Analyzing the Doug Whaley and Sean McDermott Relationship

Jan 13, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott (left) speaks during a press conference as general manager Doug Whaley looks on at AdPro Sports Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 13, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott (left) speaks during a press conference as general manager Doug Whaley looks on at AdPro Sports Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

With all the noise in the media about the Doug Whaley and Sean McDermott relationship this past week I decided to sort through the details.

There’s been plenty of back and forth in regards to the relationship status of Doug Whaley and Sean McDermott. By now the report from Jason La Canfora that the “marriage of McDermott and Bills Gm Doug Whaley likely isn’t built to last” is eight days old. Since then, McDermott and Terry Pegula have made comments to the contrary. But who are we as fans to “Billieve”? The answer is their relationship status might be “it’s complicated” more than anything else. Let’s analyze.

First, we must consider the source of the CBS story. While La Canfora is an accomplished reporter he has also been noticeably wrong on several occasions about the Bills in the past.

One example of a time he missed the mark was when he reported on Anthony Lynn’s chances of winning the Bills head coaching job in his article in January:

"“Don’t be fooled by any of the other interviews,” one well-placed Bills source said. “It’s Anthony Lynn.”"

He doubled down on the report the next day with the below tweet:

Well as it turns out the Bills didn’t hire Lynn but rather McDermott so his well-placed source might not be so “well-placed”. He was also incorrect when he reported that Bill Polian was returning to the Bills as a football czar after the 2014 season.

This is not to bash La Canfora because he’s been right plenty of times in the past, but he has also been wrong on the Bills so we need to take his story with a grain of salt.

The next piece of evidence that disputes a rift between Whaley and McDermott are quotes from both the head coach himself and the owner of the Bills. According to Pro Football Talk, Bills Owner Terry Pegula said:

"“We just spent [Tuesday] afternoon working together, the three of us,” Pegula said. “Those guys get along great. They’ve been making some key decisions and they work well together.”"

Sean McDermott is also on the record denying that problems exist. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports that he said:

"“Doug and I have had healthy conversations, productive conversations, and I look forward to doing that moving forward.”"

So that’s it. End of story right? Case closed! Well, maybe not. The reason why people are willing to believe La Canfora’s report is the appearance that McDermott is winning the internal power struggle in the organization and that is why fans are buying into the fact that there is a growing rift.

If we are to believe certain reports from last season, part of the reason why Rex Ryan was fired was because he wanted to stick with Tyrod Taylor and Whaley did not want to. There are similar reports that indicated when the Bills restructured Taylor’s contract it was a win for McDermott over Whaley.

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Another factor that’s contributing to this illusion of McDermott winning a power struggle is Buffalo’s new “one-voice” policy where the head coach will be the sole spokesman for the organization so that their messaging to the media will be consistent. Since McDermott was elected to be that guy, it’s perceived as another loss for Whaley.

On March 30th, Tim Graham reported that three people from the front office were fired by the Bills organization. This could also point to more influence for McDermott over Whaley.

The sharks in the media are now swirling on these reports. It got so bad that Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News tried to write Whaley’s obituary the other day. Despite all the reports of doom and gloom, I don’t believe there is a real reason to be concerned at this point.

First off, Whaley is now working with his third coach. This coach is different from the other two in the fact that Whaley was completely in charge of hiring him. If Whaley doesn’t get along with a guy he hired less than three months ago, that looks poorly on Doug and I don’t think he is ignorant of that.

Secondly, because Whaley made the hire, he had to have had a conversation with McDermott about the Bills future at quarterback. I’m sure McDermott wanted to keep the option open of retaining Taylor and so Whaley had to know that it was a possibility when he made the hire. With that in mind, the reports of the general manager wanting to move on from Tyrod might have been overblown.

Lastly, Whaley helped to sign players who have played in Carolina with McDermott before including Mike Tolbert and Corey Brown. He did the same thing for Rex Ryan when he brought in players like IK Enemkpali and Leger Douzable. It’s unclear why Whaley gets so much heat for clashing with coaches when he always seems to help coaches get the players they are already loyal to.

So despite the reports from La Canfora and all the reasons to believe why McDermott is winning an internal power struggle in the organization over Whaley, it just doesn’t make sense for Doug to already be having issues with the coach who he hired.

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That’s why I believe there are no major issues, but unfortunately, very few people know the real truth. That’s why at this point we can believe one way or the other, but the only true relationship status we can be certain of at the moment for Doug Whaley and Sean McDermott is, “it’s complicated”.