San Diego to name Butler as general manager
Updated: Wednesday January 03, 2001 11:48 AM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
Out of work for two weeks, former Buffalo Bills general manager John Butler is expected to have his brief unemployment ended Thursday. A source close to the situation told CNNSI.com on Tuesday that Butler will be hired as the San Diego Chargers' new general manager.
Butler, who interviewed last week with Chargers president Dean Spanos, is scheduled to meet again with Spanos this week at an undisclosed site. But this week's "interview" is really just the finalization of Butler's hiring, which could be announced as soon as Thursday or Friday.
Butler is expected to receive a multi-year deal worth in the range of $1.3 million to $1.5 million per season. He was fired two weeks ago by Bills owner Ralph Wilson, after in essence refusing to accept a contract offer of about $1 million per year from Wilson.
The Chargers have operated under a three-headed front office management structure this season -- without much success -- since the resignation last winter of general manager Bobby Beathard. Butler, who scouted for the Chargers in 1985-86, before leaving to begin his 14-year tenure in Buffalo, was viewed as the front-runner to land the San Diego job from day one.
Contacted at home Tuesday, Butler would only confirm that he intended to meet again with Spanos in the coming two days.
But according to a source, Butler is preparing to be introduced as the team's new general manager some time this week, and has only to cross a few 'T's in terms of agreeing to a contract with San Diego.
It is not believed that Butler's hiring would re-open the question of whether the Chargers will retain head coach Mike Riley, who finished 1-15 in his second season in San Diego, and has a 9-23 two-year mark. Spanos weeks ago confirmed that Riley would return, and Butler is said to be fine with that as part of accepting the job.
Butler's presence, however, could lead to some changes on Riley's staff. Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is considered in some jeopardy, and his name has surfaced as a leading candidate for the opening as offensive coordinator in Arizona. Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis fired Marc Trestman on Tuesday.
Butler is also expected to bring current Buffalo director of pro personnel A.J. Smith with him to San Diego. Smith is a long-shot candidate to replace Butler in Buffalo, but with former Pittsburgh director of football operations Tom Donahoe likely to be named to that job some time this week, Smith is almost certain of rejoining Butler, his longtime friend and associate.
Butler was fired Dec. 19 while en route to Montgomery, Ala., where he was to scout the Blue-Gray Game workouts on behalf of Buffalo. Wilson canned him over the phone while Butler was at the airport in Charlotte, making a flight connection.
Wilson said that he had pressed Butler on at least six different occasions since July to negotiate a new contract with him. Each time, Butler put him off, or gave him no specific demands. Butler was among the league's most successful and underpaid general managers, earning about $500,000 despite helping keep the Bills in perennial playoff contention during his eight-year tenure.
Buffalo finished 8-8 this season, missing the playoffs for the first time in head coach Wade Phillips' three seasons. The Bills were 7-4 before a four-game losing streak, the franchise's longest since 1985, dropped them out of the playoff race.
Wilson met with Phillips on Tuesday about his future with the Bills, and it appears that Phillips will be back for a fourth season as head coach. It was thought that Phillips would have to agree to get rid of several coaches, including offensive coordinator Joe Pendry, to save his job, but the Bills made no announcements on the future of their assistant coaches.
Donahoe met with Wilson last week and a second meeting between the two was scheduled for either this past weekend or early this week.
Other candidates for the job included longtime Tampa Bay director of player personnel Jerry Angelo and Baltimore director of college scouting Phil Savage. But neither of them were ever contacted by the Bills and asked to interview.