Bills pulling out of Toronto a hopeful sign of front office's commitment to winning
The Buffalo Bills apparently won't sell off a home game to Toronto this year.
Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan broke the story before dawn: The Bills are expected to announce they'll play all eight of their home games in Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in seven years.
That's all kinds of good news for Bills fans.
The development is significant not only for the 2014 schedule, but also within the Bills' front-office power structure.
A source with knowledge of the negotiations told The Buffalo News that skipping a game in Toronto was not an easy sell for everyone at One Bills Drive, but team President Russ Brandon and coach Doug Marrone won them over.
We all know outsourcing a precious home game to Toronto put the Bills at a competitive disadvantage. Marrone valiantly tried to mask his frustrations over the Toronto series when asked about it last year, but contempt bubbled below the surface.
The Bills have gone 1-5 in Toronto. But the original deal with Rogers Media paid the Bills $78 million for five regular-season and three preseason games.
Easy money seemed more important to the Bills than victory.
Bills fans hated the Toronto series from the moment it was announced, and Torontonians proved lukewarm to the idea based on tickets sold.
Rogers Centre had the energy of a morgue but with fewer people. The mood seemed to reach a new low last year, when the Atlanta Falcons beat the Bills in overtime.
Even before last season was over, Brandon privately told people the Bills in Toronto series would continue over his dead body.
But dropping out apparently wasn't so simple for Brandon, who said in January 2013, when he was promoted to president, all Bills decisions "will go through me and me alone."
Gaughan noted Monday on the Press Coverage blog that chief financial officer Jeffrey Littmann and executive vice president for strategic planning Mary Owen would look out for owner Ralph Wilson's wishes in Toronto.
There was a belief that with Littmann being the longtime money man and Wilson's niece Owen negotiating the lucrative Toronto extension merely a year ago, they would be tough to convince.
The source said Brandon faced a long, uphill battle to reach an internal consensus for drastic amendments to the Toronto deal.
But Brandon got it done, and that's a good sign for Bills fans who are tired of financial decisions getting in the way of football decisions.
As I reported from Indianapolis last week at the NFL scouting combine, Bills coaches and scouts have grown skeptical about some decision-makers at One Bills Drive.
These coaches and scouts told me a disconnect has emerged between various departments and that new ideas were being rebuffed by a "this is the way we do it around here" mindset.
Until this week, the future of the Toronto series was gauzy.
Brandon winning this battle could be a harbinger that some football decisions will be considered more important than padding profits at One Bills Drive.