ORCHARD PARK (AP) - The Buffalo Bills promoted Doug Whaley to take over as general manager, replacing Buddy Nix who stepped down earlier this week.
The team announced the move on Thursday and it was expected. In signing Whaley to a long-term contract extension in February, the Bills indicated it was a move that cleared the way for a smooth transition for him to succeed Nix, who stepped down on Monday.
In completing his third year in Buffalo, Whaley has played a role in the Bills' offseason overhaul while working as the team's assistant GM. He was part of the search team that hired coach Doug Marrone in January. And he was part of the scouting process that led to Buffalo selecting Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel in the first round of the draft last month.
"Doug is a passionate and committed leader, who will work tirelessly with his department to build a team our fans and all of western New York will be proud of heading into the future," team president Russ Brandon said, in a statement released by the team.
Among his first priorities is negotiating to sign star safety Jairus Byrd. Though the Bills secured Byrd's rights by placing a franchise tag on him this offseason, the player has yet to sign his contract.
Byrd is instead holding out in a bid to secure a long-term deal.
Whaley will be formally introduced at a news conference later in the day.
Whaley, who is from Pittsburgh, spent 12 seasons working in various capacities as a scout with the Steelers.
He becomes the Bills fifth GM since John Butler was fired during the 2000 season. He takes over a team that's not had a winning season since a 9-7 finish in 2004, and not made the playoffs in 13 seasons - the NFL's longest active playoff drought.
Whaley, who is black, also snaps an NFL trend this offseason during which no minorities were hired to fill eight coaching and seven general manager vacancies. He becomes the Bills first black GM and the league's eighth.
Whaley played both linebacker and safety at Pitt and broke into the NFL in 1995 as a Steelers pro personnel assistant. He then spent three years as a scout with the Seattle Seahawks, before returning to Pittsburgh.