(ESPN, AP) The Buffalo Bills on Tuesday promoted Russ Brandon to the position of president and CEO with full authority over the team's operations.
Owner Ralph Wilson, 94, relinquished his title as team president to Brandon, who already held the title of CEO. In his new role, Brandon will report directly to Wilson.
Brandon said Buddy Nix will remain the club's general manager. A team source told ESPN, however, that the Bills will transition to Doug Whaley at GM at some point.
Brandon discussed his promotion at a news conference following a Monday meeting with the 94-year-old Hall of Fame owner at his home in suburban Detroit.
"It was a rather emotional visit," Brandon said. "He told me he was passing the torch to me to run the franchise in totality. He has granted me full authority to run the franchise with zero restrictions and zero limitations."
The Bills fired coach Chan Gailey on Monday after finishing 6-10 this season. The Bills are in the midst of their fifth coaching search since 2001. They're coming off their second consecutive 6-10 season and extended the NFL's longest playoff drought to 13 years. Over that stretch, Buffalo only once had a winning record -- 9-7 in 2004.
Wilson, the franchise's founder, has only once before given up the title of president. That was in 2001, when he hired Tom Donahoe to also serve as general manager. Donahoe was fired after the 2005 season, at which point Wilson took back the title and said he had no plan to ever give it up again.
"These past 13 years have been very difficult on our fans and we have not produced the type of winning team that they deserve," Wilson said in the statement. "It has been frustrating for our organization and for me as well. We want our team to be one that our fans are proud of. I believe that Russ has the unique abilities to assemble and lead the talent we will need to get the job done."
Brandon completed his 16th season with the Bills, and has been serving as the team's chief operating officer since 2008. He was initially hired to work as the Bills director of business development and marketing. He previously served as general manager in 2008 and `09, taking over after Marv Levy stepped down.
During his time with the team, Brandon's played a key role in expanding the franchise's small-market base both east into Rochester, and north into southern Ontario and Toronto.
In 2008, Brandon played a significant role in spearheading the Bills playing games in Toronto, located a two-hour drive from Buffalo. The team reached a five-year deal to play eight games -- including five annual regular season games -- in Canada's largest city and financial capital.
The deal with Toronto-based Rogers Communications expired this year, but the Bills and Rogers have expressed confidence that the series of games will be renewed in the coming months.