The Role and Success of Russ Brandon

A very hot topic around the 2017 Buffalo Bills front office has been, “Who is this Russ Brandon character that has been around during the entire drought?” Well, let’s dive into this question. Much has been made about what Brandon actually does among fans who are desperate to find the reason for the Bills’ sustained lack of success.

Russ Brandon was originally employed by the Bills in 1997, so the team has indeed made the playoffs since Brandon has been on board. There is more evidence that the stadium being built atop an old cemetery (or maybe *gasp* Tom Brady) has much more to do with the drought than Russ Brandon.

Next, the question that pops up immediately before we go any further is this: What exactly does Russ Brandon do? Does the Bills fanbase have the right to go into Terry and Kim Pegula’s office and ask what he does? After all, the fans pay good money, and all they’ve gotten in return this millennium is mediocrity. Naturally, they demand answers! Let’s take a closer look at the enigmatic role of Russ Brandon.

As quoted from The Buffalo News’ interview with Bills owner Terry Pegula –

“Russ might like to look at how scouts break down film for the same reasons I do, because I find it fascinating and I enjoy it. I’ll be there while they’re watching film, but that doesn’t mean I’m evaluating players. But inside the football tower [Pegula positions his hands as if holding an orb] are the owners, the coach and the GM, working tightly together. We help them with whatever they need. They work in unison, and if Doug Whaley wants to walk down the hall and ask Russ Brandon a question, he’s totally free to do that. If Russ wants to come down the hall to talk to Doug or the coach, we encourage that. That’s a good, healthy organization.”

Russ Brandon oversees PSEs (Pegula Sports and Entertainment’s) entire operation. He is the president of the Bills, Sabres, and the AHL’s Rochester Americans. He also manages the hotel, restaurant and music entities that fall under the PSE business operation. Surely during his duties coordinating Kelsea Ballerini’s tour schedule, he’s encouraging rogue GM Doug Whaley to draft Kolby Listenbee with the Bills 6th round draft choice. That’s after he ignores medical information and pushes the Bills to draft Shaq Lawson 19th overall, after of course deciding the nightly specials at (716) Food and Spirt at HarborCenter. You get the picture. Clearly, I think the Bills fanbase has used Russ Brandon as a scapegoat for many decisions in which he really played no part.

But enough about what Brandon doesn’t do. What does he do?

Russ was a behind the scenes executive until the Bills handcuffed themselves by giving Marv Levy the GM job in 2006, following Tom Donahoe’s departure. In early 2008, Ralph Wilson decided to Elevate Brandon to a COO role, with the duties of overseeing the Bills’ football and business operations. Following the 2009 season, Buddy Nix was elevated to the Bills GM, making him responsible for handling all football operations. Russ was pushed back to his familiar role of leading Bills business and marketing.

The Bills have had back to back years with their highest ticket sales since the 90s, and they are getting their share of the NFL’s TV revenue. Russ has been great for the Bills’ bottom line. This is what we are looking for out of your PSE president, isn’t it? As is commonly forgotten, football is a business, and a grossly profitable one, at that. Don’t we remember the days of penny pinching and playing cash-to-cap? Russ Brandon helped sell the Bills for 1.7 billion dollars. He made the Wilsons’ estate a ton of money and helped keep the team in Buffalo. He helped work out the Erie County lease deal that basically blocked anyone from moving the Bills and immediately earned respect from his new bosses.

Brandon runs all executive meetings. He’s the point of contact for major sponsorship deals (e.g. La Nova, St. John Fisher, New Era, etc.). He’s delegating marketing and sales responsibilities to his team, deciding on revenue streams (what is the best way to sell merchandise, properly market tickets), working with key members like Jim Overdorf and Jeffery Littmann to put together proper budgets, and being available to the Pegulas, Doug Whaley, and Tim Murray whenever they need something. He’s involved in major business expansion ideas from PSE. New buildings are always being purchased and ideas are being discussed. He hires executives for each segment of the business (not just the head coach of the football team). These are vitally important tasks in which presidents of many large corporations participate. He works the business side of things, and he works it a lot.

I have it on strong authority that Russ Brandon is highly regarded within the Bills’ front office, and that there is very little questioning his decisions and ability to do his job. He was liked by Ralph Wilson and staff, as well as Terry and Kim Pegula.

Russ Brandon was quoted saying this in Matthew Fairburn’s article on Syracuse.com:

“My goal was always to be a team president. My goal was never to be a GM. That’s never what I aspired to be. I didn’t come up that side of the business in scouting. I’m around it a lot. My job is to provide resources and tools for people to succeed on that front, but that’s where it stops. There were times that I had to fill voids within the organization based on how the structure was at that time. There were times I wasn’t all that comfortable with it, but you do what you need to do and surround yourself with great people. There hasn’t been a senior executive that I’ve worked here with that I haven’t enjoyed being around and learned from. That’s one of the things we’re very prideful of. We have some really good people here and a really good staff. It’s been an unbelievable ride from 1997 until now. To be in this capacity, there’s nothing more that I could have ever dreamt.”

He follows this up with –

“I’ve never drafted a player. I know I had the GM title, but I never drafted a player. That was the responsibility of the director of college scouting how we were structured then. We had a director of pro scouting. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but that’s how we were structured. I’ve never drafted a player. The funny thing is, the one draft that a lot of people pinned on me, it was a great draft with the exception of the first-round pick (Aaron Maybin in 2009). All that credit goes to Tom Modroff. That’s part of the business. I get a kick out of it sometimes.”

It’s easy to get caught up blaming the president of the entire PSE operation for day-to-day football activities. I mean, after all, he was in the draft room and did take pictures with Sammy Watkins. But that doesn’t he was the one who decided to cut Fred Jackson or Deonte Thompson.

As a marketing connoisseur myself, I can see why Brandon’s success in the Bills’ organization is of particular interest, but maybe we should take Terry Pegula at his word and let the Bills’ profitability speak for itself.

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15 comments on The Role and Success of Russ Brandon

  1. Charles Territo says:

    I follow Cover 1 a lot. I do this because every report I’ve read is fair, informative and great at imparting unbiased information. I am sharing this report to my Facebook page. More fans need to hear/read this and subscibe to this site.

    1. Kevin Massare says:

      Thanks Chares. Feel free to share.

      1. Charles Territo says:

        Your welcome. I’ve already got a few replies to this. All good too. You guys are my kind. Fair and impartial unlike most in the Media today. Keep up the fantastic work!

        1. Charles:

          Thank you for directing me to this site of information and opinion.
          As for the story by Mr. Massare, I still have a very different opinion of Mr. Brandon then what is written about him. To me the president of a NFL football operation should be multi talented in order to build the big picture of the organization. The two talents indicating are business and football. With a president that has both traits you have then the lead person to aide a GM towards his expertise along with helping him on the negotiation side of the organization. I am a business talent along with the knowledge of the whole football concept. This is what is needed by a president to help aide GM/Whaley who has a solid football knowledge yet a little short on the business experience side. Multi tasks talent is the answer. the Bills have two solid choices in place as GM/Whaley & HC/McDermott Both are former safetys back in their playing days. Players that played defense in the back four make solid coaches and Gm’s because they tend to be in theory leaders and see the big picture.

          1. Charles Territo says:

            Russ fits exactly what you indicate in your second sentence. Then you describe the President as you hope for. Which by the way is Russ Brandon. You should be a seller of bad goods. You could make a lot of money by commissions earned. There is one other big thing Russ did that wasn’t mentioned. That contract with Toronto. At the time it was signed our Bills were in dire straits financially. On the verge of bankruptcy. Even tho most fans hated this deal it allowed the Bills to stay viable until Terry and Kim bought the team. That was the mark of a GOOD President. A question for you. Can you ever see more than just your one side to any argument?

  2. Dave says:

    Enough already, it sounds so nice and I’m sure it is. That he is just the right guy for the job etc., etc., etc., However, there’s one big But! Are you, because you run all the meetings, are you responsible for all the years of producing a losing team? Your team loses year after year after year….and year after year after year you take the money from The fans and move on to the next year to do it all over again…. You have failed the team, the players who have spent their whole life’s preparing for the NFL and you bring on a clown like Rex Ryan…. His brother as well….You embarrass the players, the fans and Buffalo. As well as Western New York. People are SIcK of this front office organization and you write an article like this guy is successful? There’s not a corporation on earth who’d keep him as he continues to produce a losing product.17 Losing years and you all sound so comfortable as you make people pay for tickets that are not equal in value to what they get in return. You sell false hope and emotion. Man makes the automobile, rockets to go to the moon and splits the atom but no one in The league can produce a facsimile of the New England organization? Who do you think you are impressing? The team loses, hello? All the time! You guys do not know what you’re doing which was proven once again when everyone but you, the so called successful man, knew Rex baby was a horrific choice for a coach. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, ,are we milking the system or do we really want to produce a competitive football team. Pegula didn’t get his money by displaying mediocrity he got it by knowhow. He had the wherewithal and desire to go get it…! Don’t tell the fans your successful when you guys haven’t done your best, not even close…. Those dollars those fans spend on tickets …….they don’t come easy. Those players you have, they are trusting you to provide your very best, just like they do, to produce the best possible competitive team. We are tired,very tired of you producing a losing team. Get with it because you’re being laughed at and making all of us fans look stupid for believing in you. Pegula………you can do better than this and YOU KNOW IT. But then again, I guess revenue sharing has it’s advantages …..

    1. Charles Territo says:

      To comment like you did is obvious you didn’t read the whole article.Also, you just don’t pay attention. Rex brought in his brother not Russ. Fans who pay attention know this. Russ has nothing to do with the roster. As dual President he has no time for either roster, Hockey and Football because that is not his job. Even reading how little you did you have no idea what a President of an organization does.

      1. Dave says:

        These are segment quotes from the article;

        The Bills have had back to back years with their highest ticket sales since the 90s, and they are getting their share of the NFL’s TV revenue. Russ has been great for the Bills’ bottom line. This is what we are looking for out of your PSE president, isn’t it? As is commonly forgotten, football is a business, and a grossly profitable one, at that.

        Brandon runs all executive meetings. He hires executives for each segment of the business (not just the head coach of the football team). These are vitally important tasks in which presidents of many large corporations participate. He works the business side of things, and he works it a hard.

        1. Dave says:

          Miss quote; and he works it hard. It should read, and he works it a lot. Sorry for the miss quote.

      2. Dave says:

        These are segment quotes from the article;

        The Bills have had back to back years with their highest ticket sales since the 90s, and they are getting their share of the NFL’s TV revenue. Russ has been great for the Bills’ bottom line. This is what we are looking for out of your PSE president, isn’t it? As is commonly forgotten, football is a business, and a grossly profitable one, at that.

        Brandon runs all executive meetings. He hires executives for each segment of the business (not just the head coach of the football team). These are vitally important tasks in which presidents of many large corporations participate. He works the business side of things, and he works it a lot.

  3. Dave says:

    Kevin, you removed my opinion? Ha ha ha ha wow! Control the response all tou want, people have eyes and ears and can make their own judgement which you can cover up.

    1. Charles Territo says:

      By your immature response to your comment not being posted, I would think you were just as childish in your comment. Glad I don’t get to see what you said.

      1. Kevin Massare says:

        Dave, I did not delete your comment. It is still posted above?

  4. Dave says:

    Thanks Kevin, iPads have a way of challenging one’s patience when they don’t respond as expected. My apology sir.

  5. Dave says:

    Just as a clariification for those who are in defense of Brandon, the term successful in the NFL would mean winning, in other words, victorious, one team having scored more points than it’s challenger when the duration of time allotted for the game had come to a close. In addition, this would also apply to divisional victories etc., leading to play offs and the ultimate, the Super Bowl itself. In looking back and reminiscing over the past 17 years I find it rather difficult to recollect much of what I have just written regarding any real success. The exception being, a single game victory here and there thoughout any given season leading to, well, a losing season. Losing seasons of course have run consecutively for 17 years. Let me repeat, 17 straight losing seasons. Now who would be the one responsible for this consistency ? Ummmmm, the janitor, no he answers to stadium management. Grounds keepers, nope, ball boy , team doctor, line coaches, quarterback coach, perhaps offensive coordinator, players, well they all answer to the head coach. But it’s not him because he answers to the GM. but the GM answers to the president. The president is responsible for everything the team does, correct? He has input regarding…..well regarding anything, which would also include the hiring of coaches because if he said no to hiring a certain coach, he wouldn’t be hired. Same with any coach, player etc. he’s the man at the top. He can attempt to separate himself by saying he never drafted anyone but any thinking person would assume and conclude that his opinion in any of the matters which take place with the Bills is paramount. Brandon is a little distracted with the entertainment business, hotels, hockey, in short, all kinds of things. Now he may have success generating revenue throughout Pegula’s financial empire but he clearly does not have success when it comes to the Buffalo Bills. He and he alone is responsible just like anyone at the top of any given enterprise. For those who have posted otherwise at this site regarding this fact is simply attempting to protect Brandon for the sake of justifying their like for him as well as their opinion. This kind of response lacks an understanding of corporate matters and protocol. Go find me a true, thoughtful, reasonable thinking and knowledgable Buffalo Bills fan and ask them if Russ Brandon is successful in his position as president of the Buffalo Bills. Good Luck With That…..

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