The Buffalo Bills officially have a new head coach in Sean McDermott. The former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator made it official by signing on the dotted line to take over the team that has desperately tried to make it to the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
So, with a new head coach comes new questions, and before he's introduced on Friday as the new head coach, here are the five biggest questions I have as McDermott gets started:
1) How will he and GM Doug Whaley get along?
- With Terry and Kim Pegula getting their head coach of choice in Sean McDermott, the man that now has the pressure to make it all work is general manager Doug Whaley. Whaley has been the GM during both the Doug Marrone and Rex Ryan tenures with the Bills, and according to multiple reports, had trouble with getting along with both head coaches. With McDermott being the new man on campus, it's imperative for both Whaley's short-term and long-term success in Buffalo to be able to forge a good working relationship. If the two can't co-exist, or perhaps have different ideas as to what the right moves are to build the best roster for McDermott's scheme, then inevitably that could hurt their prospects for winning. It's not an ideal situation for Whaley with McDermott on a little stronger ground with the owners at this point, but, it's also something he must make work.
2) Who has final say on the roster?
- The answer to this question likely won't be divulged in the introductory press conference, but it's one that needs an answer. The question needs an answer because it brings back the lingering question about GM Doug Whaley. If he doesn't have final say on the roster, what exactly is Whaley's role within the team outside of the draft and free agency? The Bills made it a big deal in announcing that Whaley would "lead the search" to find a new head coach, but ultimately, it wasn't his call. The practice isn't totally unheard of in the National Football League. It makes sense in a lot of cases, because after all, the NFL is a business and many owners want to hire the people they approve of most. However, whoever has final say -- whether it be Whaley or McDermott -- there must be harmony in who stays and who goes with the roster.
3) Who will be the offensive coordinator?
- Past the Whaley angles in this new situation, from an on-field perspective, the biggest hire that McDermott will make is with an offensive coordinator. Mike McCoy, who last served as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers, is a hot commodity with plenty of interest from opposing teams. McDermott and the Bills have been linked to McCoy, but the same can be said for a few teams around the league that will also be putting together a new staff. There is one report that says McCoy will be the next Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, though most other reports seem to believe that he's still up for grabs with other teams. Former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner also had his name connected to the Bills' job, but one I wouldn't completely rule out is the same man that was just the offensive coordinator for Buffalo in 2016: Anthony Lynn. Lynn is still under contract with the team, and while he's scheduled to have second interviews with both the Rams and Chargers, he could be in need of an offensive coordinator job if he doesn't land one of those two jobs. While he didn't get the job as head coach, he would still be returning back with a team that he had a lot of success with last season, and also one that propelled him into as many head coach interviews as he had last season. McCoy is likely the apple of McDermott's eye, but you shouldn't rule out the Bills taking a look at Lynn just yet.
4) Does McDermott plan on keeping Tyrod Taylor?
- This has a lot to do with who will be named the offensive coordinator, but it's a conversation that needed to come up during the initial interview process. The Bills have a pressing issue with their starting quarterback, to the point that they even risked alienating him by sitting him in the final week of the season. The decision was that of Whaley's, but the door has been kept open on Taylor. If the Bills are trying to get to the playoffs in 2017, their best bet is Tyrod Taylor. Without much out there in terms of viable starting quarterbacks in free agency at this point, you'd have to think McDermott and the Bills are taking a hard look at keeping Taylor around. Even if they keep the quarterback, it doesn't necessarily preclude them from drafting for the future in on of the first two rounds -- in the hopes that they find a more definitive long-term answer. At the very least, Taylor would serve as a bridge starter to the next swing at a franchise quarterback. There's also this aspect: If the Bills do keep Taylor, that could be looked at as another mistake by Whaley for benching him in Week 17 at the risk of ticking off the player -- which ultimately makes the decision all the more intriguing.
5) Who doesn't fit the new defense?
- With a new head coach comes yet another switch in defensive scheme for the Buffalo Bills, as Sean McDermott will almost assuredly turn the Bills back to a 4-3 defense. With his zone-based scheme, in particular, it raises a few questions... but first, who fits? Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson are natural fits as defensive ends that play the 'Wide-9' technique, so that's two starting positions that are taken care of. The Bills will need to hope Kyle Williams returns for 2017, but if he does, he and Marcell Dareus will provide a natural penetrating defensive tackle combination in this defense. Past those four start the real issues, starting at linebacker. Middle linebacker Preston Brown was much better as a rookie in a 4-3 than he was the past two seasons in a 3-4, but in McDermott's system, the Bills need more of an athletic MLB to help in coverage -- in which Brown is limited. He might be given 2017 to prove he can fit, but, the Bills might be better off giving that opportunity to the more athletic Reggie Ragland. Even if they started Brown at MLB, and Ragland at strongside linebacker, that still means they need to add another starter at weakside linebacker. The Bills then might need as many as three new starters in the secondary, with the likely exit of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and the potential retirement of safety Aaron Williams. Gilmore's free agency comes at a good time because now they can scout for cornerbacks that fit McDermott's zone-based system more appropriately. The key to his defense, though, is the front-four -- and at the Bills would have that figured out with the return of Kyle Williams.