The Buffalo Bills and general manager Doug Whaley agreed on a multiyear contract extension Sunday, co-owner Kim Pegula announced on Twitter in a move that came as little surprise after reports last week that a deal was close.
The decision from the Bills to both extend Whaley and publicly reveal the deal falls in line with co-owner Terry Pegula's statement late last month in which he reinforced his desire to create a "stable foundation" for the franchise in continuing to work with both Whaley and coach Rex Ryan.
But while the extension prevents Whaley from having lame-duck status as the team's GM for the 2016 season, it shouldn't take pressure off him as he enters his fourth season at the helm. As Whaley likely knows well, job security among NFL coaches and general manager is dictated by results -- not what is written on contracts -- and the Bills' results have been lacking in recent seasons.
In three seasons with Whaley in charge of the roster, the Bills have posted a 23-25 record and have yet to remain in playoff consideration entering the final week of a season. That was an improvement from the previous three-year stretch (2010-12), when the Bills went 16-32, but Buffalo took a step back this season. It's anyone's guess which direction the team's performance heads next season.
The best-case scenario is that the Bills' defensive lapses from 2015 were an aberration and a healthier version of the squad Whaley assembled last offseason is able to end the team's 16-year playoff drought.
But what if the Bills don't make the playoffs? Buffalo has a tight salary cap situation this offseason and the draft will likely be the only opportunity to improve the roster. If Ryan still can't get the defense figured out in 2016 and if there is another run of injuries -- or some other unforeseen factor -- the Bills could be back in their familiar spot, falling short of the postseason.
Would Terry and Kim Pegula be able to justify keeping Ryan and Whaley in place for another season if the team finishes 6-10, 7-9 or 8-8 again? Their message at the moment clearly stresses continuity, but their patience could wear thin, and both Ryan and Whaley could be on thin ice again, together -- despite Whaley's new deal.
It has happened before. The Pegulas also own the Buffalo Sabres, and in January 2013, they extended the contract of general manager Darcy Regier. After the Sabres began the ensuing season with a franchise-worst 4-15-1 record, Regier was fired along with coach Ron Rolston.
That's the reality of professional sports. Coaches and GMs across the league are fired every season with years and millions remaining on their deals, and Pegula, the NFL's seventh-richest owner, can afford to make an expensive change after the 2016 season if he so desires.
That's what renders Whaley's extension Sunday largely symbolic and that's why, despite the public showing of support from his bosses, the pressure remains on the Bills' general manager.