The Buffalo Bills have a new sheriff in town, and his name is Sean McDermott. The team made it official on Friday afternoon, introducing their brand new head coach to the western New York media and the public at large.
McDermott took questions for roughly 30 minutes in his Bills debut. Some takeaways from what was said by Sean McDermott:
1) There is no firm commitment to Tyrod Taylor
- Through the 30 minutes he spoke with the media, he really didn't provide any storylines based on his quotes... but the biggest development is all about Tyrod Taylor, and really, a lack of a firm stamp of approval from the new head coach. McDermott did say he had a very nice 5-minute conversation with the Bills starting quarterback from the past two seasons, but that's where the compliments ended. It wasn't as though he completely turned his back on Taylor -- but it was quite clear that the new head coach was keeping his options at quarterback. McDermott said that it would be "premature" to make any determination at this point about Taylor and that there is still plenty of evaluating to be done on his roster. This is quite logical from the new head man. If he doesn't have all of his homework done on Taylor -- his strengths, weaknesses, how much room for growth he has -- those are the things that he needs to learn about his potential starting quarterback for the 2017 campaign. The Taylor decision is the lynchpin of the offseason, because whichever side the Bills land on, it will become the key to the expectations of the upcoming season. If they choose to walk away, it's fair to expect a legitimate step back in 2017 in order to make a winner out of the franchise for the long-term. If they bring him back, they would be expected to compete for a playoff spot as soon as next season. With a decision of that magnitude on the horizon, it's the smart approach from McDermott to be noncommittal at this point, but also notable because it confirms the Bills are at least considering life without Tyrod Taylor.
2) Whaley still has control of the 53-man roster
- This was one of the biggest questions heading into the offseason -- especially with a new head coach in town. With Rex Ryan, general manager Doug Whaley maintained control of the 53-man roster -- and there was some speculation that it could change with McDermott now as the head coach. However, the speculation was for naught, as McDermott confirmed that Whaley would be keeping the ultimate say as to who is on the 53-man roster. The most obvious question about that is this: what happens if McDermott wants Tyrod Taylor for 2017, and Whaley does not? Would Whaley provide the new head coach with that player on the roster even if it meant putting himself in the firing line if it doesn't work out? These are the questions that the Bills have to remove themselves from to become a successful organization. There cannot be any personal motivation that influences decisions on the organization. It has to be what is best for everyone involved, because ultimately, the goal is to get this team contending for a Super Bowl -- not just the playoffs. If egos aren't checked at the door, and they don't come to complete decisions (with some healthy dialogue, of course) that everyone gets behind, then it only opens the door to some of the familiar things that have been reported on with the last two head coaches. It is imperative that they work -- to borrow a Russ Brandon term -- in lockstep.
3) McDermott is a stark contrast from Rex Ryan
- Two years ago, almost to the day, Rex Ryan stood up on a podium in the same place as Sean McDermott and guaranteed that the Bills would return to the playoffs and that the defense would improve even on their lofty status from 2014. On Friday, January 13th, 2017, it was opposite day. McDermott was asked about making those type of promises on his own, sported a wry smile, and said:
"I'm not into making promises. I think you'll find that out about me soon enough."
Well, that's a bit of a switch. Over the past two years, we've grown accustomed to the weight of words, bluster, and the head coach sometimes saying things that he might come to regret. That is no longer the case at One Bills Drive. McDermott has his talking points, he listens to the question, glances down at his sheet of paper -- likely with talking points -- and delivers what he believes to be the message he wants to put out there. He talks in a deliberate manner, rather than just talking to talk. While it was fun at first with Rex Ryan, the Bills are likely very happy with the new approach with McDermott.
4) The new head coach's mentality fits right in with Western New York
- With the Bills' brand new head coach, there is a common theme throughout his 18-year NFL coaching career: He has never shied away from the hard work and the necessary hours that it will take to get the job done the way that he sees fit. While he lacked specifics as to what that would entail at this moment in time (for example, whether or not he would call the defense), he gave a general idea of what he wanted to do. McDermott said he wants to be involved in all three phases of the game (for those counting at home, offense, defense, and special teams), in what sounded like it was more of an overseer role. The new head coach came out sounding incredibly sincere about the time and energy he's going to put into the franchise. You could sense the passion and the intensity even just from the press conference. Hard work alone won't build a winner -- the team will need to draft, develop, and maintain a competitive roster to ultimately be what McDermott envisions them. However, if Friday was any indication, it won't be for a lack of hard work or for a lack of attention to detail.
5) McDermott keeps his cards close to the vest
- The new head coach wouldn't get much into specifics of what we could expect from the team -- at least in terms of an on-field product. This, like most things McDermott said and did while on the stage, was by design. For instance, when McDermott was asked whether he would return the Bills to a 4-3 defense -- the defense he has run for the majority of his career -- McDermott wouldn't give up anything, and even cited strategy when choosing not to reveal which scheme he'd run. The Bills are most likely going to run a 4-3 after two years of running the 3-4, but that's the kind of deliberate thinking that we're seeing from him. Wherever he can gain an advantage... whether it be in building through free agency and the draft, it seems like he's not one to miss out on that opportunity. Once again, McDermott's passion, intensity, and proclivity for hard work is impressive -- and will be a breath of fresh air for the franchise and their fans.
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