The Carolina connection continues for the Buffalo Bills in their offseason front-office overhaul.
Panthers assistant general manager Brandon Beane was hired on Tuesday to fill the Bills’ GM vacancy in yet another indication of rookie head coach Sean McDermott’s growing influence over team decisions.
Beane’s hiring did not come as a surprise and completes a short search process, which began after team owner Terry Pegula fired GM Doug Whaley and his entire scouting staff the day after completing the NFL draft. The hiring also continues a house-cleaning that began with McDermott replacing Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season.
The 40-year-old Beane has spent his entire 19-season NFL career working up the Panthers’ ranks, including the past two working under general manager Dave Gettleman. It’s in Carolina where Beane had direct ties to McDermott, who spent the previous six seasons as Panthers defensive coordinator.
“Brandon stood out to Kim and as I as he embodies the type of leader and type of person we want in our organization,” Pegula said, referring to his wife, Kim Pegula, who took part in the search. “We feel his vast understanding and experience in many facets of football operations will be invaluable to our club moving forward.”
Beane’s familiarity with McDermott also helps, and made him the front-runner during what became a cursory search process in which just four candidates had formal interviews. Green Bay Packers player personnel director Brian Gutekunst, Houston Texans player-personnel director Brian Gaine, and Philadelphia Eagles college scouting director Trey Brown were also interviewed by the Bills.
Beane brings with him a wealth of experience in scouting, draft selections and contract negotiations. He spent seven years as Panthers director of football operations and was the team’s interim general manager over the final 10 games of the 2012 season after Marty Hurney was fired.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera praised the job Beane did in Carolina, and wished him well in Buffalo.
“Brandon has worked in a number of roles, so he sees the whole picture in terms of how an organization works,” Rivera told The Associated Press. “We have developed a great working relationship. I’m very excited for him.”
Rivera also saw something in himself in Beane.
“Brandon is a guy who started at the bottom as an intern and worked his way up,” said Rivera, a former NFL player who broke into the coaching ranks in 1997 with the Chicago Bears. “That’s something I can relate to coming in as a quality control coach.”
Beane will be formally introduced to the media Friday.
Upon firing Whaley, Pegula said he was seeking a GM who would have a collaborative front-office structure. That was a clear nod to McDermott, the first-time, 42-year-old head coach who has quickly assumed a vast amount of authority over the past four months. McDermott has become the sole voice of the Bills in discussing all team-related issues, including free agency and the draft.
In Buffalo, Beane joins a franchise in the midst of yet another front-office overhaul during what’s now a 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four pro leagues. Beane becomes the Bills’ seventh GM since the drought began in 2000.
His first priority will be hiring a scouting staff, including filling the team’s two pro and amateur positions.
In four seasons under Whaley, the Bills were second-guessed on their draft selections and for overspending on players, which led to salary-cap constraints.
Whaley was criticized for giving up two picks, including a 2015 first-round selection, to trade up five spots and pick receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall in 2014.
In September 2015, the Bills signed Marcell Dareus to a six-year, $100-plus-million contract extension despite the defensive tackle’s string of off-field troubles, most notably involving positive drug tests. Dareus missed the first four games of last season while serving an NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for a second consecutive year.
The Bills are coming off a 7-9 finish. Their defense proved porous and their offense was inconsistent despite leading the NFL in yards rushing for a second consecutive season.
Long-term stability at quarterback remains a question mark even though starter Tyrod Taylor returns for a third season, but only after taking a pay cut in restructuring his contract in March.
Whaley’s authority began to diminish once McDermott was hired. Whaley also established a reputation of having difficulty working with Buffalo’s previous two coaches, Ryan and Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract following the 2014 season. Marrone is now the head coach in Jacksonville.
Both of the Pegulas’ Buffalo-based franchises are undergoing front-office house cleanings. Last month, the NHL Sabres fired GM Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma after extending their franchise-worst playoff drought to six seasons.