It's a brilliant prank, and it never should've worked. How did a couple of 20-year-olds listen in on two NFL executives talking shop the day before free agency began? A little luck, great timing, and a 73-year old general manager who doesn't really understand how telephones work.
On Friday afternoon, Buffalo GM Buddy Nix and Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik shot the shit for about six minutes. They talked about their impending free agents, their frustration with a new three-day negotiating window, and the major handicap of not having a franchise quarterback. They had no idea that a pair of pranksters had set the whole chat up, or that those pranksters were still on the line, listening in.
Remember the Domino's prank? Call two pizza places, merge them together on a conference call, and let confusion reign. That's basically what happened here, only with more Buddy Nix complaining about how much the Bills are paying Ryan Fitzpatrick.
On Thursday afternoon, the pranksters called Buffalo's publicly listed front office phone number. They claimed to be Bucs GM Mark Dominik and asked to be transferred to Buddy Nix. To their surprise, they were. Panicking, they hung up as soon as he answered.
Then Buddy Nix called them back.
And he kept calling back. Into Thursday evening, resuming again on Friday morning, Nix's personal number kept lighting up their cell phone. They ignored it, until they came up with a plan. They would call Mark Dominik, claim to be Buddy Nix, and send the two on a phantom game of phone tag.
So they rang up the Buccaneers, but while on with Dominik's secretary, Buddy Nix called again. It was perfect. They answered Nix's call, then fell silent while they were patched through to Dominik. They put the call on speaker, recorded with a second cell phone, and sat back and listened to the fun.
(The full phone call can be found at the bottom of this post.)
The conversation starts off with some confusion. "Dadgum, son," the septuagenarian Nix laughs, "I've called you back a hundred times!" Dominik assures him that it must have been a wrong number, he would have called him back "in a heartbeat. I wouldn't mess around with that."
The two exchange cell phone numbers (which we've edited out), so that this never happens again.
Then the GMs get down to bitching about a new NFL rule that allows teams to begin negotiating with agents at midnight Friday night, even though players can't officially sign until Tuesday afternoon. Dominik says all the three-day rule does is "give leverage to the agents to ask for more money." Nix agrees and says the thing to do is to "fight to get this done away with."
Both GMs say they can't get any of their players to agree during the window, as their agents are using the three days to see what the market will bear for them. "None of mine are signing," says Dominik. "Not one of them. They don't want to sign."
Nix and Dominik seem to have had previous exploratory discussions on available players, because once they get around to what they've got cooking on the trade front, Nix knows who they are before Dominik names them. Two of them are mentioned in the call—corner E.J. Biggers ("I still haven't decided what to do with the corner yet") and tackle Jamon Meredith ("No one's really called me back on Jamon, to be honest.")
Nix has no interest. "We're pretty set with tackles," he tells Dominik. "We've got six draft picks, and hell, we need to gain something, not give them up." (Nix is also something of a lame duck in Buffalo, with Doug Whaley's future ascension a fait accompli.)
When talk turns to the Bills' moves, Nix says he's not planning on doing much because he's handcuffed by Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We're still struggling here with our quarterback...We're not really struggling—he's going to have to do something, or we'll have to."
More Nix on Fitzpatrick: "We just can't afford to pay that kind of money for a guy who's fighting for probably a backup job."
(Update, 4:30 p.m.: The Bills released Ryan Fitzpatrick.)
The two acknowledge how many problems can be solved just by having a dependable QB. "If you get one, everything's easy," Nix says. As director of player personnel for the Chargers, he recalls having Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. In the draft, you can "take the best on the board. Don't worry about it."
Dominik recalls telling Colts GM Ryan Grigson, "Look, you got the best gig in the National Football League. I mean, you got a quarterback the first pick, you're a genius for 10 years now."
Below is the full recording of Nix's and Dominik's phone call, starting with Dominik's secretary patching them through. (There's a roughly 10-second gap at the 2:19 mark, when the pranksters received another call and hurriedly canceled it.) This is how your free agency sausage is made—GMs casually touching base, inquiring what's in the works, commiserating over shared frustrations, bitching about agents and players, and promising to keep in touch if anything changes.
Free agency begins at 4 p.m. EDT.
Update, 12:40 p.m.: The Bills respond, sort of:
We are aware of the report on Deadspin involving a phone conversation with Bills GM Buddy Nix. We have made the league aware of the report and are reviewing it with legal counsel.