Fans have heard a lot, from plenty of coaches and GMs over the years, but there's something different about the new group of leaders
Sean McDermott talked about it and so did Brandon Beane.
So at least we know the new coach and general manager for the Buffalo Bills are on the same page. The trick now, of course, is to get everyone else there. It’s still early but by all accounts, there is plenty to like about the direction the Bills are headed under the leadership of McDermott and Beane.
During Thursday’s talk with reporters on the first day of training camp to prepare for the 2017 NFL season, McDermott and Beane in separate interviews talked about discipline, changing the culture and focusing on fundamentals.
These are the kind of things you expect anyone to say about coaching the Buffalo Bills, a team that’s gone 17 seasons since it last was part of the NFL postseason. Obviously, there is plenty to fix in Buffalo and McDermott and Beane no doubt feel like mosquitoes in a nudist colony: Where do they start?
During the playoff drought, Bills fans have heard it all. Rex Ryan promised to build a bully. The team tried coaches with a defensive focus (Dick Jauron) and coaches known for offense (Chan Gailey). And the last coach to take the Bills to the playoffs, Wade Phillips, was criticized because he didn’t wear a headset on the sideline.
Wouldn’t it be great if that were Buffalo’s biggest issue today?
Phillips combined with his predecessor, Marv Levy, to coach 230 games. The 256 games since then have seen eight different coaches. And to be fair, many of those eight said the same things that McDermott and Beane were saying on Thursday.
But it’s not so much what they were saying as much as how they were saying it.
“If we do the right things, the results will follow and I’m confident of that,” said McDermott. “We’re working on transforming the culture and you do that with people. This is a people-driven business and we’re always looking for ways to continue to improve.”
OK. Sounds nice, coach. But can you put a timetable on how long that will take and when the results will be tangible?
“We want to change the mindset,” McDermott said. “Where you earn the right to win on Monday through Saturday (re: you play like you practice). That’s what we’re focused on right now.”
OK, now we’re getting somewhere. The coach went on to talk about practicing “fundamentals until we’re blue in the face.” He was then asked how this training camp, his first as a head coach, is different or similar to camp in Carolina, his previous employer.
“I’m not sure how this is different from what others do,” he said. “But it’s what we’re going to do.”
That may have been the home run swing for McDermott, acknowledging that external forces are beyond his control. And beyond the control of the Buffalo Bills. But if he and his staff can get the Bills to keep the focus internal, to make themselves better so they’re not beating themselves with missed assignments and/or ill-advised penalties, the odds of being a winning football team increase exponentially.
Beane acknowledged as much, pointing to chemistry, bonding and even harmony being essential ingredients of success. It won’t happen overnight, either, he said, and that’s where having training camp away comes in. There’s been a lot of roster turnover in the short time McDermott and Beane have been with Buffalo, so being away from home gives teammates the opportunity to spend more time with each other.
Being familiar with each other off the field can be just as important as knowing each other on it. McDermott and Beane seem to understand this and that’s why Thursday’s meeting with reporters was so encouraging.
Neither promised the world. Neither said it was time to book playoff dates and neither guaranteed anything other than this team will work hard and do things the correct way.
No doubt, fans of the Bills are eager to see a return to winning ways as well.
Chavez is sports editor at the Daily Messenger. Contact me at email@example.com or follow me @MPN_bchavez