Introducing the new Buffalo Bills Deathmobile

 

After 53 years, Ralph Wilson finally has handed over the keys to his chrome-fendered Buick with the fading original paint job – also known as the Buffalo Bills.

The recipient? Russ Brandon.

Is that as momentous a decision as many Bills fans, some local media and Brandon himself on New Year’s Day all made it sound?

Perhaps.

Brandon adds the title of president to his previous designation of CEO. Wilson so informed Brandon at a meeting on New Year’s Eve at Wilson’s home in Detroit.

The 94-year-old Wilson remains the only owner the club has had since its birth as a charter AFL franchise in 1959.

“He told me he was passing the torch to me to run this franchise in totality … with zero restrictions and zero limitations,” Brandon said at a news conference at team headquarters in Orchard Park, N.Y.

And so, with keys in hand, what will Brandon do with his once fancy four-wheeler?

Listening to him speak at the presser, you’d think he has a transformation in mind akin to what D-Day and the Delta House gang did to Flounder’s old brother’s car in Animal House. Remember how they remade that posh, shiny Lincoln into the Eat-Me-mobile?

Is Brandon about to fire up the blow torches, smash the windows and add a turret – at ramming speed?

“This is an organization with a proud tradition, but I will tell you that this brand has been tarnished,” said the 45-year-old Brandon, who has worked in the Bills front office for 16 years. “Its relevancy has been tarnished and it is unacceptable, because we just have not won enough games.

“It is time to start, create and lead this franchise into the future with a new legacy … I can promise you that this will be a forward-thinking, progressive and attacking organization heading into the future.”

Yowza.

But then Brandon stopped short of actually lighting the blow torches.

In a mixed message that fans immediately picked up on, and groused about, Brandon announced he has retained GM Buddy Nix.

That would be 73-year-old Buddy Nix. The one who just 15 months ago thought ham-and-egger quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was so good he was worth locking up at a price tag of $60-odd million.

Now the club will likely dump Fitzpatrick and eat some of those millions.

And it’s the same Buddy Nix who in the past two drafts – his greatest area of expertise – didn’t pick a single quarterback, in what might be remembered as the greatest proliferation of passing studs in consecutive drafts in league history.

Seventeen already have started an NFL game so far, for crying out loud.

As Brandon rushed to the airport after his news conference to hit the road in search of a new head coach, he called me. I asked him about the apparent mixed-message of retaining Nix to kick off his new forward-thinking, progressive attacking organization.

Brandon’s response:

“Buddy Nix is excellent at what he does. He is an astute evaluator of talent. You look at our roster today, (compared) to how it was assembled three years ago, I think you will see that it’s much improved, and we are very excited to have Buddy continue to run our football operation.”

Indeed, Nix has improved the talent level on the Bills’ roster. By how much overall is debatable, especially with that gi-normous quarterback asterisk.

Nix has drafted C.J. Spiller, now a star NFL running back. And his top two picks from this past April – cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn – were impact performers, about as good as any rookies at their positions. But the jury is still out on other Nix signings, including whether pass-rush specialist Mario Williams will earn his $100-million free-agent contract.

Some reports before the news conference suggested Nix’s right-hand man, assistant GM and director of player personnel Doug Whaley, would be given a greater role. And that a short timetable for his ascension to Nix’s job would be disclosed.

Didn’t happen.

“Our plan hasn’t changed with Doug since the day we hired him,” Nix said of the former longtime pro-personnel coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “We want somebody (good enough) that the transition is going to be smooth, and that can make the step. And he can.”

When, specifically? To be determined, Nix said.

That Ralph Wilson no longer has final say on anything to do with the on-field product is more than enough today for many Bills fans. Was a decade overdue.

Now we’ll watch to see whether Russ Brandon can crash the parades of his AFC rivals with his Delta Deathmachine.

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BILLS FAST-TRACK HEAD-COACH SEARCH:

Why did the Buffalo Bills fast-track the announcement of Russ Brandon’s promotion, on New Year’s Day no less?

Because there’s a head coach to find. Chan Gailey and his 18 assistants were fired Monday.

There are at least six other NFL clubs already zipping down the same road, at hyper-speed, likely hitting up many of the same replacement candidates.

“I couldn’t wait to get off the podium so we could go to work,” Brandon told QMI Agency from his car, en route to the airport.

“We’re excited about (the) candidates that we’ll be able to sit down and speak with.”

Indeed, he had multiple interviews already lined up.

Multiple reports, including one at the team’s own website, said Brandon, GM Buddy Nix, assistant GM Doug Whaley and front-office VP Jim Overdorf boarded a private plane, headed to Arizona.

Reports said the Bills were to interview just-fired Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, as well as his retained defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Interestingly, also in Arizona is Chip Kelly, head coach of the University of Oregon, who’s a hotter NFL prospect than a Phoenix blacktop in July, and whose Ducks play in Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl.

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Syracuse University head coach Doug Marrone (a former New Orleans Saints assistant) will get interviews too, reports said.

Lovie Smith, the deposed Chicago Bears head coach, made it known he would welcome an interview.

 

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