By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
That’s the story that Bills owner Terry Pegula wants to read about his football team. He doesn’t want to read about his GM telling the media that he had no idea that head coach Rex Ryan was going to be fired. He doesn’t want to hear about the Bills looking strikingly similar to the “same old Bills” that fans are used to seeing. And he certainly does not want to be told that Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe has referred to his and his wife’s team ownership as a “clown show.”
“The Boston Globe said that?” Pegula harrumphed. “Huh.”
In an effort to try to dispel the notion that the Bills organization is dysfunctional, owners Terry and Kim Pegula talked with Tim Graham of The Buffalo News for 90 minutes. The results were slightly humorous.
Following the latest national trend of referring to any unfavorable opinions as “fake news,” Terry Pegula said that he and his franchise have fallen victim to much false reporting during his now three-year tenure in charge of the Bills.
And to prove it? Well, buckaroo, just look over there at that fat stack of resumes from people who applied to be the team’s head coach.
“I disagree with their opinions, and I can tell you one thing: We had a lot of applications and people who wanted that coaching job with the Bills,” Pegula boasted. “So I don’t know what these guys are writing about.”
Take that, critics.
Graham then asked Pegula a fantastic question: “How would you know if you are or aren’t dysfunctional?”
That’s a great question. It might not quite be on the level of some of the questions Jed York faced last week, but it’s up there.
Here’s how Pegula replied: “I know how I run my life, run our business. I know how we treat people, and I know the people we have in our organization. You can’t pin 17 years on the Pegulas. We’ve been around for X-number of years. There’s no foundation, no truth to this dysfunctional talk. I consider it an insult to our organization and the Bills and the good people with the Sabres. They can’t be real happy to hear that.”
Well, folks, now you’ve gone and done it. You have gone and upset the fine folks who work for the Buffalo Sabres. Good luck living with that on your conscience.
Pegula also owns the Sabres, of course, and he’s owned them since 2011. The team was coming off two straight playoff appearances when he took over. Since then, they’re 155-207-55 with zero playoff appearances and four head coaches. Right now, they’re 16-16-9, sitting one point out of last place in the Atlantic Division.
And the Bills, as you know, failed to make the postseason again this season for the 17th straight year. Since the Pegulas took ownership of the team, they’ve gone from nine wins in 2014 to eight wins in 2015 to seven wins in 2016. They also had one head coach up and quit on them, they fired their next head coach with a week left in his second season on the job, and they let their interim walk away this week to take the Chargers head coaching job.
They’re not trending in the right direction.
But you’re only allowed to say nice things about them. OK?
The comedy tour rolled along, too. Graham asked the Pegulas what they were looking for when searching for a new head coach, before they decided on Sean McDermott.
Pegula could not reveal those deep, dark secrets.
“We are not going to disclose any of the things we used to pick our coach because, again, this business is so competitive, I’m not going to tell the world, the rest of the league what we look for in a coach,” Pegula firmly stated. “That’s our business.”
For one, even though it’s a “copycat league,” there’s no franchise (save for maybe the Browns) that is looking to steal intel from the Buffalo Bills. But secondly, this is an opportunity to release boilerplate traits — “commitment to winning, attention to detail, leader of men, blah blah blah” — instead of going all CIA on the reporter. But that’s Terry’s business.
Later, Pegula expressed dismay that some people on the outside of the organization were confused about the chain of command within the Bills structure. (Sidenote: When a GM sits in front of the media and says that he did not know the head coach was going to get fired, confusion tends to persist.) He then went on the offensive to assert that it’s a whole new ballgame in Buffalo.
“I hope you’re not holding prior operations with the Bills against me,” he chastised the reporter. “What’s past is past.”
Yes, the past is the past, but the recent past hasn’t been great, the present is not ideal, and the future doesn’t look entirely great.
To close his stand-up set, Pegula said that the Bills aren’t in rebuild mode; they’re instead striving for a championship.
That led to this exchange:
Which team is closer to where you want it to be, the Bills or the Sabres?
Pegula: [Laughing] That’s like the question, ‘Which one of my children do I love most?’ We want both teams to win.
Yeah, but which one is closer?
Pegula: [Laughing] I don’t have a viewpoint on that.
Laughter, appropriately, is the only correct response to such a question.