It’s a buzzword Bills General Manager Doug Whaley isn’t shy about using.
It was the focal point of his message on his first day as GM, just under a year ago: "Our main goal is to give the fans of the Buffalo Bills a team that consistently competes for championships.”
And in that first year, he’s put together a scouting team with quite a few under their belts.
The trio of Whaley, Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos and Director of Pro Personnel Kelvin Fisher – all of whom will enter their first draft at the helm of the Bills operation – combine for a total of five Super Bowls, eight conference championships and 18 division championships in 23 total playoff appearances during their careers as NFL scouts.
Many of Fisher and Whaley’s championships overlap as members of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the organization’s success in the 2000s. They were part of the scouting team that drafted Ben Roethlisberger. Monos came into his role at the Bills after spending eight years with the New Orleans Saints.
Just as he isn’t shy in using the buzzword as the organization’s singular goal, he’s candid in his estimation that with that kind of experience amongst the top tier of decision-makers on Draft Day, that oft-discussed championship is sure to follow.
“We’ve all come from programs and teams that have won championships, so it was a great idea to say, ‘Hey let’s get together. We know how to build this,” said Whaley. “How great would that be? Let’s build a championship on our own. It’s a ton of experience and everyone brings their own expertise and we mesh them together.”
Though it’s the first year for each in their new roles, and their first year collaborating on the same draft, there’s been little time spent in transition. Whaley knew Monos well from their time as scouts, though working for different teams, and worked closely with Fisher in Pittsburgh.
“We were together for 11 years,” said Fisher. “He trained me in a lot of ways back when I first starting in Pittsburgh. When I came into Buffalo I knew already that we had the same philosophy and the same beliefs. We kind of have the same mentor from Pittsburgh who taught us and trained us the same way.”
Monos agreed that knowing Whaley and his thought process before joining his personnel team helped ‘tremendously’ in shortening the learning curve typically associated with jumping teams. The trio came together almost already in-step, and Fisher says with much of the scouting process spent on the road, that was essential.
“The toughest part is traveling, picking up more schools, long periods away from home, having to refresh in hotels,” he said. “Meeting up with the team, to me that was fun. Being able to meet up with Doug and Jim and talk about guys, that was the fun part of it.”
Both Monos and Fisher say they never want to draft this high again in their time with the Bills – that much is self-explanatory – but that picking in the top 10 leaves less up to fate on the night of the draft.
“This draft class is good but every year is different,” said Monos. “You never want to be in the top 10 but at the same time you’re looking at some pretty good players.”
Brushing off the “first draft” label, Whaley looks at this week’s draft as simply another crucial building block in the team’s continuing growth.
“I always tell people, you don’t think of the magnitude of the job because that could be overwhelming,” said Whaley. “We just think about doing the job. So it’s not, ‘Oh this is our first draft.’ No. Let’s just go get good players and we’ll worry about what came out of our first draft when we retire and count up our rings.”