In team owner Ralph Wilson's first move to revamp his front office, the Buffalo Bills promoted Buddy Nix to general manager on Thursday, a move first reported by NFL.com's Vic Carucci.
Nix was introduced at a news conference Thursday as the Bills (5-10) prepare to close their season hosting Indianapolis (14-1) on Sunday. Nix fills a void after Marv Levy stepped down as general manager following the 2007 season.
Chief operating officer Russ Brandon, who had been filling the GM's role, was promoted to chief executive officer, reporting to Wilson, as first reported by Carucci.
In introducing Nix, Wilson said it was important to him to hire someone with an extensive football background. That's a switch from Brandon, whose background is in marketing.
"I'm here to introduce somebody that we've needed for a long time, something the fans and everybody in the area and myself have wanted, and that's a general manager of football," Wilson said, adding that his decision came down to two in-house candidates. "We really needed somebody who knew all aspects of football."
Wilson didn't say who the other person was he considered.
Nix has 14 years of NFL experience, mostly in scouting, and previously spent 26 years coaching in the college ranks. That included a nine-year term as head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he coached Bills receiver Terrell Owens during his freshman year.
"It's not what I had in mind when I came back here in February," Nix said. "The longer I've had time to think about it, the more excited I am about it. ... I believe very strongly that we can get this done. And I'm totally committed to do it."
He takes over what's been a dysfunctional franchise that will miss the playoffs for a 10th straight year, and closes this decade with one winning season -- a 9-7 finish in 2004. Buffalo is also in the midst of its fourth coaching search since 2001 after Dick Jauron was fired in November and replaced by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who has a 2-4 record as interim head coach.
Nix acknowledged that he might not have been the most high-profile candidate, something many Bills fans wanted.
"It doesn't matter what kind of splash we make today. What matters is two years and three years down the road, if we have this thing turned around in the right direction and we're winning," Nix said. "I know before I'm asked this, you're going to think I'm crazy, but we're not that far away."
Nix's first task will be hiring a head coach. Without providing a timetable, Nix said the team has a list of candidates.
Though he didn't rule out keeping Fewell, a first-time head coach, Nix noted he's more interested in considering a candidate with previous head-coaching experience.
Nix had worked from 2001 through 2008 as an assistent general manager/director of player personnel for the Chargers, where he had a close working relationship with Marty Schottenheimer, who served as coach of the team from 2002 to 2006. There is speculation that Nix's promotion could open the door for Schottenheimer to return to coaching and make the former head coach of the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers a strong candidate for the Bills' open position.
However, Schottenheimer is on record as saying that he has no interest in returning to coaching. When asked about whether or not he'd have interest in coaching the Bills, Schottenheimer was unequivocal that he is done with coaching, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora is reporting.
Fitz is all systems go
Nix and Schottenheimer remain very close, Carucci reports, as both were removed in San Diego in what was widely perceived as a power struggle with the team's general manager, A.J. Smith.
In January, Nix returned to Buffalo in 2009 to serve as a national scout for the team. In San Diego, Nix oversaw drafts that helped the Chargers compile one of the more talented rosters in the league -- including players such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Quentin Jammer, Igor Olshansky, Michael Turner, Shaun Phillips, Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, Antonio Cromartie and Marcus McNeill -- and become one of the league's perennial playoff contenders.
Schottenheimer has never coached for the Bills, but has roots in Buffalo, where he played linebacker for the team from 1965-1968.
With Nix in place, it's uncertain whether the Bills will retain chief scout Tom Modrak, pro personnel director John Guy or Jim Overdorf, the team's senior vice president of football operation.
Nix said he wants to meet with Modrak and Guy following the season.
Bills hall of famers Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas attended the news conference. Both are familiar with Nix, whose stint in Buffalo overlapped their careers. And both said they are willing to assist Nix in whatever capacity, with Thomas saying he has been asked to serve in some type of scouting role.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report