Bills GM Nix asks fans for a little more patience

Bills GM Nix asks fans for a little more patience

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix is asking playoff-starved fans for a little more patience while explaining why it's taken him so long to address the team's most pressing need: A franchise quarterback.

With so many holes to fill on the roster when he took over three years ago, Nix said he thought it was better to improve the rest of the team before taking a shot on selecting a quarterback high in the draft.

``There's two ways of looking at doing it: You could get your quarterback first and then try to fill the other holes around him,'' Nix said, Wednesday. ``But then you take a chance on injury and a chance on breaking his confidence down.''

Instead, he added: ``What we did was we had so many needs to start with that every time there was a high-rated player there, we knew he would fill a spot.''

As for whether this is the offseason in which the Bills select a quarterback high in the draft, Nix would only say, perhaps - and only if the right player is available.

``I think the priority is the same,'' he said. ``I think (fans) could take it to the bank every year. We had that intent every year, and we've got it again. Hopefully, they know me well enough that that's what we'll try to do if the guy's there.''

Nix's comments come at a time when the Bills (5-7) are in jeopardy of extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to a 13th season. Buffalo is on the fringes of playoff contention in preparing to host St. Louis (6-7-1) on Sunday.

Quarterback has been a hot topic of discussion for much of this season in Buffalo because of third-year starter Ryan Fitzpatrick's limitations and inconsistencies. Though Fitzpatrick has been more efficient in helping the Bills win two of their last three, he struggled during a 1-5 stretch in which he combined for nine touchdowns and 10 turnovers (seven interceptions and three lost fumbles).

The Bills did sign Fitzpatrick a year ago to a six-year, $59 million contract extension following the team's better-than-expected 4-2 start. But only $24 million of that is guaranteed. Either way, Nix and coach Chan Gailey haven't ruled out the possibility of Fitzpatrick opening next season as the team's starter.

Last week, Gailey provided Fitzpatrick a vote of confidence.

``We've always said that we are looking to develop a quarterback for the future, but I don't think it's the near future,'' Gailey said. ``As we continue to get better, I think he is going to be the guy.''

That doesn't mean the Bills will ignore looking for an eventual successor.

Nix mentioned quarterback first on Monday, when discussing the team's offseason needs in addressing fans at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club luncheon.

``We want to have a young quarterback we can develop and will be around for eight to 10 years. We're all looking for a Jim Kelly,'' Nix said, referring to the team's Hall of Fame quarterback. ``And I'll tell you this: if you like a quarterback, and like him in the third round, then you had better take him in the second.''

The second position Nix mentioned was receiver, and finding a tall, strong Calvin Johnson-type player to complement starter Stevie Johnson.

On offense, the Bills are set at running back, with the tandem of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. The team's offensive line is gelling into place, too, with the addition of rookie second-round pick Cordy Glenn. Buffalo does risk losing left guard Andy Levitre to free agency this offseason, and is attempting to re-sign him.

``We're headed in the right direction,'' Nix said. ``But when you declare your goal is to build the team through the draft, then it takes patience.''

Time and patience might be running out for Nix and Gailey, but both are expected to get one more season to prove they're capable of turning around the team.

The biggest sign of progress comes on defense now that the Mario Williams-led unit is finally playing up to its high-priced potential.

Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in March, got off to a dreadful start, as did his teammates on that side of the ball. Through seven games, Buffalo ranked 31st in the NFL in allowing an average 424 yards and 32 points a game.

They've since turned it around, particularly during a three-game stretch in which Buffalo has combined for 11 sacks, forced seven turnovers (three fumbles, four interceptions) and is allowing 244 yards and 17 points per outing.

``I think maybe the best word to express on that would be relief. I'm relieved that we're playing better,'' Nix said. ``I knew we would but, yet, to see it come together has been a good thing for us.

``The way it turned out, I did underestimate how long it would take.''


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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings