have a bad Senior Bowl or you have a bad workout and all of a sudden you drop down. You have a good Senior Bowl and your stock rises. I think you have to take a step back at times and just look and evaluate everything and have a balance about it. He’s one of those guys that we’ve talked about before. He’s a big inside player that has a lot of power.

Q: Was it fun in the room with all of the trades going on?

DW: Absolutely. I’m a competitor and to feel the rush since I’m not able to get out on the field anymore and compete on the field anymore so this is my arena. And we think that any move that we think is going to bring a winner to this city and to this region and to the Bills fans is exciting. So, yes it was. To be a part for the first time as the man that’s making the final call and with the blessing of Russ over here and Coach and the rest of the staff, it’s very exciting. We plan on big things from now on out.

Q: Do you understand the Bryce Brown trade and can you recite it?

DW: They worked tirelessly on that and you guys have probably heard that we started this process probably about a year and a half ago trying to get Bryce Brown. So, that was maybe a little more uplifting once that got done just because of how long it took for us to get the deal consummated.

DM: Give credit to Howie Roseman who worked tirelessly as we put together the nuances of this trade over the last four hours prior to the draft. Obviously it did start about a year and a half ago but it intensified this morning.

Q: What was it about him?

DW: That’s interesting. I think it was just in a casual conversation and again, we’re always saying hey, “Do you have anybody that we should look at?” And he may have mentioned him and we started doing our investigation on him on the field and off the field and it took this long to finally come up with a compensation package that they felt comfortable with and also worked for us.

Q: Did they just not think that they could get him the touches?

DW: I’m not sure why they decided to finally let him go but I’m happy that they did.

Q: You keep talking about Ralph. Is that going to be the driving thought on your mind all year?

RB: It will be on my mind every day. As you guys know, he loved the Draft. We thought about him a lot as we led up to it. About the trades, he would have loved the last three days. He loved to wheel and deal. He would have really enjoyed it. It’s tough to get up every day and not think about him. He is the leader of this organization and we will honor him every day.