LATEST DOPE ON THE BILLS AND UPCOMMING NFL DRAFT!
Bills have many holes to fill in NFL Draft
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As the latest in what's become a long line of Buffalo Bills general managers, Buddy Nix can appreciate he's not going to win anyone over with pie-in-the-sky promises of how he intends to turn around a flat-lining franchise.
"Talk's cheap. We all know that," Nix told a large gathering of season-ticket holders at a recent team-sponsored breakfast. "It's like I've always said: 'Don't tell me about the labor pains, just show me the baby."'
Delivered in Nix's familiar drawl, it was a homespun comment that drew the intended laughs from loyal supporters who couldn't be faulted for second-guessing whether to continue investing in a once-proud team.
The Bills have missed the playoffs 10 straight years, a stretch during which they've had one winning season (9-7 in 2004), are now on their fifth coach in Chan Gailey and fifth GM after Nix was promoted in December.
So if Nix represents the latest new face - and hope - of the franchise, the longtime scout's first big chance to start reshaping the Bills begins with the NFL draft, which Buffalo opens with the No. 9 selection Thursday.
Nix is preaching patience.
"It's a slow process," Nix said. "We've got nine picks. We need to hit on all nine, and that's hard to do sometimes. We've got holes to fill."
The only question is which of the primary holes - left tackle, quarterback, defensive tackle - gets filled first as the Bills try to start competing in a tough-getting tougher AFC East.
"I got all I can do without worrying about the Jets or Miami and the trades they make," Nix said. "The things these other guys do does not make us impatient, and it's not going to make us change. We are looking to upgrade, but we are not looking to keep up with the Joneses."
Theoretically, the Bills immediate priority is finding a franchise quarterback, a position that has been unsettled since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. What's unclear is whether the Bills will risk using a first-round pick on a crop of quarterback prospects that, beyond Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, is filled with question marks.
The Bills have done their homework in scouting Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Florida's Tim Tebow, who even dined with Kelly during his visit to Buffalo last month. Tebow, most notably, has been tied to Buffalo as a potential second-round candidate.
Both Nix and Gailey have emphasized that while drafting a quarterback is a possibility, they're prepared to hold an open competition with the three QBs currently on their roster. It's a group that's made up of Trent Edwards, who lost his starting job midway through last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who finished the year as the starter, and untested third-stringer Brian Brohm.
Another option for Buffalo is addressing its offensive line, which has also been the team's weak spot for much of this decade. Left tackle is the team's most pressing need after trading Jason Peters to Philadelphia a year ago. The jury's still out on Peters' replacement, Demetrius Bell, who started eight games last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
And there's also the hole at nose tackle, as Buffalo lacks a hefty plugger to anchor the middle as the team prepares to make the switch to a 3-4 scheme.
Nix is keeping his options open by refusing to select a player who might not be ready to make an immediate impact.
"You read all the things we need: We gotta have a left tackle. We gotta have a quarterback. We gotta have this," Nix said. "We would like to fill a need. But if we can't, we want to make sure we don't compound the problem by putting another one in that position that can't play."
This is Nix's second go-round in Buffalo, after working with the team as a scout from 1993-2000. He spent the next eight seasons as a scout and assistant GM with the Chargers. The Bills lured Nix out of retirement last year to become a scout.
He then took over as general manager by succeeding Russ Brandon, who was promoted to CEO as part of a front-office shakeup. At 70, Nix has nearly 50 years of football experience as a coach and in player personnel positions, though this is his first stint as GM.
With no designs to go elsewhere, Nix's sole focus is rebuilding the Bills without taking shortcuts.
"We can bring in big names and try to win a few games early, but it's not the best plan in the long run," Nix said. "We're going to take the position to win consistently. And as rabid as our fans are through some real lean years, I can't wait to see them once we do start winning."
That's as close to a guarantee as he'll make.
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