Doug Whaley is not exactly the most popular person in Buffalo these days. The Bills general manager has released Fred Jackson – who had been with the franchise since 2006 – prompting negative reviews from Jackson’s now-former teammates.
Has the locker room turned against Whaley?
“No, I don’t think they’ve turned on him,” Buffalo News Bills writer Tim Graham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But this is one of those moves – because Fred Jackson is so popular not only among the fan base, but in that locker room – (that is controversial). The thing about Fred Jackson, and I did this story about him last year, he’s captain. I talked to guys like Kyle Williams, who’s the defensive captain, a long time defensive lineman and Pro Bowler himself who’s widely respected, and he said that the first name he puts down when you fill out the captain ballot at the beginning of the year is Fred Jackson. That’s what you start with and then you figure it out from there.
“So this is a big loss,” Graham continued. “He’s a heart-and-soul type guy. He’s big in the community and I think that some of the players are upset with Doug Whaley, but they also understand that these are the moves that have to be made, and it’s a season in which they can contend for the AFC East title. I think it’s a playoff-caliber team – and they know that. They need to get beyond this and start rowing in the same direction. I don’t think that there’s room to let this bitterness linger, but it’s there. There are some sore players in that locker room and some really surprised people very high up within the organization at Whaley’s decision.”
Indeed, it appears that Whaley acted unilaterally – or pretty close to it – in dismissing Jackson. In fact, when the story broke, Graham described Whaley’s actions as “rogue.”
“That was the word that two different sources used to me,” Graham said. “I think really what that stems from is the Bills under Ralph Wilson had this really kind of muddled leadership among all the different people in the different departments – especially because Ralph Wilson was in his mid-90s and he lived in Detroit. He was not in the facility everyday. I think there were a lot of people in the organization who enjoyed having their fingerprints on a lot of big decisions, and when Doug Whaley didn’t consult with various people in the organization that are used to being consulted with, I think some of those people felt left out and jilted and so there were a lot of things about the decision that caught people off guard.”
Yes, Jackson being released was bad enough, but the way it went down may have made it worse.
“I think there were a lot of people in the organization that were disappointed that Doug Whaley didn’t communicate with other key people in the organization that we’re going to have to let Fred Jackson go at some point,” Graham said. “Because there were a lot of people who were expecting Fred Jackson to be on this team this year.”