Orchard Park, N.Y. - Hanging over Friday's news conference at One Bills Drive announcing that the team, the county and state had agreed to a new 10-year lease was the specter of a man who was conspicuous by his absence.
The Bills 94-year-old owner, Ralph Wilson, presumably was not well enough to fly in to Buffalo for the announcement.
Although the Bills have never publicly discussed any succession plans, the presumption is that the team would be sold upon Mr. Wilson's passing, which could certainly happen during the course of the new lease.
Scott Brown: "As you know, Bills fans hear the league is looking for two teams in Los Angeles and maybe one in London, what assurances can you give Bills fans today that this team will be here for the next seven or even ten years?"
Bills CEO Russ Brandon: "The assurance is that we're standing here right now. The unwavering commitment of Ralph Wilson. This is, as I mentioned earlier Scott, a monumental day for us, the Buffalo Bills are right here where we're going to be for many decades to come."
Scott Brown: "Is that a guarantee for the fans?"
Russ Brandon: "Guarantee, we will be in Buffalo, Western New York, we are committed to this region. Mr. Wilson's belief in this region 50 years ago is the same as it is today and we're excited about it."
One key portion of the new lease includes planning for a new stadium down the road.
Under the lease, a committee consisting of representatives of the the state, the county the Bills, and perhaps the NFL, will look into the possibility of building a new stadium when the new lease expires.
The county and the state clearly believe that will give the community a leg up with whoever may own the team when the new lease expires.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz: "There's a reason we put together the committee for a new stadium - any new owner if they're interested in buying this team in the future would like to have a new stadium and we understand it's important to start talking about that now."
Scott Brown: "Do you think this is it for Ralph Wilson stadium after this seven or ten year period?"
County Executive Poloncarz: "It might be. It just might be."
Here's why a new stadium will be so critical for the area:
Should the team be sold, the NFL has a number of criteria that it considers before deciding whether a team can be moved.
* Fan loyalty and support
* The adequacy of the stadium
* The extent to which the team receives taxpayer support for a stadium
With a new stadium, and continued support of loyal Bills fans, moving the team would be very unlikely, no matter who the owner is.