Sources: Disconnect between youngsters, 'lifers' in Bills organization
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills' top executives view their team as a family. Many of the front office's most important members have been in place for generations.
Newer folks in the organization, including coaches, refer to these people as "lifers."
That's not a compliment.
As written this morning, key coaching staffers and scouts are frustrated with organizational fixtures who're considered behind the times.
Doug Marrone was the club's first head coach to be hired from the college ranks, and Doug Whaley became their youngest general manager last year.
Marrone and Whaley clearly view football in a fresher way than the franchise is accustomed.
Team sources have told me here at the NFL scouting combine the coaching staff wants to replace 30-year athletic trainer Bud Carpenter but have run into opposition within the board room.
And the dissatisfaction doesn't stop there.
Scouts and coaches have been aggravated with decisions made by chief financial officer Jeffrey C. Littmann (with the team since 1986), senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf (with the team since 1986) and senior vice president of communications Scott Berchtold (with the team since 1989).
Littmann long has set the team's budget for owner Ralph Wilson.
Overdorf oversees all player contracts. Overdorf, not Whaley, will handle contract negotiations for Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd. Same as last year. Overdorf reports not to Whaley, but to CEO Russ Brandon.
Berchtold is responsible for helping Marrone and Whaley deal with the media. Bills coaches refer to Berchtold as the team's "sports information director," a term colleges use for their flacks. Berchtold doesn't like that.
Marrone and Whaley -- unusual young guns compared to the Tom Modraks, Dick Jaurons and Chan Gaileys the Bills have hired in the past -- want to fix the team's this-is-the-way-we've-always-done-it culture.
But Marrone and Whaley haven't made as much headway as they'd like over the past year and have grown increasingly frustrated, sources tell me.
Brandon replaced owner Ralph Wilson as the team's president and CEO 14 months ago, hired Marrone and promoted Whaley to replace Buddy Nix.
But team sources tell me executives such as Littmann, Overdorf and Berchtold still hold too much sway and haven't afforded Whaley or Marrone as much control as either feels he needs to correct a losing culture.
These sources tell me Marrone and Whaley would like more control over personnel decisions, especially free agents.
The sources say Marrone and Whaley feel they've been hung out to dry in certain media situations that made them and the team look bad.
Examples of the latter were how Marrone handled pass-rusher Mario Williams' foot injury in training camp and how Marrone botched addressing quarterback EJ Manuel's knee injury at the end of last season.
The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since the 1999 season, the NFL's longest active drought.