The euphoria that erupted from Buffalo, and all points beyond
that, on New Year’s Eve, 2017, was a well-deserved reward
for the club’s faithful followers. When an unlikely Cincinnati
Bengals comeback win helped punch the Bills ticket to their first
playoff appearance in 17 seasons, Bills fans everywhere rejoiced.
The events of Week 17 of last season put into crystal clear focus for
Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon
Beane just what being a part of the Buffalo Bills family is all about.
The two men certainly enjoyed the outpouring of support due to
the success of the team in 2017, but as two of the chief decision
makers in charting the course for the Bills, they know the work has
only just begun.
“What we were looking for was to set a foundation of what type
of team we want and what type of players we want,” said Beane.
“That’s the thing I thought we did even faster than I anticipated.
Sean, in such a short time, got these guys and his staff to jell and
play at a maximum level and they did that. That’s what we have to
try and build going forward.”
“In a lot of areas, we’re on schedule,” said McDermott. “In other
areas, we’ve got a lot of work to do. I saw flashes, at times, of this
thing getting turned in the right direction, but we have to actively
pursue the vision. We’re not there yet, there’s a whole other level.”
Despite the success in 2017, the Bills saw the need to make significant
changes at some prominent positions. Brian Daboll was
hired as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Tyrod Taylor was
traded. A.J. McCarron was signed in free agency and Josh Allen became
the highest-drafted quarterback in team history, as the depth
chart at the game’s most important position has been dramatically
changed for the Bills.
On defense, the defensive line saw the most meaningful investment
in the form of free agents Star Lotulelei, Trent Murphy and
third-round pick Harrison Phillips. Meanwhile, the back seven reloaded,
most notably with Vontae Davis, first-round pick Tremaine
Edmunds and fourth-round pick Taron Johnson.
But the Bills didn’t draft purely on talent. Many times, Beane and
McDermott have plainly stated that they’re not trying to accumulate
a collection of top talent. They’re trying to build a team – one
that is committed to the process and willing to earn everything for
which they strive.
“One of the biggest challenges around professional sports – and I’ll
speak to football and what I’ve observed – is to sustain success, because
each year is a different one from the next,” McDermott said.
“Each team is different. The decisions we make roster-wise and
personnel-wise as we move forward will be key in trying to build off
what we did this past year. That, in and of itself, is a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge that the Beane-McDermott tandem embraces
“It is an obsession. At least to me it is,” McDermott said. “My
brain is always going and I’m sure Brandon’s is as well. Because
of the conversations we have, we’ll call each other even after we’ve
left the office. I’ll get a call when I’m putting the kids down to
sleep and it’s Brandon calling. Or I’ll call him at whatever time and
say, ‘Hey what do you think about this?’
“The great part about that partnership is we’re both highly competitive
individuals that want to win and want to go about it the right
way. Philosophically, we believe in building it a certain way and it’s
just the right fit in terms of knowing how we want this thing built.”
However, neither Beane nor McDermott have been fooled by last
season’s historic playoff berth. There’s a lot of mountain left to
climb as they see it.
“We’re trying to win every day. We truly are,” said Beane. “It takes
time to build this. Some of these guys that we drafted will get
things quicker and some won’t. As a whole, I like where we’re at.
It’s a new year. Hopefully fans understand and believe in what
we’re doing here as a group, from Terry and Kim Pegula to Sean
and me and everybody else that we have it moving in the right direction,
but we have not arrived by any means.”
“Right now, it’s about these guys competing and competing at a
high level with one another. It’s not about other teams; it’s about
us getting better and building every day,” McDermott said of his
team. “We have to turn the page from what happened last year and
understand that this is a new team. It’s a new year, new personalities,
and so we’ve got our work cut out for us.
“This is a process as you’ve heard me say before. We started a year
ago, or just over a year ago, and you saw us build a team. We’re
back in the market of building the team again. So, we have to go
back and re-establish who we are and what we’re about and how we
want to win games. That’s part of building a team every year and
building a culture that’s a winning culture.”
BUFFALO BILLS OFFICIAL Y 2018 YEARBOOK PAGE 7