On Friday morning, the Buffalo Bills officially started with the brand new regime in Orchard Park. The Bills introduced new general manager Brandon Beane to reporters for the first time, kicking off his tenure with the team.
Beane sat in front of the media for nearly 30 minutes answering questions about his football philosophies, his relationship with head coach Sean McDermott, and a bevy of other topics. So, in the first of what should be several 'get-to-know-you' conversations, what did we learn?
My five takeaways from the new GM of the Buffalo Bills, Brandon Beane:
1) Premium placed by Beane on drafting and developing
- This should be a given around the National Football League, but it's a simple philosophy that is sometimes ignored in the core principles of roster building in 2017. Teams that are not successful have to build a foundation of talent through the NFL Draft, and that's just what Brandon Beane intends to do here in Buffalo. You draft the right players to fit the system, develop them over time, and if they become as indispensable as you might hope, then you retain them as a core member of the roster. It's not as easy as a snap of the fingers to accomplish, but if you're looking to obtain sustained success -- as Beane alluded to in his original press conference, then this is the necessary approach. The Mario Williams-esque splashes in free agency are now officially a thing of the past with Beane as the GM. As he learned over time in Carolina, it's not the best practice to use free agency as the lone tool to pad your roster with high-end free agents, because it will lead to trouble down the road. Instead, free agency will be used by the Bills as a complementary piece, rather than the focal point. This is how the Green Bay Packers run their operation with GM Ted Thompson, and they've had sustained success for a long, long time. Consider me a fan of this way of thinking from the Bills new GM.
2) Beane controls the 53-man roster
- It's a question that needed to be asked, merely to publicly state what everyone anticipated would be the case with the Bills new duo of Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott: does the new GM have the control of the 53-man roster? And the answer is yes, in fact, he does. Immediately as the topic was broached, the fact that Beane and McDermott would be working in a "collaborative" effort with one another came up. In addition to the collaboration talk, both Beane and McDermott uttered a rarely used word over at One Bills Drive over the past few years: trust. The two both trust one another in their beliefs in how to build a roster, which is why who ultimately has control over things -- the 53-man roster, or who has the final say on draft picks, signings, trades, and releases -- matters much less than it did over the past four years at One Bills Drive. The two signed matching contracts in length, which means they are tied to the success or failure of the franchise together.
3) Beane and McDermott are as thick as thieves
- A big reason why there is as much trust as there is between the two sides this early into the new head coach-general manager relationship is because of how tight they were in Carolina. What started off as a mutual respect and admiration for one another in how similar their stories were -- two young guys that started off in different departments that eventually worked their way up the food chain to get where they are today. From there, according to Beane, a friendship began. They started a habit of running together, and even extending that to when they were on the road. The new GM even recalled a time where he, McDermott, and a few others ran together in Buffalo along the waterfront by what was presumed to be the Erie Basin Marina. McDermott even helped Beane's son grow an affinity for the sport of wrestling and even taught him a few moves. Beane said their families know and like one another... which breeds the type of trust and communication you'd like in a department. Having that implicit trust, and knowing that the other guy isn't going to try and influence decisions with self-interest, is really the best thing the Bills could ask for at this point. They've been together for a long time now, so the hope of Terry and Kim Pegula is that plus-relationship doesn't sour in their new roles.
4) Beane stressed the importance of the run game
- Of all the things Brandon Beane said in his opening press conference, there was really only one thing that made me pause with a little concern: that there will be a big emphasis on the run game. While there is certainly a place for the run game in any NFL offense -- in today's NFL, anyway -- it should not be what your defining characteristic as a unit. The quarterback position is the most important one in all of professional sports and can either be an equalizer against a more well-rounded team or is the game-breaking factor between two evenly matched teams. Now, to be fair, Beane said that the Bills need to be able to run it against opponents even when the defense knows it's coming, and I don't want to misconstrue that. He knows as well as anyone, based on seeing the success of the team take a dramatic turn for the better when Cam Newton was brought on board, how important the quarterback position is. So, I don't think he typically meant focusing solely on the run in lieu of taking a quarterback. He has to know that the quarterback position will be a vital search to have the sustained success he so desires. So, only a slight pause, but it's good to remember quotes like that one.
5) Overdorf sticking around One Bills Drive for now
- For the second straight time that the Bills have talked, they were asked about the future of one of the longest-tenured staff members in the building in Orchard Park: Jim Overdorf. Classified as the Senior Vice President of Football Administration, Overdorf has been the man in charge of the Bills' salary cap for many years now, and certainly played a big role in the front office of the Bills, really, since the turn of the century. Just like last time it was asked, for now, Overdorf remains employed by the Bills. The decision on whether or not Overdorf is kept will be in the hands of Brandon Beane and it has yet to be decided on at this point in time. Beane did say he was familiar with Overdorf in his time in the league. If I were to guess, I don't think Beane wants to walk into the building with guns blazing. Instead, he wants to get a lay of the land to see what goes on in Orchard Park in the front office, and then decide from there what he would like to do.