ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – As the Bills playoff dreams slowly faded away over the final weeks of the 2016 season, two major organizational decisions took center stage. First, after weeks of rumors, Rex Ryan’s firing was made official just five days before the team’s season finale against the Jets. With it came the news that quarterback Tyrod Taylor would be benched in place of backup EJ Manuel. Neither decision was explained from any of the Bills higher ups – until today.
Both subjects were a major topic of conversation for general manager Doug Whaley during his 39-minute end-of-season press conference. On the subject of Ryan’s firing, Whaley provided very little explanation as to why Ryan was dismissed and remained adamant that he had no say in the matter. However, in an interview the Associated Press, Bills owner Terry Pegula contradicted that, while attempting to come to Whaley’s defense.
“(Whaley) had input on the basis of conversations throughout the year, what the problems were,” Pegula said. “But did Doug ever say, ‘Are we firing our coach, are we keeping our coach?’ We never had that conversation. I took it upon myself to tell Rex on the basis of conversations about the games and the aftermath of certain games that, hey, things aren’t going well.”
Whaley and Pegula each shared a similar story in regards to how the dismissal went down, revealing that Ryan asked to speak privately with Pegula on the trio’s weekly conference call after Buffalo’s loss to the Dolphins, and the two parties ultimately agreed to part ways.
“I was asked a point-blank question and based on the discussions we’ve been having all year, I felt it was better to tell Rex that we were going in a different direction,” Pegula explained.
He also made it clear that he made the executive decision to fire Ryan, adding that he had no other choice, given how poorly the Bills defense has performed during Ryan’s two years in charge.
While there’s agreement on the unfolding of that situation, how exactly the decision to bench Tyrod Taylor came to fruition remains unclear. Last week, Bills interim head coach Anthony Lynn – in his first press conference as head coach – began by insinuating that the decision was a group effort that including himself, Whaley and the Pegulas. He eventually backtracked, revealing that he wasn’t in the room when the final determination was made.
Whaley told his version of the story, today.
“Terry and I talked. We brought Anthony Lynn in and spoke to him,” the Bills GM remarked. “(Lynn) wasn’t in on every conversation we had about Tyrod that day. But the final one was consulted with Anthony Lynn.”
In his interview with the AP, Pegula didn’t go into detail on how the choice was made but admitted that it was done in an effort to evaluate both EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones.
As far as Taylor’s future, neither Whaley and Pegula could commit to picking up the option on his five-year contract, until they’ve evaluated him fully.
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