As the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine opened up on Wednesday, numerous head coaches and key decision makers around the NFL spoke with the hundreds of media members gathered in the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center.
The second interview of the entire even featured Bills new head coach Sean McDermott, and he gave insight about some of the upcoming decisions the team must make in the next few weeks. McDermott also took the time to speak with 7 ABC after his 15-minute session with the national media was over and done with.
Seven takeaways from some of the team’s most pressing issues:
1) No official decision yet on Tyrod Taylor, but there are some hints
- There is no bigger question that has to do with the team than the one the Bills must answer on Tyrod Taylor. Plus, it’s an answer multiple teams around the league are likely waiting on, too, as the need for a starting quarterback becomes greater in several NFL cities. Given the current crossroads the Bills are at — with a new head coach and under $20 million in cap space — the Bills can’t afford to make the wrong decision on their starting quarterback. If they bring him back, they’re essentially married to him over the next two seasons at least. If they cut him and he goes on to improve and become the quarterback they’ve long been looking for, they’re left with an unsettled position, and egg on their face for making the wrong call. It’s certainly not an enviable position to be in, but the Bills must make the decision by March 11. According to McDermott, they have yet to make that final call, although I did find a few things he said to be interesting. First, he said the Bills have to take both a short-term and long-term approach to addressing the most important position in the game. Some will focus on the long-term aspect of his statement, but I think him mentioning the “short-term” is even more telling. To me, that means the Bills want a quarterback in place for the 2017 season that’s capable of helping them win games. It also hints that the Bills aren’t necessarily on board with doing a full-on rebuild — even if that might be what their roster/contract structure might call for. Secondly, I asked McDermott what he liked about Tyrod Taylor’s game and the first thing he pointed out was “the number of games he’s won,” which certainly satisfies a coach looking for an answer in the short-term. He also pointed to Taylor’s “outstanding” work ethic, and for a noted “grinder,” McDermott has to like that quite a bit. These are all important to point out, because of another confirmed factor on Wednesday…
2) McDermott and Whaley — not just the GM — are going to make the call on Tyrod
- Right off the bat with the national media, McDermott was asked about his involvement in the decision the team has to make in the next 10 days. His response, although highly suspected to this point, was a confirmation that it wasn’t only general manager Doug Whaley’s to make. He said the duo will make the decision together, after taking all the necessary time to make the “right decision.” If this were Whaley’s call — and only Whaley’s call — I believe the Bills would be starting over at quarterback. Now that it’s fully confirmed by the head coach, it is not only Whaley’s call. Sean McDermott has a say, and with how he’s highlighted “short-term” and the wins Tyrod has put together, it means one thing to me: the Bills might try to see what else is out there for a lower cost, and the beneficial part of that strategy is that they’ll have a couple of days to do so at the start of the new league year. Free agency opens up on March 9 at 4:00 pm, and the Bills don’t have to make their final decision on the quarterback on March 11 at 4:00 pm, which means those 48 hours could be the make-or-break for Taylor’s time with the Bills. If they can’t find anything of substance, it’s increasingly trending toward Taylor being back with the Bills in 2017 and beyond.
3) Cardale Jones touted as “an option”
- Although things seem to be trending toward Taylor being back with the Bills in 2017, McDermott smartly didn’t back himself into any corner. Given the event that the Bills have to turn to Cardale Jones at some point in 2017, McDermott was complimentary of the second-year player. Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2016, spent all season inactive — except for the Week 17 tilt against the New York Jets. When asked about Jones, the Bills new head coach said that the quarterback is “an option for us,” and went on to say that they looked at all his tape from practice last season and also his performance in the second half of the game against the Jets in the final week of the year. It doesn’t sound like Jones would be a good “short-term” option to help the team win now — given the fact that most of their best players are right in the middle or near the end of their career primes. However, Jones may very well be a prime candidate to be the backup in 2017, which means McDermott must show faith right from the beginning — or until Jones shows on the field that the coach should do otherwise.
4) “Character” and “culture” very important to McDermott
- In the last head coaching regime of the Bills, Rex Ryan and company showed that they were willing to give second and third chances to players that didn’t have a squeaky clean image off-the-field. With the Bills’ new head coach, that policy appears to be changing a bit. McDermott told the national media that to him, off-the-field accountability is big for his team. When speaking with 7 ABC, McDermott said there needs to be a healthy blend of talent and character within the player, and that that’s the best way to build a culture within the locker room. “Culture” was one of the buzz words from McDermott’s opening press conference, but he certainly doesn’t seem the type to say one thing and do another. While it doesn’t mean that the Bills are going to not give chances to some players, there also needs to be a certain degree of control and accountability over that aspect of a locker room so that it doesn’t get out of hand.
5) Kevon Seymour mentioned when Stephon Gilmore came up
- With the news that Gilmore will not be issued the franchise tag, the likelihood of him not being with the Bills in 2017 and beyond increased dramatically. While he didn’t outright say that they’d be moving on from Gilmore, it was interesting that he brought up one player in particular when speaking about the cornerback position. Predictably, McDermott brought up two-year starter Ronald Darby. However, just a few words after that, he also brought up Kevon Seymour as someone at the position that they like. Given their cap situation and how the offseason falls, they may need to rely on Seymour to be their starting cornerback opposite Ronald Darby — and to see if they’ve found a gem in the young player out of USC. Just from the inclusion alone, it seems Seymour will likely get a crack at it.
6) McDermott offers some differing comments on current Bills LBs
- How certain players fit into the Sean McDermott defense will be of utmost importance in trying to fix what ails that side of the ball. However, one of the biggest questions is if any of the linebackers that the team has possess the required skill-set to play in the head coach’s scheme. The two in question here are Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland. Brown is more comfortable in a 4-3 scheme (which is what McDermott mainly runs), but may not possess the desired quickness to drop back into deep zone coverage. As for Ragland, where exactly does he fit into the new scheme? McDermott did say that he believes the Bills have “some good ones” at the position, but, he did add that thing have changed in terms of need for more speed at the linebacker position. It seemed as though the Bills don’t really know what they want to do at linebacker just yet, which makes it a priority at some point in the offseason to find someone that fits exactly what McDermott wants to do.
7) The McDermott-Whaley relationship off to a good start
- Take this for what it’s worth, but you couldn’t have really expected the head coach of the team to say anything else about the start of the relationship between the duo. However, seeing that they need to work together to make the most important decision of the offseason, it’s a good sign that they’re having healthy discourse in their discussions. He admitted to disagreeing over certain things, but that’s what is ideally supposed to happen, otherwise you get a room full of people that form an echo chamber, just nodding their heads anytime they’re asked if they agree. It’s early yet for those two, but at least that much is a step in the right direction.