ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills national scout Buddy Nix has been promoted to general manager in team owner Ralph Wilson's first move to revamp his front office.
Nix was introduced at a news conference Thursday as the Bills (5-10) prepare to close their season hosting Indianapolis (14-1) on Sunday. Nix fills a void after Marv Levy stepped down as general manager following the 2007 season.
Chief operating officer Russ Brandon, who had been filling the GM's role, was promoted to chief executive officer, reporting to Wilson.
In introducing Nix, Wilson said it was important to him to hire someone with an extensive football background. That's a switch from Brandon, whose background is in marketing.
"I'm here to introduce somebody that we've needed for a long time, something the fans and everybody in the area and myself have wanted, and that's a general manager of football," Wilson said, adding that his decision came down to two in-house candidates. "We really needed somebody who knew all aspects of football."
Wilson didn't identify the other person he considered.
However, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the Bills considered two other in-house personnel men -- pro personnel director John Guy and chief scout Tom Modrak -- among the candidates for the GM position. Nix impressed Wilson during a recent face-to-face meeting, and stood out above the other two candidates that were interviewed.
At 70, Nix had been out of football after retiring in 2008 following a five-year stint as the San Diego Chargers assistant GM/director of player personnel, where he worked under A.J. Smith.
He came out of retirement to return to Buffalo this past year after serving as the team's area scout from 1993-2000.
Nix has 14 years of NFL experience, mostly in scouting, and previously spent 26 years coaching in the college ranks. That included a nine-year term as head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he coached Bills receiver Terrell Owens during his freshman year.
"It's not what I had in mind when I came back here in February," Nix said. "The longer I've had time to think about it, the more excited I am about it. ... I believe very strongly that we can get this done. And I'm totally committed to do it."
He takes over what's been a dysfunctional franchise that will miss the playoffs for a 10th straight year, and closes this decade with one winning season -- a 9-7 finish in 2004. Buffalo is also in the midst of its fourth coaching search since 2001 after Dick Jauron was fired in November and replaced by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who has a 2-4 record as interim head coach.
Nix acknowledged that he might not have been the most high-profile candidate, something many Bills fans wanted.
"It doesn't matter what kind of splash we make today. What matters is two years and three years down the road, if we have this thing turned around in the right direction and we're winning," Nix said. "I know before I'm asked this, you're going to think I'm crazy, but we're not that far away."
Nix's first task will be hiring a head coach. Without providing a timetable, Nix said the team has a list of candidates.
Though he didn't rule out Fewell, a first-time head coach, Nix noted he's more interested in considering a candidate with previous head-coaching experience.
Two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan interviewed for the job, but has reportedly turned down the Bills.
With Nix in place, it's uncertain whether the Bills will retain Modrak, Guy or Jim Overdorf, the team's senior vice president of football operation.
Nix said he wants to meet with Modrak and Guy following the season.
Bills hall of famers Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas attended the news conference. Both are familiar with Nix, whose stint in Buffalo overlapped their careers. And both said they are willing to assist Nix in whatever capacity, with Thomas saying he has been asked to serve in some type of scouting role.
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.