Whaley did some good, but will undoubtedly be remembered for the bad in Buffalo
Doug Whaley had his strengths as a general manager. He was very good at finding diamonds in the free agent rough (Lorenzo Alexander), and pulled off one of the NFL's most one-sided trades in recent memory (Jerry Hughes for Kelvin Sheppard).
But like basically everyone else who has come through the doors at One Bills Drive over the last 17 years, Whaley will be remembered more for his failures than his successes. And there were plenty of failures during his nearly four years as general manager.
1 - Drafting Quarterback E.J. Manuel
The Bills actually traded down in the 2013 NFL Draft to take Manuel, who they hoped would one day become the franchise savior the team has been looking for since Jim Kelly retired. We know now E.J. was not that guy. One thing many people don't remember is that Whaley wasn't technically the GM who made that pick. That position still belonged to Buddy Nix, who retired shortly thereafter. But Whaley played his part, and talked loudly about how much of a role he played in selecting Manuel, linking himself to the former Florida State quarterback forever. Manuel is now in Oakland fighting for the backup quarterback job. Whaley is a free agent.
2 - Drafting Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins
It's not so much the selection of Watkins that earned Whaley a failing grade for this move. Watkins was almost universally viewed as the best wide receiver in the 2014 draft class. The issue is what Whaley and the Bills gave up in what proved to be a historically good class of receivers. Buffalo swapped first round picks with the Cleveland Browns, moving up from ninth to fourth to pick Watkins. The issue is they also gave up their first and fourth round picks in 2015. Watkins has shown flashes of brilliance when he's on the field, but he hasn't been on the field very much lately, missing eleven games over the past two seasons including eight games this year. It also doesn't help that Sammy is currently recovering from a second surgery on his injured foot. Oh, and did I mention this was an amazing class of wide receivers? Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry were all picked after Sammy, and that's just to name a few. It also didn't help that the Raiders took University of Buffalo product Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick. Mack, of course, was just named NFL defensive player of the year.
3 - His Relationships With His Head Coaches
Dough Whaley had to work with two polar opposite head coaches, but he didn't work well with either of them. Doug Marrone was famously abrasive, but that doesn't change the fact that this marriage didn't work. Marrone reportedly hated the move to go get Watkins, and decided to abruptly bolt from Buffalo after that same season. After him came Rex Ryan, and a lot of drama followed, even for Rex. By the end of the year, nobody knew who was making what decision or what the power structure actually looked like in the organization. Which leads us to...
4 - That Last Post-Season Press Conference
What a catastrophe this was. For a team struggling with a perception of dysfunction both locally and nationally, Whaley came out and made it ten times worse. He came off as someone who not only didn't know what was going on inside the organization, but as someone who was left out of important decisions intentionally. The phrase of the day was "I wasn't privy," and the Bills GM left the room with less respect than when he entered it less than an hour prior. But he was still allowed to lead the search for a new head coach, and eventually, helped the Bills find Sean McDermott. But this is now McDermott's show. Whaley will have to start over somewhere else.
Salary Cap Mismanagement, leading to Hogan and Gillislee departures
Bad contract extensions, namely Marcell Dareus