It's officially been a week since the Buffalo Bills started their search for a new head coach. In the world of the NFL, with an annual race to fill out a staff usually taking full swing fairly quickly, most teams elect to make a decision on their new head coach within the first two weeks or so.
Keeping that in mind, it leads to one line of thinking: The Bills are close to picking a new leader to replace Rex Ryan as the full-time head coach of the team.
How has the search gone through the first week? Five takeaways from where we are to this point in time:
1) Bills going for a fresh perspective
- The days of finding a head coach with previous experience were left behind with the last coaching search, it would appear. Of the four candidates the Bills have interviewed (Anthony Lynn, Sean McDermott, Harold Goodwin, and Kris Richard), there is exactly one game of head coaching experience between them. That's right, Lynn's one game as the Bills interim coach represents the only game of experience in that role -- and it barely qualified, considering he had only about four days to prepare. The line of thinking that favors a fresh perspective on the head coaching position, generally speaking, is one I fall in line with. All four candidates are also under the age of 50, with Richard (37) being the youngest. With this head coaching search, it appears the Bills front office wants all egos and previous reputations checked at the door -- seeing as how their previous head coach pointed to his track record far too often when asked about 2016 in-season failures. However you slice it, the Bills are looking for something quite a bit different than what they just had.
2) Is Lynn still the front-runner?
- Early on in the process, it was widely reported that Anthony Lynn was the front-runner for the permanent position as head coach. Still, no head coach has been named, and fans are left wondering if Lynn will actually be the man for the job. I absolutely believe that Lynn was the front-runner at one point. However, a lot of time has passed, and the Bills discussed the opening with -- in my mind -- two other legitimate candidates as Lynn went around and interviewed with multiple teams. Lynn would certainly represent continuity with the offense, considering how successful they were on the ground this past season -- and they could even do so with Tyrod Taylor as the quarterback for the next year or two. Lynn would represent the Bills' belief that they can still turn it around, and make the playoffs as early as 2017. It very well could be Lynn but based on all that we've seen with all the interviews they've conducted, it's not an open and shut case -- or at least not as much of one as it initially appeared to some.
3) Hindsight is 20/20
- Two completely interesting little morsels of information came out over the weekend. The first, that the Bills would be willing to surrender more power to the head coach, and perhaps more importantly, that they were reportedly (NFL.com) remorseful over benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor for the last week of the season. Something tells me that they weren't anticipating Taylor taking it as hard as he did -- or for that matter, they weren't expecting him to be as vocal with frustration as he was. Add in the fact that Lynn, the reported front-runner for the head coaching job, likes Taylor as a starting quarterback and even left the door open for him to return. If Lynn was the target all along, and the front office -- namely, general Doug Whaley -- went on to bench Taylor based on his own belief in him as a quarterback, it adds just another questionable chapter to the last few years of Whaley's regime.
4) McDermott, Richard are both intriguing but represent key difference
- Considering how well the offense played in spots during this past season, the Bills are aiming to fix the defense for the 2017 season -- which points to the interviews with both Carolina's Sean McDermott and Seattle's Kris Richard. Each candidate served the 2016 season as the defensive coordinator for their respective franchise, and both have been quite successful. For McDermott, his defense was a Top 10 unit four years running from 2012 through 2015. With Richard, he was the secondary coach when the Seattle cornerbacks and safeties became the dominant unit that we've known the past several years. He deserves a lot of credit for helping develop Richard Sherman into the player he is today. Both are bright, young defensive minds that have had success in today's NFL. The difference, though, is in their philosophy. McDermott runs a zone-based defense, while the Seahawks are well known for going man-to-man on defense. The Bills, if they're deciding between these two, would have to make the decision based on their personnel. The players the Bills have on their roster would likely be a stronger fit for McDermott's zone defense -- especially with all the unknowns in the secondary for 2017. Both are worthwhile candidates.
5) A change in defensive philosophy appears imminent
- With who they've interviewed so far -- specifically the defensive coordinators -- it makes it abundantly clear that the switch from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 is not only what logically seems like the right move, but the one that appears to be the likeliest outcome. It's all about the front-seven on the Bills roster. The team's two starting defensive ends in 2017 are slated to be Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson, and both are much better suited to play as a 4-3 defensive end. Kyle Williams (if he continues playing) and Marcell Dareus can play in either defense, but both are better suited to penetrate the backfield as natural defensive tackles in a 4-3. Inside linebacker Preston Brown had his best season as a 4-3 middle linebacker as a rookie in 2014, and Reggie Ragland could either replace Brown if he doesn't take well to the new scheme or Ragland could be a good fit as a strongside linebacker that can help in coverage. If it ends up being McDermott or Richard that gets hired as the head coach, the writing will be on the wall for yet another schematic switch up on defense.