Buddy Nix unplugged

Bills general manager Buddy Nix guides his team into Toronto Sunday for a regular-season game...

Bills general manager Buddy Nix guides his team into Toronto Sunday for a regular-season game against the Redskins. (BUFFALO BILLS photo)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:21 PM ET

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Buddy Nix seems the appropriate general manager for this young and shocking Buffalo Bills team partly because really, he was nobody’s choice for the job. No one except the ancient owner of the Bills, Ralph Wilson.

“I’ve got an owner who when he hired me, said ‘I want you to sign a five-year contract.’

“I said ‘My God, do you know how old I’ll be in five years?’” said the now 71-year-old Nix.

“He said ‘Hell, do you know how old I’ll be?’

“So what are you going to say to that?”

Nix said yes and age hasn’t seemed to matter much to the Bills GM riding the crest of this stunning Buffalo wave. He said he feels as energized in his 70s in his first GM appointment as he was in his 40s and if he didn’t, he’d get out of the business. He said he’s as excited about the work he does now as he was when he started in the business as a graduate assistant coach to the legendary Paul (Bear) Bryant at Alabama almost 50 years ago.

Nix doesn’t do this often: Sit around and talk football with any media member. He doesn’t want to, care to. The truth is, and he said it Thursday, “With all due respect, writers or whatever got no clue for the most part. I figure I know more about what’s going on here than they do.”

But he’s answering every question in our 20-minute session, answering them honestly and anecdotally. Looking as though he’s enjoying it. And as I sat and listened to him, I wondered to myself: This is a man of wit and warmth and charm. He should do this more often.

If he did more of this, he would own his market, and become a prominent voice and face in the National Football League.

What follows are the highlights of Buddy Nix, unplugged:

ON THE BILLS’ RAPID DEVELOPMENT THIS SEASON:

“I’m not so sure how far along we are yet. I don’t know how far we’ve come. This has been fun, these first six weeks. But it’s only six weeks. We still have a ways to go. We have to get more depth. We said in the summer, if we can stay healthy, we would surprise a lot of people. We knew we had good enough players to do that.”

ON THE SURPRISING BILLS WITH LEFTOVERS RYAN FITZPATRICK AT QUARTERBACK, FRED JACKSON AT RUNNING BACK AND STEVIE JOHNSON AT WIDE RECEIVER:

“There’s a lot of guys pumping gas that could have played had they gotten the right opportunity. We said, and (head coach) Chan Gailey and I talked forever about it when we started here: One of the things we wanted was to hire a staff of teachers who can develop.

“You can go out and draft the best players and it doesn’t always work. I can tell you, but I won’t name the teams, I can name a couple of teams where you get the best draft pick and you put the player there, and that guy will be a bust. He won’t get any better. He’ll get worse. I’ve seen it happen...

“I don’t think (what we’re doing) is a fluke. I think it’s a tribute to Chan and his staff. Those guys do a good job. I don’t want them all coming in here wanting a raise but they are good teachers and get those guys better. Half of our jobs is getting a guy in a position he can play the best ... This team is kind of made up like we are. They’re not going to quit. They’re going to go hard every day. There’s good character on this team. We started out saying we need tough guys that are smart and motivated to be the best. We wanted tough guys who wanted to be great.”

ON WHY HE HIRED CHAN GAILEY AS HEAD COACH:

“We didn’t look at Chan and then draw up what we wanted in a head coach. We knew what we wanted. Usually you try and find someone who can fit four of your six criterion. Chan fit most of the categories. He fit all our criteria. He is a high-character guy who stays on an even keel. Don’t let his demeanour fool you. He’s got some fire in him. But he keeps the team on an even keel. He’s a really smart, offensive coach. To me, he can get the matchups he wants and he’s a very good play caller.

“Also, when we hired him I said he’s somebody I have to spend a lot of time with and if I have to do that, I don’t want to be miserable doing it.”

ON RECRUITING TERRELL OWENS TO PLAY AT TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA, WHERE HE WAS HEAD COACH:

“I was the head coach and an assistant coach actually recruited him. He was Te-rell back then, not Terr-ell. He’s still Te-rell to me. He was a late bloomer, a late developing guy. He wasn’t a starter in high school. He was the third wideout on his team and the sixth man in basketball. He was 175 pounds, a skinny little kid. It’s hard to believe a guy can be what Terrell is now and couldn’t play on a high school team. We had our hands full with him. I think I suspended him three times his freshman year. He was late for practice, late for class. He wasn’t a bad kid.”

ON PLAYING WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A NEUTRAL-SITE GAME IN TORONTO SUNDAY:

“It can’t be a neutral site for us. This is our home area. We need the Toronto market and we need to play good enough and be exciting enough and win to get them excited about the Bills. That’s something we haven’t done and we’re going to get there. This really is (a big game) for us. I know those people will be fans if you get them excited.”

ON THE CFL:

“We got some good players from over there. Doug Flutie saved us twice. He saved us here and we brought him out to San Diego and he saved us there. He made a lot of difference.”

ON HIS GOAL WITH THE BILLS:

“I love turning programs around. That’s kind of been my whole career. I never got jobs anybody else wanted. Even in high school, I took a job in Atlanta at a big school that had lost 27 straight. It was the same way in San Diego, whatever part I had in it. That’s the best part of the job. Taking something and building it. It’ll be the same way here.”

ON HIS ADVANCED AGE:

“It’s just a number. As long as I have the same energy level and enthusiasm, it doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s football. It’s not brain surgery.”

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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