I’m pretty sure most of you know I have a fondness for Game of Thrones. I’m counting the days down (88) until season 3 starts in March and I’m on the 5th book as we speak. As it stands now, it is tied for first with my other favorite show of all-time, The Sopranos.
Yes, stereotype me if you will for being Italian and having a thirst for violence and mobs. Sopranos was on for six seasons and arguably their best season was the first one. One of the big story lines was the discord between Tony Soprano and his Uncle, Junior Soprano. The two relatives were constantly bumping heads. Tony and Junior were both captains (2nd in command) in the Soprano Crew during the start of the series. Boss-Captains-Made Guys-Associates. Both guys were one step away from being the boss. The biggest contrast between the two of them were the ages. Junior was an old man in his 60s and had been in the crime world for decades. Tony was a young man in his early 40s and was pretty much on the rise in the mafia ranks.
Long story short, Tony and Junior were up for the lead of the family after their boss died without naming a successor. The two of them were destined to duke it out over who would had the power. However, Tony had an ace in the hole and that was the act of giving away control. Tony decided to nominate Junior as the new boss of the family. Even though Junior had the power by name and would be the lightning rod in case the shit came down from the Feds, Tony was secretly running the family behind his back and was manipulating Junior to make decisions to favor him.
Junior, being old and nieve, didn’t realize he was being played and was just in love with being the boss. The season ended with Junior going to jail because the FEDS fingered him as the boss and Tony was subsequently thrust into the role as lord protector of the Soprano family. Tony got exactly what he wanted in the end. He had Junior as the figurehead and used his puppet strings to finagle his magic.
Where am I getting at with all of this? Maybe Russ Brandon has played Ralph Wilson/Buddy Nix all along like Tony did with Uncle Junior?
For weeks or even years in this case, we’ve been told Russ Brandon was nothing more than the business side of the Bills while the lightning rod -Buddy Nix- was in charge of football. Now, I’ve always doubted the notion that Russ didn’t have a say in football matters. I don’t care how many times he said it on the radio, but this is a guy who was the GM for two years and was promoted to CEO while getting rid of his football duties. How is that a promotion when you are getting your football duties taken away from you? You work in football. No offense, but most GMs would peace out if they had their duties taken away.
And this is where The Sopranos story line comes in.
Like Tony did with Junior, Russ waited until the ax fell on football operations to pounce. He kept acting like he was the nothing more than the sales/marketing guy. Everything was on Buddy, not him. That’s what the Bills wanted us to believe.
Then I started reading reports from Don Banks how Russ wanted the Bills to do a clean sweep. Wait a minute? You are the marketing guy. Why are you getting a say? I repeated that stance on Twitter and got about 20 different responses about who was in charge. It is Ralph. It is Buddy. It is Thurman. Blah, blah, blah, blah.
To me, Brandon hasn’t been just sitting there coming up with slogans and ways to get people to buy tickets. He’s been waiting for this move. He wouldn’t have taken the GM gig in 2008 if football wasn’t in his blood.
Sure, he kind of got thrown out of the inner circle before, but like a good mobster, he didn’t fly off the handle and make an irrational choice. He just played his cards correctly because he had an in…and that was making Ralph Wilson a shit load of money.
So, now we have him in charge of the franchise..again or some will say the first time. It is all a mess at this point when it comes to what is written on the front door of their offices.
I get it, Ralph always had a final say at this point.
But who were the ones who formulated the coaching searches, the player evaluations and the football plans of the future? It was the guys who are still here for the most part and the CEO is now the president. Russ talked all about how this was unacceptable, yet, he’s not really changing the guys who made the decisions and was complimenting the work Buddy and his staff have done. You kind of can’t have it both ways, can you?
So, yes, Ralph Wilson fired himself if you want to look at it through a prism of optimism. Since they haven’t been to the playoffs in 13 years, my optimism is kind of nonexistent at this point. Also, how many times can you get away with the regime changing their inner circle with the same people. Alas, the guys who still had a hand in the dysfunction at One Bills Drive over the years are still there and now have more power. Makes total sense, right?
It now begs the question, what kind of President will Russ Brandon be? Will he be like Larry Quinn who always seemed to have a say in players or will he be like Ted Black who lets Darcy/Lindy run the player side?
Again, he was the GM before and the T.O. idea was all him, so, that may answer your question.